A passage for our consideration and contemplation:
Psalm 4:4,8 [KJV]. “Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still… I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.”
It is claimed that the reformer Martin Luther often sang himself to sleep with this Psalm. One can see why this may be the case, for this is a reminder [at least this is how it speaks to this writer’s heart] that maybe there’s a very practical spiritual “procedure” hidden here that shows us how to make an exit from the cares and conflicts of the day – without resorting to drugs and pills.
Communing with creation may work also, but why not go straight to the Creator of all things instead, Who knows how best to bring peace to troubled, weary hearts, Who can and will bring that peace when we ask?
In this Psalm we’re reminded that it may be a very good idea to assume a restful posture, to commune in our heart with the Lord, and to be still. Yes, “be still and KNOW that I am God…” [Psalm 46:10]
The “heads up alert” preceding that seems like the exact opposite – a very watchful posture, one of standing in awe of the Lord and His ways, and the reminder that sin is never a good idea, since it separates us from the flow of God’s blessing – including a good night’s sleep. For is there not also the promise of Psalm 127:2 – “It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep”?
However, it’s as if this attentive reminder to reverence and repentance PREPARES one’s inner being to hear what comes next from the Holy Spirit – the encouragement to actually lie down and commune with God in our heart, and then receive the gift of sleep.
Eventually this little exercise in disconnecting from the day and consciously entering into communion with the Lord led me to the beautiful realization that, yes, now I can actually lay me down in peace, AND go to sleep, for it is the Lord alone who MAKES me dwell in safety. I have nothing to worry about because I know that my Heavenly Father – the omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent Creator and Preserver of all that is – assures me that it is perfectly all right and safe to let go of the day and to enter into sleep.
Anxiety and insomnia can be very challenging and disturbing! I understand this from experience. In asking the Holy Spirit what to do about it, I was inspired with this Psalm and the spiritual understanding that I am sharing here.
There were many sleepless nights of following “expert” advice on how to get to sleep, such as what to eat, what not to eat, whether it might be too much exercise too close to bedtime, or not enough, and the like. Finally I went to the source of all answers and asked God. I discovered that connecting with Him through prayer, as the last thing I did at the end of the day, was the answer! It didn’t have to be a monumental dissertation. It just had to come as a heart to Heart. Sometimes it doesn’t even have to have words. Tears are also acceptable. Intention is the key.
I learned that if I followed this little procedure, I began to redeem the sleep I needed, or maybe I just entered into that part of my redemption – the promise that God gives sleep to His beloved people. I poured my heart out to the Lord before bed, first unburdening myself from guilt, cares, and the worries of the day.
I also realized that assuming any sort of straight-jacket meditation posture did not work for me either! What worked best was to simply lie down in a comfortable position and to allow God into my mind and heart.
And at that point, when one is too weary, committing the day and night into the hands of God in the form of the Our Father or the Jesus Prayer can also work very efficiently and effectively.
This is also a very good reason for children to be shown how to unwind from their day. They can be taught simple bedtime prayers that parents actually pray with them. It creates not only a good habit, but the consciousness of God as a loving Father with Whom we may trust through the darkness to bring us safely to the morning. It also strengthens the bond with one’s children within a godly framework.
Little wonder that old Brother Martin sang himself to sleep with this Psalm! We would do well to do something similar. How precious it is to sing a bedtime song! Yes, especially when it’s a lullaby with God for both us and our children. It is also a way of revealing to our children through the example of the simple spiritual practice of bedtime prayer, or prayer anytime, that God is both real and loving. He can and will give good things to those who ask.