If there’s on thing I know about, it’s sleep deprivation. If I had a pound for every person who told me “You know, they use sleep deprivation as a form of torture!”, I’d be a very rich woman.
Our son woke about 6 times a night, every night, for the second half of his first year, screaming in pain. (We finally found it it was dairy intolerance). He still wakes us up for some reason at least once most nights and he’s 2 1/2. I know tired and I know exhausted. Here are a few tips I found that have helped me pray while super-tired.
1. Grace, grace, grace!
Your mind is going to be fuggy. You will lose your train of thought fast and often, even without the potential interruption of a child waking up.
That’s normal. God knows that. He created you and he’s not mad at you for being tired. He knows how you’re wired. So don’t beat yourself up about it and don’t expect to pray passionately and easily for hours on end. This is not the season for that. Accept for yourself the grace and compassion He is extending to you.
2. Get people to pray for you
During this time when it is hard to pray, get others to pray for your needs and to pray for you to sense God’s presence, both when you do manage to pray and when you just can’t or when you try and just fall asleep!
Ask them to pray for spiritual protection as both sleep loss and the raging hormones of early parenthood (even men are affected to some extent) can really impact on your thought processes. It’s easy to start believing the Deceiver’s lies in these situations…”You’re a lousy parent….How can you call yourself a believer when you snap at your kids like that…..shouldn’t you be trying a lot harder?….a better parent would have seen that accident/mishap.misbehaviour coming…” You get the picture and, if you’ve hit the lows of parental exhaustion, you may have others to add to that list. If it takes going to the very top of your church leadership, make sure someone is on your prayer case!
3. Find a new rhythm and find a trigger
Before I got married, I always prayed before I went to sleep. I then changed that to mornings after we married and, once we had babies, I always had my prayer time straight after they went down for their lunchtime naps. Or rather, straight after I’d fed the chickens which I also had to remember at midday! Nap time was a better time than mornings when I was feeding and sleepy and feeding the chickens was a great trigger to remind me to pray as it was a pre-existing habit. You too may need to find a new rhythm to your prayer times in this season.
And, while we’re about it, I didn’t manage to reinstate regular prayer times again util each baby was 8 months old so don’t beat yourself up if you have a newborn and can’t yet find the time, especially if it’s your first. It’s a crazy time. Just meditate on how God loves you and cares for you, just as you do for your baby. Amazing, huh? Except He doesn’t mind being woken up at night…
4. Pray standing up
In practical terms, sitting down may just mean you nod off. I found putting my bible on the dresser in the living room and standing to read and pray for a few minutes meant I could stay awake long enough to spend a little time praying. I’m talking ten minutes during my kids’ lunchtime naps, not hours on my feet, mind!
5. Write your prayers down
This is something Bill Hybels suggests in his prayer classic Too Busy Not To Pray (not an affiliate link). He suggests it as a remedy for busy people whose brains are often in overdrive when they come to prayer. However, I find it also helps me both when I’m praying tired and when I have my quiet time (as I often do these days) with my son playing with lego on the floor next to me. I follow the old ACTS pattern; Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication (“please prayers”). Both these things help me find my place again after my son asks me what noise a duck makes or asks for the eighth time if he can go wake his sister up.
6. Pray from a devotional book
Sometimes, someone else guiding your prayers can really help. I’ve particularly found this book extremely helpful as it formulates prayers from bible passages. That means I inject some solid biblical truth into each time with God and have spent some time interacting with the Word. It always does me good.
7. Pray with others
You may find praying with other people is easier than praying alone. See if your church or another one locally has a Mums and Tots group or a Dads or Mens’ group that includes prayer. Evening groups can be trickier in this season but homegroups can be really helpful if your church has them and you can attend.
8. Get some accountability
Ask a friend, maybe one in similar circumstances, to check in with you every now and again to see how regularly you’re managing to pray. Or consider joining an on-line group like the Hello Mornings Challenge or Good Morning Girls who create groups of women who commit together to get up a bit earlier to pray and read the bible each day. This is perfect if you can’t find a local group to pray with.
I’ve found the Hello Mornings Challenge literally life-changing. My husband wasn’t keen but my promise to him to make sure we had lights out for at least 8 hours before I woke up at 6.56 has also meant me going to bed on time almost every night which has been a win-win. I now cherish that alone time (or lego time if my son is up) and love the check-in time with my bunch of girls spread across the whole of Western Europe. Both these groups are non-denominational and provide a bible study so you can discuss the same passage together each morning on Facebook or Twitter, whichever type of group you choose to join.
9. Pray with your kids
Don’t discount the prayers you pray with your children, even if they are pre-verbal. These simple prayers are no less valuable to God and they can stop us being wishy-washy in our language. It’s great for your kids to hear you pray to your Father in Heaven and a wriggly toddler is sure to keep you awake, even if the prayer is short!
10. Be honest about getting enough sleep
And finally, it’s easy to go to bed late because it’s the only time you get to do stuff for yourself, see your spouse or even catch up on your day! But do be honest with yourself and have a think about what the insides of your head will look like the next day.
I know I have physical stamina beyond what I ever believed possible pre-kids but my thought processes are neither clear nor pretty when I stay up too late. Set yourself a bedtime and stick to it, for your own sake if nothing else! You’ll be glad you did.
I really hope you find some of these tips help you pray through seasons of exhaustion. Are there any you can add from experience? Why don’t you encouarage others reading this by chiming in in the comments section or on the Facebook page