Watches of the Night

Watches of the night–that’s the old-fashioned name for middle-of-the-night insomnia. The psalmists speak of them as times to commune with God in their hearts, opening their souls to divine judgment, longing for integrity.

Do you think good soul work often goes on in your watches of the night? Or do you think they are times that easily tilt us out of perspective, as if we’re being passed through a gauntlet or gallery of all our fears?

It’s prime time for the discernment of spirits, surely.

What have you learned about God, life, yourself in your watches of the night?

A few things I’ve noticed:

1) There’s no rushing allowed when it comes to whatever is being worked on or through us. There’s no real escape from learning to endure whatever state we find ourselves in when we wake up sleepless (or when we feel anxious in the middle of the day, for that matter). Prayer must begin in the thick of whatever we’re experiencing just then.

2) Some form of prayer is always an option. Even if it doesn’t bring us into restful sleep. Prayer in a watch of the night isn’t a magic formula; prayer is a conveyor belt through something we must witness or wrestle with.

3) It’s not always clear when to embrace and when to challenge the images, thoughts, feelings that arise in us during a watch of the night. Anything inviting despair isn’t right, but there may be an upside down message in that image or feeling state, an opportunity to name or recognize something.

4) When we are transformed in prayer, it’s as if we–like Jacob–have wrestled something to the ground. But by God’s power, not our own.

What have you learned about–or during–watches of the night?

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