Theology of Sleep

Tuesday night our small group met as usual at my house.  After dinner we were curled up in our usual places in my living room, discussing Lectio Divina, the practice of slow, contemplative reading of a passage of Scripture.

Ready to apply this practice, we agreed to a time of silence before the Lord first and then one person would read the verses.  We closed our eyes and the silence was delightful, rare, welcome. I became aware of myself in the presence of God.  The silence stretched on and I thought, “Here I am Lord. This is good, because it is so seldom we do this.”

Silence, silence, more silence.

I thought, “Did I misunderstand?  Was I supposed to read the passage?”


Finally I opened one eye and peeked.  Heather was trying hard not to laugh and pointing across the room to Molly who was fast asleep!

We gently woke her up reminding her that John Ortberg has said “Sometimes a nap is the most spiritual thing you can do.”

Ask any sleep-deprived young mother.  It is very hard thinking, feeling, and acting like Jesus when we lack sleep.

Ortberg notes two truths about the theology of sleep:

1.  Sleep is a gift from God.
I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O LORD, make me lie down in safety. – Psalm 4:8

2.  Sleep is an act of trust. I am reminded when I go to sleep that the world is in God’s hands, not mine. The world will get along very well even though I am not awake to try to control things. At the appropriate time, my eyes will open and I will receive the gift of wakefulness once again.

Sarah Bowen Shea writes about the importance of sleep for athletes in Runner’s World magazine:

Sleep isn’t a luxury–it’s a training tool. Running on empty won’t get you far.

We’re all athletes in the race of faith, right?

I know more sleep is just not possible in some seasons of life, but maybe a quick nap while your baby is sleeping, or the discipline of foregoing Jimmy Fallon might be a spiritual discipline that will pay off in love, joy, peace patience…


How does sleep affect your spirit?


  1. Loved this! It is true that we give little weight to the need for sleep. On one of my first spiritual retreat days, the first thing I heard from God was “Rest” and had a wonderful and peaceful time of sleep. It’s all good!

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