“How did you sleep last night?”  It is one of the first and most frequent questions many of us hear from family and friends in the course of life.  Many of us spend 1/3 of our life in bed.  Over 80 years of life that amounts to 233, 600 hours.  That is a big chunk of the journey.

Knowing this fact, mattress, pillow, aromatherapy, and sleeping aid advertisers scramble to get our business, hoping to make our “horizontal” time the best it can be.  Yet, real, restful, restorative sleep goes far beyond these external reinforcements.  There are spiritual and emotional factors that can rob us of our rest and sabotage our sleep regardless of how expensive our mattress and how quiet our nighttime environment.

This week a good friend told our ministry board about how important it is to S.W.A.N. regardless of what we might encounter in life.  Sleep well at night.  Great advice, but easier said than done for many.  Even devout Christians can count sheep into the late night hours or toss and turn in turmoil only to wake up dog-tired.

So, what biblical wisdom can we discover and apply in order to S.W.A.N.? Granted, there are circumstantial and medical reasons that cause sleep to elude many, but let’s give some thought to the principles and promises of Scripture to help us get a better night’s rest.

Remember – Many times I have prayed the truth of Isaiah 26:3 for myself and for church members, especially as they faced surgery or a particular trial.  It reads, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”  We can focus our minds on and trust in the Lord because He is sovereign, good, and the God of Peace.  Very importantly, the Lord never sleeps or slumbers (Psalm 121:4).  He is awake 24/7, ruling the world and taking care of everything.  Therefore, we can sleep.

Even in the midst of troubles, David declared in Psalm 3:5-6, “I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustained me.  I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.” David declared in the Psalm that God, who hears prayer and blesses His people, was his shield and salvation.  A clear, high, and holy view of God enables us to truly rest.

Repent – Sin leaves our soul in turmoil (Psalm 32:3) and can rob us of necessary rest.  Isaiah 30:15-17 gives another option: “For thus says the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel: ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.’” When we repent and return to God, we can fully experience salvation, quietness, and confidence. 

Release – After we place our great God at the center of our thoughts and rest our head in confession and purity, we can also release the cares of the day, entrusting them to our Lord.  Ecclesiastes 5:12 reminds us, “The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much; but the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep.” Material concerns can consume and agitate any of us. 

Each of us needs to remember the command of Jesus to live free of worry (Matthew 6:25-34).  Our Father’s care for the birds of the air and flowers of the field reminds us to seek first His Kingdom and trust Him to provide for our needs on a daily basis.  This truth enables our sleep.

Reflect – As we seek the sweetness of the Lord’s provision of sleep, we can reflect on His very real and powerful presence in our lives, and even the room in which we sleep.  We all remember the story of the horrendous storm on the Sea of Galilee that terrified the disciples (Matthew 8:23-26).  Meanwhile, Jesus was sound asleep in the boat.  The disciples awakened Him, fearing for their lives.  Jesus responded, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” The story concludes, “Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.” Regardless of the current storms, the One who has power over the storms is “in our boat”.

The familiar Psalm 139 asks, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” (Psalm 139:7).  God’s constant presence and perfect knowledge of every detail of life fills us with assurance.  As Psalm 23:4 states, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me.”  Reflecting on the reality of His presence brings peace, comfort, and rest.  “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; For You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

Receive – For a gift to meet its objective, it must be gratefully embraced by the recipient.  God gives sleep.  Psalm 127:2 assures us, “He gives His beloved sleep.”  Another version expresses it this way: “For He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.”  We need to welcome and gratefully receive the gift of sleep that comes from the Lord.  Proverbs 3:24 promises, “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.”

Many nights I drift off to sleep while listening to the recorded version of a Puritan prayer found in the book Valley of Vision. [i] Here are the words that help me as I remember, repent, release, reflect, and receive from the Lord as I endeavor to sleep:

Blessed Creator, Thou hast promised thy beloved sleep;

Give me restoring rest needful for tomorrow’s toil;

If dreams be mine, let them not be tinged with evil.

Let thy Spirit make my time of repose a blessed temple of his holy presence . . .

Withhold not thy mercies in the night season;

Thy hand never wearies, Thy power needs no repose, Thine eye never sleeps.

Help me when I helpless lie, when my conscience accuses me of sin,

when my mind is harassed by foreboding thoughts,

when my eyes are held awake by personal anxieties.

Show thyself to me as the God of all grace, love and power;

Thou hast a balm for every wound, a solace for all anguish,

A remedy for every pain, a peace for all disquietude.

Permit me to commit myself to thee — awake or asleep.

Copyright © 2012 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.

[i] The Valley of Vision – A Collection of Puritan Prayers, Banner of Truth Trust, Carlisle, PA.  1975.  (For more information CLICK HERE)