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It’s been a hard day’s work. You’ve showered, put on your sleepwear and brushed your teeth. Bible in hand, you read few verses and said your prayers. You’ve made it through another day; then you realize, tomorrow you’ll do it all again. You’re exhausted, and if you’re lucky, you drift off to sleep. Now it’s your time to sleep, but are you resting?

We don’t think about it, but while we sleep our body and mind are still working. It remembers its basic programming and continues breathing, it helps us to alleviate discomfort, and continues to monitor and control things. We are supposed to rest, we often can’t or don’t. According to the Centers for Disease Control (2024):

  • 50 to 70 million Americans suffered some type of sleep disorder.
  • 8% of adults use prescription sleep drugs.
  • 30% to 40% of Americans report insomnia symptoms and
  • 60% of people don’t seek help for their sleep problems.

Many factors contribute to sleep disorders including diet, alcohol and caffeine consumption, and even our use of electronic devices. However, two main contributors are: our next day’s anxiety (41%) and replaying today’s events (37%). Isn’t it odd that the things we worry over, and can’t control, deprive us of our needed rest? About worry, Matthew 6:34 (NOG) tells us:

“So don’t ever worry about tomorrow.
After all, tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

How important is rest? According to Amanda Williams, Christian writer, “the word ‘rest’ and its variants appear over 250 times in the Bible. There are over 800 instances where the Bible mentions or discusses rest.”   It is so important that following the seventh day after creation “God rested” (Genesis 2:2-3), creating the “Sabbath”, making rest and worship holy.

Sleep is our primary method of rest. The National Science Foundation (NSF) tells us “when you sleep, your body undergoes a series of changes that enable the rest that is vital to your overall health. Sleep allows the brain and body to slow down and engage in processes of recovery, promoting better physical and mental performance the next day and over the long-term.” But you’d be mistaken if you think sleep is some form of passive activity.

Our dreams, and nightmares, happen during our deepest sleep stage, called REM. In Scientific American (2010), author Christof Koch, explains that:

“Dreams are vivid, sensorimotor hallucinations with a narrative structure. We experience them consciously—seeing, hearing and touching within environments that appear completely real (though curiously, we do not smell in our dreams). Nor are we mere passive observers: we speak, fight, love and run.”

Sleep doesn’t just allow our bodies to rejuvenate; it is a way God reveals His word and plans to us. There are at least 21 stories describing the use of dreams in the Bible. In Genesis 41(ESV), God uses dreams, interpreted by Joseph, to prepare Pharaoh for seven years of famine. In Matthew 27:10 (VOICE), Pilate’s wife warns him of Jesus’ innocence, revealed in a dream.

We can prepare for a good night’s sleep by buying a good mattress and bedding, setting your thermostat to a sleep range (65 to 68 F) and disconnecting electronic devices 1 hour before sleeping. But, author Jenny Needham, states we must “spiritually” prepare ourselves for sleep and receiving God’s message. I encourage you to read her article.  She states “spiritual preparation” involves preparing our mind, preparing our heart, preparing our spirit and praying.

  1. Preparing our mind is about eliminating distractions and leaving behind unhelpful thoughts (like tomorrow’s anxiety or replaying today’s worries).
  2. Preparing our mind is focusing and affirming our relationship with God.
  3. Preparing the spirit. “Our human spiritis our deepest part, created with the ability to contact and receive the Spirit of God.”  We need to let the Spirit take control. Don’t worry if you don’t know what to say or pray for “the Holy Spirit will give you the words to say when you need them (Luke 12:12) and
  4. Following Jesus’ example, pray. Needham summarizes our bedtime prayer as a time to:
    1. Make peace with God and others. Seek and give forgiveness for anything that is coming between you and God (Matthew 6:12).
    2. Hand over the day’s stressors (1 Peter 5:7).
    3. Ask God to give you a dream (Matthew 7:7).
    4. Ask God a specific question (Jeremiah 33:3) and
    5. Ask God to wake you after your dream.

If her strategies sound familiar, they should. Aligning our heart, head, hands and habits are foundation principles that guide what we do at Lead Like Jesus. Remember, to lead like Jesus, we need to rest like Jesus.

Challenge:  Take a moment to revisit that familiar prayer:

“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my Soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my Soul to take.
If I should wake for other days,
I pray the Lord to guide my ways.”

I hope you see that sleep isn’t just an opportunity to rest. It’s an opportunity to start anew, and to connect with God and let Him teach and guide our ways. As Mahatma Gandhi said:

“Each night, when I go to sleep, I die.

And the next morning when I wake up,

I am reborn.”

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