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Talk: In the hems of God’s senses

Education is a central aspect of the Cathedral’s mission.  We offer opportunities for learning, dialogue and engagement with issues of public debate.

At the Cathedral, people of all ages can learn about faith and discipleship. We run a Sunday School and are developing work with young people; there are occasional study groups and Lent Lectures.

The Cathedral is a theological and educational resource for the Diocese, supporting the work of clergy and parishes. The Cathedral works with the Diocese in planning and delivering an annual summer school.

Working with other institutions in and around Stag Hill, for example the University of Surrey, the Cathedral is committed to engaging with issues in the public sphere (including social responsibility, science, ethics, the arts and inter-faith dialogue).  There will be an annual series of talks alongside seminar based groups.

Transcripts of these talks are, where possible, included below.

For details of forthcoming talks, please see the Cathedral Diary and What's On 



Saturday 8th March 2014
Westminster Abbey
Quiet Day

“I lie down and sleep and rise again, because the Lord sustains me.” Psalm 3.5

It is a great delight to be here today. I would like to thank the Dean and Chapter for their kind, and trusting, invitation and to the Canons’ PA, Catherine Butler, for her unstinting help in preparation.

I am looking forward to today, but also with a tiny bit of trepidation. My subject - sleep and the life of prayer – is potentially dangerous. There is a chastening story about St Paul that all preachers, teachers and quiet day leaders should have in their minds when embarking, especially when talking about sleep. The setting is St Paul who was saying farewell to disciples in Troas. He went on until midnight at which point:

A young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, began to sink off into a deep sleep while Paul talked still longer. Overcome by sleep, he fell to the ground three floors below and was picked up dead. But Paul went down, and bending over him took him in his arms, and said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” Then Paul went upstairs, and after he had broken bread and eaten, he continued to converse with them until dawn; then he left. Meanwhile they had taken the boy away alive and were not a little comforted.[1]

In one sense I hope you don’t doze off, but in another I hope you do. The first things we often want to do on retreat or a quiet day is rest, and rest often involves sleep. I won’t be offended!

I am here all day and I will be available should any of you want to talk. I have approached today, as I am sure you have, in prayer, and it is in prayer that we will commit this day shortly. I have deliberately programmed the day so that our spaces for silence grow.

Sleep is big news at the moment: reports about the impact of laptops and tablets on sleep, our genes may affect our sleep, the impact of disrupted sleep in shift workers. Much of that research is carried out at the University of Surrey in our Sleep Research Centre. I say ‘ours’, because as well as being a Canon of Guildford I am also Anglican chaplain to the University of Surrey.

My own interest in sleep was awakened by an ‘inter-disciplinary roundtable’ on sleep which took place in the University. Sleep was approached from the disciplines of English literature, sociology, psychology and biology. It was fascinating. And I began to ponder how this might fit in with theology, spirituality and prayer. Today I’m offering you the connections I have begun to make, and it is unfinished work, there’s more to ponder and to write. In particular I am focusing on the relationship between sleep and the life of prayer.

So I will use sleep as a metaphor and an analogy for the Christian life in general and prayer in particular. I want to do that in four reflections one brief and three slightly longer. So you might think of each address like the four stages of sleep each night and Choral Evensong as the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.

In the first reflection I will sketch out some themes around sleep in the Bible and as well as thinking about what sleep is, or isn’t. I will conclude that by introducing you to, or reminding you of, the practice of St Ignatius of Loyola, the Examen of Consciousness. In the second reflection I will reflect directly on sleep and prayer. In the third and brief reflection, which will come in the context of midday prayer, I will think more about the theme of sleep and the storms of life. In the final reflection I will offer a more particularly Lenten and Passiontide reflection on the practice of Vigils.

I also come to today with a pastoral concern. Many of us don’t sleep well. Parents might worry about the sleep of their children, whether they’re tiny, or teenagers. Older people may worry about their inability to sleep through the night. Many lament sleeping alone because of bereavement or never finding a life partner. I hope that today you will be able to reflect on your own sleep patterns, and prayer patterns. To that end there is a hand-out with some pointers for your prayer that you may wish to use.


One: A Lullaby into Theosomnia

In this first reflection I want briefly to survey the place of sleep in the Bible and Christian spiritual tradition because they have much to say about sleep as part of human experience and also about the nature of God. So let’s see what we might find and then connect that to our life of prayer.

Sleep is profoundly theological because it describes characteristics and perceptions of God, albeit in conflicting ways. For example in the Psalms, on the one hand we read, ‘He [God] who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep’ (Psalm 121.4); on the other, ‘Rouse yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord?’ (Psalm 44.23). In the Gospels Jesus himself sleeps on the boat in the storm and yet when the disciples sleep in the Garden of Gethsemane before Jesus’ betrayal they are chastised: ‘So, [Peter] could you not stay awake with me one hour?’ (Matthew 26.40). ‘The Son of Man [Jesus] has nowhere to lay his head’ (Matthew 8.20).

The Bible and Christian spiritual tradition have no systematic treatment of sleep but are full of sleep imagery with more contradictions. For example it is a metaphor of inattentiveness: ‘if the owner of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you must also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour’ (Matthew 24.43, 44). So it focuses the believer on being attentive; hence St Paul’s rousing call, ‘now is the moment to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than we when we became believers’. (Romans 13.11)

Perhaps what we can say is that when we sleep we lose control. But when the individual is ‘taken over by sleep’ who is in control? Is it God, is it Satan? If God then he no longer has to battle with an assertive ego and can get a word in edgeways.

Another area of sleep that I won’t be looking at, but is related, is dreams. With dreams we see that sleep is an arena of the relationship between mortals and God: God communicates in dreams and nocturnal revelation.

The way that Christianity has articulated and embodied a theology of sleep is in liturgy and hymnody. Night Prayer, Compline, asks God for rest, guarding and companionship during the lonely hours. Evening hymns pick up on similar themes and both ask: ‘save us Lord, while we are awake and guard us while we are asleep…’ (Antiphon to the Nunc Dimittis at Compline) And prayers and hymns express the niggling fear that sleep is like death: ‘Teach me to live, that I may dread / the grave as little as my bed’. ‘Abide with me’ was written as an evening hymn, not for funerals. So sleep also mirrors the wakeful life of the day and anticipates the final sleep of death. Sleep is never neutral in scripture.

Given that we spend one third of our lives sleeping, the question is first, does that mean a third of our life has no bearing on our faith and prayer, and secondly, if it does have a bearing then what is it? I am suggesting that the great aspiration for the Christian is hallowed sleep that is derived from and centred in God and that can be taken into the waking hours of the new dawn. 

It is that idea of hallowed sleeping and waking that I want to explore throughout today.

One such approach is found in St Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians:

4But you, beloved, are not in darkness, for that day to surprise you like a thief; 5for you are all children of light and children of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. 6So then let us not fall asleep as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober; 7for those who sleep sleep at night, and those who are drunk get drunk at night. 8But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. 9For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. 11Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5.4-11

Paul is right: the night is the time of sleep, and that’s what biologists and neuroscientists, including, no less, the Professor of Circadian Neuroscience at Oxford, say: we should sleep at night and observe good ‘sleep hygiene’.

Paul uses the day as an image of alertness, attentiveness and clarity of thought, and contrasts that with what tends to happen at night. Indeed if we are awake in darkness anxiety can take hold of us in a way more pronounced than in the light. The really important line, as Paul builds his case, is, ‘so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him’: hallowed sleeping and waking. It is not literally the case that when we are asleep we cannot be with God. This is where I have made up a new word: theosomnia, literally, ‘God-sleep’. This is sleep with and for God. Theosomnia is a form of hallowed sleep that is derived from and centred in God.

The way of the theosomniac is the way of being a disciple. Discipleship is about being formed in the habits and practices of faith, so that our whole lives are hallowed: in delight and lament; in trial and flourishing; awake and asleep. Asleep we can lose control and our ego is subdued. Think of the Bible’s great sleepers: Adam placed into a deep sleep by God; Noah; Abraham; Ruth; Jacob; Joseph; Samuel; Jonah; Pilate’s wife. In each instance God is awake and active in them whilst they sleep, after all as the psalmist says, ‘the LORD who watches over Israel shall neither slumber not sleep’ (Psalm 127.6)

So how do we get to this theosomnia? The neuroscientists use the phrase ‘sleep hygiene’ for how we should be careful over our diet of sleep, just like we should be over our diet of food. For the disciple sleep hygiene involves committing our day to God before we lie down to sleep. For some this may be in a formal way such as praying Compline, or it may be less formal in Bible reading and prayer before sleep. 

I want to commend a way that may be familiar to you, or deeply unfamiliar. It is the Examen of Consciousness that St Ignatius Loyola describes in the Spiritual Exercises. Some say it should be done twice a day. I don’t manage that, but I do try and do it at bedtime though, let’s be frank, sometimes sleep has overtaken me before I can do it. I want to commend this as a marvellous theosomniac practice, a practice for disciples. I would commend it to you as an exercise to do after this address, and fuller account of it is printed in your booklet. In the Examen we follow five steps:

1. Become aware of God’s presence.

2. Review the day with gratitude.

3. Pay attention to your emotions.

4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.

5. Look toward to tomorrow.

I would like to suggest that something you might like to do this morning is to take some time, with God, to go with that exercise.

O Lord our God,

make us watchful and keep us faithful

as we await the coming of your Son our Lord;

that, when he shall appear,

he may not find us sleeping in sin

but active in his service

and joyful in his praise;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Post communion Prayer Advent 1: Common Worship


Two: ‘Sunk in the hems of God’s senses’: Sleep and the Life of Prayer

Sleep and the life of prayer. I have said a little about some of the themes of sleep in scripture and tradition, now I want to turn to consider sleep and prayer more intentionally. So first I will ask, ‘what, if anything are we doing when we pray?’ And then reflect on how our prayer might relate to our sleeping and waking lives.

I’ll repeat these questions again, and they are in the hand-out, but you might want to ponder: how does your waking life relate to your sleeping life? Do you take your anxieties, joys, aspirations and hopes into your sleep? Do certain things haunt, frighten or take you over when you are asleep? Is your sleep broken and disturbed by the anxieties of your waking life? How might all these relate to prayer?


We tend to think of prayer as a conscious act that we do. If we think that, then prayer is the activity of a conscious agent. I have decided or resolved it: I am praying now. But is prayer really like that? There are times when we pray very intentionally. For instance we pray intentionally at set times of prayer and in liturgy, when a bell wakes us, or stirs us to pray. But is prayer something we do?

Another way is to see prayer as something we are or something we become. This captures St Paul’s sense when in 1 Thessalonians he writes, ‘pray without ceasing’ (1 Thessalonians 5.17). Prayer like that is the activity of an unconscious agent.

Prayer isn’t just about the intellect it is also about instinct. Strangely, prayer, like sleep, is neither voluntary nor involuntary.[2] What I mean by that is that I cannot ‘choose’ to fall asleep. The best I can do is to choose to put myself in a posture and rhythm that welcomes sleep.’[3]  Prayer is like that. We put ourselves into a position and posture to welcome prayer. (Sometimes, though, that posture of prayer also beckons sleep!) Prayer, like sleep, is, ‘a gift to be received, not a decision to be made’. But it does require from us a posture of reception. So I lie down in bed, I close my eyes I am ready to receive sleep. The moment of sleep isn’t something I control, it is something I, unconsciously, welcome.

So we tend to shut our eyes when we pray. The only other time we deliberately shut our eyes is when we are trying to sleep. Shutting our eyes to pray shuts out distraction but it also shuts us in on ourselves. Bishop Rowan Williams often warns of the dangers of life shut in on itself. So a healthy shutting of our eyes in prayer is not to shut ourselves in, but to see in a new way. Sleep is similar. We shut our eyes and our life and perceptions change.

So then, in prayer, as in sleep, we are unconscious agents. Sleep happens in us, and prayer happens in us. That means that when we pray, just as when we are asleep, our bodies, minds and souls are in a posture of receptivity, in which the Spirit prays within us. St Paul memorably writes, ‘Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.’ (Romans 8.26) Sighs too deep for words. One commentary translates that as ‘unspoken groanings’ and connects it to speaking in tongues.[4] We might also equate those deep groanings with the snores and breathing of sleep. These sighs too deep for words, and unspoken groanings, are the deep, breathed, lettings go of the spirit of our own vanity to breathe in the Spirit of God. The prayer of Compline, the prayer before sleep articulates it, ‘into your hands O Lord I commend my spirit’.

Prayer and sleep represent handing over of sovereignty: as used to be said, ‘Let go; let God’. We hand over our sovereignty and allow God to be in control of us. In sleep our egos are subdued, giving space for the Spirit to pray and work deep within us.

This question of handing ourselves to God intrigued St Augustine when he writes about sleep. Augustine’s anxiety hinges on human identity because it raises questions about his true self and his intentions:

During this time of sleep surely it is not my true self, Lord my God? Yet how great a difference between myself at the time when I am asleep and myself when I return to the waking state.[5]

Augustine’s worry is not that God takes possession of him, but that his rationality might be lost, ‘surely’ he says, ‘reason does not shut down as the eyes close’.[6] His conclusion is that reason ‘cannot fall asleep with the bodily senses’. He helps us to ask, is what happens to me, in sleep or in prayer, always what I desire? Augustine uses sleep as a reference point to discuss ‘occurrences and our will’ and to acknowledge that there are times when ‘we did not actively do what, to our regret, has somehow been done in us’. Sleep for Augustine is analogous to prayer. Do we lose our reason in prayer? When am I most truly myself? Is it when I am awake or asleep? Is it when I am a-prayer or when I am not?

One writer has called Christian practices like prayer, ‘habitations of the Spirit’.[7] This is when we adopt the posture to be filled and sanctified. So, having adopted the posture needed, when sleep ‘comes’, like prayer, ‘I succeed in becoming what I was trying to be’. The question of what we desire to be, or to become, is at the heart of prayer. I want to suggest that in Christian prayer we consciously place ourselves in the posture of Jesus Christ, who with the Holy Spirit, joins us in prayer to the Father drawing us into the life of the Trinity.

So you might want to use the next quiet time to reflect on the practices that open you to sleep, and the practices that open you to fall a-prayer. You might want to ponder how your waking life relates to your sleeping life. Do you take your anxieties, joys, aspirations and hopes into your sleep? Do certain things haunt, frighten or take you over when you are asleep? Is your sleep broken and disturbed by the anxieties of your waking life? Can you let go, in sleep and prayer, and let God?

Almighty God,

you receive us into your peace at our lives’ end:

grant us peace as we succumb to sleep,

and in our waking and sleeping

open up the habitations of the Spirit in our lives.

We ask this in Jesus’ name.


Three: Sleep and the Storm

How can you really flatter someone nowadays? One of the best ways is to say to them something like, ‘you must be so busy’. And of course the chances are that they will be delighted and reply, ‘Oh yes, I am very busy’. The 24/7, never sleeping society is a storm of busy-ness. Sleep gets squeezed, with consequences, as researchers tell us, for mental and physical health. What’s more, the squeezing of sleep becomes a sign of the dangerous heresy of indispensability. It is as if we are caught up in a frenetic storm of activity, anxiety and busyness.

Outside this church there is a busy world of power, consumerism and sordid deals that creates a storm that tosses people around. Even in the Church that storm blows; obsessions with activism, exponential numerical growth and ambition. Therefore to sleep and to pray in the midst of that is seen either as grossly irresponsible or missing out on a fast moving world.

To an outside observer we in this church building are dozing off. The life of prayer might be viewed as dozing off and burying our heads so as not to confront the storm. But we theosomniacs, people who want to succumb to hallowed sleep and prayer, look at another storm and at the heart of it Jesus fast asleep. What do we see in the sleeping Jesus?

We see, don’t we, one whom even the winds and the waves obey: we see the creator God in Christ Jesus. Normally it’s creatures that sleep, not the Creator, after all, 'The Lord who watches over Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps' (Psalm 121.4). The disciples have to wake him up in the midst of the storm, almost quoting the words of the psalm, ‘Up Lord, why sleepest thou, awake, and be not absent from us for ever’ (Psalm 44.23).

They have mistaken Jesus’ sleeping for inactivity or absence. We need Jesus to sleep in the storms of the world. Jesus’ sleep is the sleep of innocence, the sleep of peace that a fallen and restless world finds elusive. As one writer suggests, '[Jesus'] sleep is not an expression of casualness; it is an expression of peace’.[8] So, Jesus is roused from the serenity of sleep and then restores a calm, evocative of the Sabbath rest. In prayer we sink into the hems of God’s senses and embody the deep peace of God.

We will eat shortly, and thank God for his abundant gifts. As you give thanks for your food, you might also give thanks for the gift of your sleep, as we read in the psalm, ‘It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved’ (Psalm 127.2).


Four: ‘Stay awake with me’ Prayer and Vigils

Our Lenten journey is a journey of renewal and refreshment. It is a journey to the paschal mystery, the self-offering of Christ to the Father. I hope that today can be a refreshing part of that journey for you.

The destination of this season of Lent is Holy Week and Easter. And embedded in the Triduum Sacram, the Holy Three Days, are two defining vigils: the Vigil of Maundy Thursday and the Vigil of Easter. Different churches will observe these Vigils in different ways. What I want to explore in this final reflection is what the practice of Vigil can give to our life of prayer.

Just as we reflected on the posture of sleep and prayer and how prayer is analogous to the letting go into sleep, now we turn that around to say that Vigil is a deliberate, conscious choice to resist sleep and open our perceptions in a different way. It is a voluntary action, but with involuntary consequences. It is ‘a habitation of the Spirit’ and a posture for prayer, this time resisting sleep. The two vigils connect attentive, watchful gazing on Christ and the Sabbath rest and waking of Easter.

Vigils make us pay attention to our sleeping lives by extending our waking lives. They are a prime example of what I described earlier about placing ourselves in a posture of prayer. Vigils are a habit and habitation of the Spirit. Why else would we deliberately intrude into our sleep, and our needful rest?

Vigils have a scriptural precedent in the parable of the wheat and the tares.[9] It is when everyone is sleeping that the enemy comes to sow weeds. Sleep is a metaphor for vulnerability to evil in that parable. Equally Jesus rises early in the morning to go and pray (Mark 1.35). And he prays into the night in the Garden of Gethsemane.

The vigil of Maundy Thursday is the defining vigil of the Church. It places us with Christ in his intercession to the Father. One writer has said that, ‘A Christian account of the “experiences that matter most” should be derived from a consideration of the ways in which Jesus came to bear the responsibility of his mission and, especially, of how it went with him in Gethsemane’.[10]  There Jesus deliberately stays awake to place himself in the posture of attention to the Father.

There is a deep tension and contrast at the heart of that vigil. Jesus is awake watchful, vigilant and attentive to the will of the Father. The disciples are taken over with sleep.[11] They appear to have been asked to stay awake to be lookouts for the impending arrival of Judas and the temple police. Most poignantly in Matthew they are asked to ‘stay awake with me’.[12]

This is staying awake, and avoiding sleep, as an act of personal commitment and attentiveness to Jesus. Mark does not make that association but rather associates sleep with the weakness of the flesh.[13] Luke is most generous to the sleeping disciples in suggesting that their sleep was ‘because of grief’.[14] He still has the pointed and direct rhetorical question of Jesus, ‘[w]hy are you sleeping?’[15] Matthew portrays a scene of soporific disciples, ‘for their eyes were heavy’ and accuses them of ‘taking their rest’.[16] This is not portrayed as an example of God giving sleep to his beloved. Rather their giving in to sleep represents a failure of theirs to ‘stay awake’ and be watchful.

In contrast to the disciples, Jesus stayed intentionally awake in Gethsemane. A writer comments, '[Jesus] made it possible - in principle - for them to sleep trustfully again...he restored lost innocence'.[17] He goes on to connect the sleep of Jesus on the boat with the sleep of the disciples in a generous way:

Jesus’ sleep [on the boat] was not the thoughtless sleep of one who depends on other people's vigilance and work. Jesus was not under the illusion that he was still in the Garden of Eden. He knew the cost of being part of a desperate, fallen world. Later, in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was precisely he who stayed awake while others slept - staring into the darkness and wrestling with what it seemed he must do to keep the world afloat'.[18]

While the disciples slept Jesus could have walked away, he could have walked up the Mount of Olives, through Bethany and away. But no, he kept returning to them because he stared into the darkness and knew he had to bring them through it.

St Benedict

Part of my own life and discipline of prayer is as an Oblate of Alton Abbey in Hampshire. And, especially in such close proximity to the Abbey next door, I can’t quite resist turning to Benedict. An aspect of the monastic life is the Office of Vigils, getting up night after night to pray. They know that it is at night that prayer is needed: for the suicidal; for night workers; for women in labour; for our ‘brethren ‘neath the western sky’;[19] someone somewhere is awake and in need of prayer.

In the Prologue to his Rule Benedict says:

Let us get up then, at long last, for the Scriptures rouse us when they say: It is high time for us to arise from sleep (Romans 13.11). Let us open our eyes to the light that comes from God’.[20]

In doing so Benedict captures the broad New Testament approach to sleep, and the application of that theology in the pastoral context of a monastic rule.

