I hate them!
Obviously, they occur for a variety of reasons, but if experiencing some form of trial, suffering, heartache, disappointment...well, you're assured a few.
This week brought me, so far, exactly two.
I fussed with a headache, one night, that wouldn't leave me alone.
Along with the headache, I had one of Sunday morning's worship songs on repeat in my head, over and over and over...now, I dislike the song.
Then, the to-do-list took over with a life of its own (not the "ta da" list, which might have put me back to sleep more quickly, if I'd only recounted the wonderful ways the Lord has moved lately).
Of course, that left me open for a few "what ifs" to claim some space, and some hints of "how-is-this-ever-going-to-work" to find a place, too.
I tried praying. Labored to do so; but all that other, confounding stuff kept concentration at bay (I know my husband hates it when I take his name in vain with an "at bay," but, sorry babe, it fits).
I'd love to be more like Jesus (in a LOT OF WAYS), who slept peacefully in the back of a bouncing boat on a stormy Galilean sea.
Yet, there's always something running interference, right?
Sleeplessness feels so unproductive to me...
I simply CAN NOT stay in bed, so, as typical I roused myself out from under the warmth of my covers, and snuggled under a blanket in the family room, while knocking out a few of those nasty "to-do's" - they also took my mind off the headache.
As, I began to sense a little onset of sleepiness, I picked up my Bible to add another layer to the settling of my soul, and within a verse or two ran headlong into this one:
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save from death, and he was heard...
Interesting verse on which to land.
It "dawned" on me, as dawn approached, that even Jesus had some sleepless nights.
One in particular.
As we are moving toward the final week of Jesus' life, and Easter Sunday, this verse holds an important lesson, for us to grab onto as we further develop our theology of suffering...not to mention, our sleepless nights.
As Jesus steadily walked toward His passion (from the Latin, pati: to suffer), He spent one sleepless night with His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane.
There, He taught, not just them, but you and I, the go-to-first-before-anything when we are struggling:
Whatever else is going on, pray.
If you have to get up and pray out loud, do it.
If you need a pen and a piece of paper to stay focused, grab them.
If you need Scriptures or some form of written liturgy, find it.
Whatever it helps for you to concentrate AND PRAY, engage with a plan...
...but, above all else,
prayer is THE "go-to-sleep-in-peace medicine" for the aching heart, restless mind, and unsettled soul.
Let's dig into some key words in the verse above (underlined) to get some clues and how-to's...
Remember, Jesus left heaven behind and came to live in skin (Phil 2:5-11). His humanness meant that He experienced all the trials and struggles we face, including sleepless nights. As was His custom, He always went straight to the Father (Luke 22:39).
I discovered our English translations often fall short of the meaning of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The word used here literally means "to carry to someone as an offering to be placed on the altar as a sacrifice." When used, the speaker not only leaves the offering behind on the altar, but arrives with a "heart torn with anguish and suffering." The Ancient Greeks recognized a soul in which conflict is raging, and a battle is taking place.
There in the Garden of Gethsemane, Mark (observing from the top of a tree) uses words regarding Jesus prayer-time as: greatly distressed, troubled, very sorrowful. As Jesus prayed to the one who was able to save Him from death, the Father allowed Him to see a bigger picture. So, "for the joy that was set before Him (Hebrews 12:2b)," Jesus said with His whole heart,
"Not my will, but Yours."
Because of His surrender-of-heart, you and I (we are Jesus' joy, by the way) need be eternally grateful!
Prayers and Supplication
Two words, two different types of prayer.
The first (simple prayer) designates specific requests from a heart of genuine vulnerability. It says, "THIS IS WHAT I WANT...."
The second (supplication) always suggests a "crying prayer."
Prayer number one is offered with stillness of heart; not so, supplication.
Supplication rises to the ears of the Father with loud, raised voices and tears (https://www.preceptaustin.org/hebrews_57-8).
Supplication goes a bit deeper, as well. The suppliant comes as one waving an "olive branch," to express desperate desire for an urgent request. Also interesting, since Jesus "HAPPENED" to be praying in an olive grove...ponder that...
Do you read the depth of Christ's humility and the profoundness of His praying?
The best part is God listens to us, just as He listened to His Son in the Garden.
When struggling with sleep, or struggling in suffering, my first step from here on is prayer offered up as a sacrifice and left on the altar to be consumed by the Lord's holy fire.
How I pray will depend on the desperation of my need.
BUT, THERE'S MORE...
Prayer is always offered (Ps. 4:8 above) in
TRUST in the God ALONE, the GOD WHO CAN DO AS I ASK...
YET, TRUST THAT HIS PLAN MAY BE HIGHER THAN MINE...BROADER THAN I CAN EVEN IMAGINE...AND, POSSIBLY MAY NOT EVEN BE ANSWERED UNTIL I AM GONE FROM THE FACE OF THE EARTH.
I close with this quote from British Pastor, Iian Hamish McMurray: