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The Last Hour of Sleep. 459. June 11, 2023

Updated: Jun 11, 2023

KEY SCRIPTURE: Matthew 26:40-45

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Couldn't you men keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." He went away a second time and prayed, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done." When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"


In the preliminary hours before Jesus' trial, a crucial time in His ministry, His children slept while He worked. Why were they unable to keep their minds from dozing off?

A few minutes after I sent out last Thursday's message, I received a response from a reader, "Thanks Niv!"

We're talking 5.30 am when most people are holding on to their last hour of sleep.

I returned a light quip, "Just get back from your 10 km run?"

What came next was beautiful to read. "Haha. Just finished spending time with my creator."

Do you think Jesus would have loved hearing those words? "Just finished spending time with my creator."

I am using a bit of poetic licence by broadcasting his short conversation, so I hope he understands. He'll most likely read it.

I know what that last hour means. Sometimes it is our deepest sleep, but other times we're just lying there half-awake, snoozing and snuggling, unwilling to admit that dawn is about to switch its light on and ruin everything.

I wonder how often the disciples recounted Jesus' challenge as they held onto sleep when they should have been praying a warrior's prayer. If ever there was a time to pray, it was then. But to them, it was just another ordinary day, not realising the criticality of the hour.

Is sleep important? Of course. It's when our body completely rests, the intensity in the brain turns off for a while, and cells regenerate. We wake up without wrinkles as the body becomes taut again overnight. (Ok, this bit is untrue!)

Do we believe that the last hour of sleep, or even a part of it, is so vital that it cannot be sacrificed to our creator? The Christian life is about sacrifice, but we draw a line in the sand regarding some offerings. Sleep is one of them. We hold onto it like the angel of death is here for our soul. "Nobody touches my sleep." "I need it!"

God never slumbers or sleeps. But we do it a lot.

My early morning contact might work or be on a holiday cruise ship, attending night school, or retired. What I know is that at 5.30 am, he had just finished his gift-time to his Lord, and part of his sacrifice was sleep.

Ex-world champion bodybuilder, former governor, and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger downplayed the need for sleep when speaking to an audience of budding athletes who sought to understand how he achieved such success. They told him they needed eight hours of sleep which dug into their early morning training.

He replied in that unique Austrian-American voice we so easily recognise. "Sleep faster!"

As funny as it sounds, he was serious. To get something, we often need to lose something else. There is a victim with every sacrifice, as it is a transferal. We slay some sleep to enjoy peaceful private communion with our Lord. But we habitually weigh the cost of that offering and find it's too much to part with.

When I was freshly out of prison and working 12-hour days in a factory, with only a 15-minute morning smoko and a half-hour lunch, I caught up on sleep during lunchtime. After eating, I'd roll up some bubble wrap for a pillow, lay on a wooden factory bench in my overalls, and then breathe myself to sleep. I would only get 3-4 minutes, but I found that was all I needed. I've learned a lot about sleep, and it's not a hospital emergency when we miss out on it. It's just sleep.

Could the disciples have stayed awake? I'm sure they were more resolute after Pentecost. Maybe they would have understood if Jesus had explained the hour's importance. Did He need to? He'd asked them to watch and pray. Wouldn't that be enough? Is it enough for us?

Jesus often spent the early hours communing with His Father. Would waking an hour earlier be so excruciating to override uninterrupted exquisite companionship with our Saviour and a great refreshing of our spirit? Is it such an immense cost to offer prayers of thanksgiving and praise before our competing timetable wakens to reduce our God-time?

It wouldn't hurt to take a leaf from this guy's book. Worshipping before daybreak may not be your cup of tea, but when we look for a time later in the day, when our busyness steals every available minute, consistently moving God to a later timeslot, only the determined find it.


My dear Lord, thank you for the peace of a morning with its crispness and solitude. It stills the soul, like walking by the sea or in the forest after a light rain. Praise you for those moments where I can savour the intimacy of our relationship.

Photo by David Clode


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