Benedict then devotes a whole chapter of the Rule to sleep and arrangements for it.[21] He prescribes separate beds and bedding provided by the abbot, ‘suitable to monastic life’. As may be expected in a monastic community, as opposed to a hermit, ‘all are to sleep in one place’. If the size of the community precludes this they are to sleep in groups of ten or twenty.  Sleep in this context is highly social. Esther de Waal suggests that the sociability of Benedictine sleep is not to do with the dangers of immorality but to enable monks, ‘to rise with the utmost speed and ease’.[22] This is why Benedict says the monks should sleep clothed, girded with belts and cords (although with their knives removed ‘lest they cut themselves’!) For Benedict sleep is to be shaken off quickly. In the dormitory the role of the seniors is to ‘quietly encourage’ those waking, or still sleeping, monks like Frère Jacques, ‘for the sleepy like to make excuses’.[23]

De Waal comments that monks, ‘sleep in a state of availability’. This illustrates the Pauline imperatives to be alert. That is the virtue of the wise bridesmaids in the parable.[24] All the bridesmaids, wise and foolish, slept, but it was the ones who slept prepared who welcomed the bridegroom.

So we can make a verb of the noun vigil. Sleeping in a deep state of availability to God, waking in a state of availability to God is prayer. That is to vigil.

Keep us, O Lord,

while we tarry on this earth,

in a serious seeking after you,

and in an affectionate walking with you,

every day of our lives;

that when you come,

we may be found not hiding our talent,

nor serving the flesh,

nor yet asleep with our lamp unfurnished,

but waiting and longing for our Lord,

our glorious God for ever.


Closing Remarks

I am deeply aware of all the things I have not said and not covered. As I read and think about sleep I become aware of the liturgical expression of sleep in hymns and liturgy, the pastoral dimensions of sleep, for instance: sleep and wellbeing; sleep and mental health; sleep and depression; sleep and grief; insomnia.

Is there a theology of sleep, or a spirituality of sleep? For that you will need to buy the book that is not yet written. I would love to hear any reflections you have on sleep and your life and discipleship. Do you pray intentionally before sleep? Do you pray with your partner, children, grandchildren before sleep? If you would like to share those experiences with me, I would welcome it, and there is an email address in the flyer.

Can you be honest about your need for sleep and rest and renewal? I hope that today you may even have dropped off, had forty winks, after all, again from the psalms, ‘He gives his beloved sleep’. I hope today has reminded or highlighted for you that when you are asleep there is time when God can work deep within you, when your ego is not pushing him around: ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3.30). I hope too that in the practice of the Examen of Consciousness, saying Compline or intentionally praying before sleep you can become a true theosomniac, like I dare to claim Jesus himself was. I pray that with him you can Sabbath fully and properly and that Christ can be your, ‘best thought in the day and the night / both waking and sleeping, [his] presence [thy] light’.[25]

So as Lent continues, perhaps we can make these words from the hymn for Compline in Lent our own prayer,

And while the eyes soft slumber take,

Still be the heart to thee awake;

Be thy right hand upheld above

Thy servants resting in thy love.[26]

Let us go forth in peace. Thanks be to God.

[1] Acts 20.9-12

[2] In these thoughts I am indebted to the work of James K A Smith, which draws attention to the philosopher Merleau-Ponty who explores the mode of intentionality between intellect and instinct and sees sleep as analogous to the relationship between what is voluntary and involuntary. Smith, J K A., (2013). Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works. Grand Rapids MI: Baker Academic. p. 65.

[3] Smith, Imagining the Kingdom. p. 65.

[4] Cranfield, Romans

[5] Augustine, Confessions (41) p. 203.

[6] Confessions (41)

[7] cf Smith, Imagining the Kingdom, p. 65.

[8] Quash, B., 2012. Abiding. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, p. 209.

[9] Matthew 13.24-30

[10] Lash, N., (1988). Easter in Ordinary: Reflections on Human Experience and the Knowledge of God University of Notre Dame Press, Virginia. p 251.

[11] Matthew 26.36-46 parallels

[12] Matthew 26.38b

[13] Mark 14.38.

[14] Luke 22.45.

[15] Luke 22.46.

[16] Matthew 26.43.

[17] Quash, B., Abiding. p. 239.

[18] Quash, Abiding. pp. 209-210 his italics.

[19] New English Hymnal 252

[20] Life Giving Way, p.1 RB Prologue, 8, 9a.

[21] A Life Giving Way p. 90-1.

[22] A Life Giving Way p. 90.

[23] A Life Giving Way p. 90.

[24] Matthew 25.1-13

[25] NEH 339 Be thou my vision

[26] NEH 61 Christe qui lux es et dies