Praying Yourself To Sleep

Bible Book: Psalms  4
Subject: Safety; Peace; Sleep; Rest; Assurance


Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor,

Today we are considering a Psalm of David, which actually begins as a prayer. It is interesting to note how many of David’s Psalms were actually prayers or contained portions of prayers, which  reveals his dependence on God and his experiences with God. Today we are considering one such prayer.

When we come to this prayer we discover something all of us have experienced at one time or another. David expresses in this Psalm that he is having a difficult tie getting a good night's sleep. Have you ever had that problem? I expect you have.

Let me share some silly thoughts on sleep:

1. Why did the little girl take her bicycle to bed with her? Because she didn’t want to sleepwalk.

2. What should you do if you can’t go to sleep? You lie on the bed’s edge and soon you’ll drop off.

3. What happens if you sleep on your smartphone? You don't download an app, you download a nap.

4. How will you reveal that you are not a light sleeper? Go to sleep in the dark.

5. What animal sleeps with his shoes on? A horse, of course!

Okay, that's enough of that. Well, one more!

6. Why did the band’s guitar player pass out on stage? Because he rocked himself to sleep.

‍Actually, not being able to sleep certainly isn't funny. I spoke with someone not too long ago who said, “I tossed and turned all night long, worrying about my situation.” The person went on to detail a bit of what was happening in his family. One thing he did not mention was seeking sleep through prayer.

This world is one great spinning ball of trouble and woe. Someone once said, “Be kind, because everyone you meet is carrying a burden.” It is important to know how to deal with the perplexing thoughts that sometimes haunt our minds and keeps us from rest. In Psalm 4 David wrote a prayer and a testimony of exactly what God did for him in the midst of his heartache - in the sleepless night he faced.

So, do we know anything about the perturbing and aggitating situation that David was dealing with when he wrote this Psalm? Actually, we do. Most scholars link this Psalm to the time when Absalom, David’s son, had rebelled against him and chased David out of the City of Jerusalem. Out in the desert area, with his soldiers gathered around him, David needed encouragement from God. He lay on his bed and prayed for relief from his troubled mind and broken heart.

Can you pray yourself to sleep? You sure can, for I have done many times – too many to count. It has not been trouble or anxiety that caused me to pray when I lay on my bed, but a comforting thought of meeting with my heavenly Father before I closed my eyes in sleep. It is sort of like having your Heavenly Father tuck you in bed at night. I often pray going to sleep and I pray in thanksgiving for all God has done for me, for my family and in gratitude for answered prayers from the past. I pray for people who have asked me to pray for them, and just for people that God brings to my mind at that moment. I often go to sleep not remembering where my prayer ended and my sleep began. There is something wonderful about praying yourself to sleep, and this is especially true if your mind is roiling with busy living or the burdening stresses of life.

So, let’s look at David’s prayer and see what we can learn about finding sleep in a world that often can’t close its eyes.

I. Praying in Distress

The human condition of broken heartedness is seen in this Psalm. David has definitely been going through some deep distress. But, it wasn’t the first time David had thrown himself on the mercy of God.

Note that David begins in verse 1 by saying, “…you have relieved me in my distress; have mercy on me, and hear my prayer.”

David acknowledges that God has “relieved” his “distress” in the past and he is asking for that blessing again. The word translated “relieved” in the text comes from a Hebrew word that means “to enlarge.” That is interesting, indeed. David is saying that he has been in situations where he seemed far too small to deal with the problems and issues in his life. Yet, in the midst of those times, God made him bigger than the problems that loomed before him. This makes me think of an incident in David’s life long before he wrote this Psalm.

You recall that when David was just a young man he faced the giant Goliath. Goliath towered over David. Goliath was so large that he made even the greatest and largest soldiers in the Jewish army cower in fear and dread. But, God gave David courage and he faced the giant with a sling and a stone. When God is with us, there is no problem too big for us to face, no enemy too great for us to defeat, and no path to high for us to tread.

I don’t know what you may be facing today, or what keeps you awake at night, but spending time with God can help you realize just how big God is and that He is with you in the hardships of life.

Here is how Isaiah was inspired to pen this truth for us: Isaiah 54:17 ...

“No weapon formed against you shall prosper,

And every tongue which rises against you in judgment

You shall condemn.

This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD,

And their righteousness is from Me,

Says the LORD.”

Our God can enlarge us to overcome any enemy, and if He chooses not to do so He will give us the grace sufficient to face it in a different way.

So, yes, we will all face distress, as Jesus said ...

“In this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33).

Note something else David reveals in this prayer at bedtime.

II. Praying against Delusion

There is a great delusion in the world; it is a delusion that one can overcome sadness, suffering and the results of sin with fun, money, power, or some other earthly accomplishments. It is a pipe-dream to think such things – a grand trickery of the evil one. Sitting on the throne as king did not keep David from trouble, and no position, possession, or prideful accomplishment will keep you from sleepless nights either.

David determined to call out to the Lord – he was confident that the Lord would heard hear him when he prayed? Why was he so self-assured in this matter? David knew that the Lord hears those who have a godly intent, those who seek His will and not their own. Don’t be deluded by the world’s methods of overcoming distress for like weak medicine for the sick seeking worldly answers to your troubles will only lead to an increase to the darkness in your heart and mind.

You cannot find peace in this world. Perhaps some were trying to tell David to give up or to turn to a worldly approach to solve the problems he was facing. David knew better than to entertain such thoughts.

David questioned, “How long will you love worthlessness and seek falsehood?" (Psalm 4:2)

He wanted those around him and those opposing him to know that he was committed to God’s answer to the situation and had no admiraton for the worthless thinking of men. You want to sleep well at night, pray like David and trust in the Lord. After all, God is awake while you are sleeping and He has everything under control.

III. Praying for Direction

David speaks of orders or directions being given in his prayer. Was he praying these words while thinking of others, or was he speaking to himself as he spoke to God? More than likely, David was reminding himself, or being reminded by the Lord, of issues about which he was to be careful as he dealt the problems before him. We need to remember that problems can drive us to God or they can cause us to drift away from God. David did not wish to do the latter but rather desired to never let his troubles drive him away from the Lord.

Look at several words in these verses that start with an “s”.

A. Sin

“Be angry, and do not sin,” he says in verse 4.

Wow! Why say that at this point? David was angry that his own son had rebelled against him but he didn’t want his indignation to be personal. In other words, he realized that it was possible for him to turn this issue into a personal fight rather than a divine one. God chooses the king – David knew that. He saw what happened to King Saul when he allowed his feelings in the matter of his authority to become personal rather treating them as being spiritual issues.

Whatever you are facing, even if it is something someone has done to you, keep your wits about you by making sure that you are doing God’s will in the matter. You can be angry and not sin, but you can become angry and sin to the point that you destroy what God has planned for you.

B. Search

Meditate in your heart – search your heart – upon your bed. Take time to look at yourself and be sure that you are where God wants you in your attitude and actions. It is hard for us to look at ourselves as we should, but when we meditate and search a matter with God’s help, and with God’s Word, He leads us in the way that is right.

C. Silence

Be still – be silent!

Let God speak to you. Don’t whine and kick about when you are facing troubles, but give God room to work. David could probably hear his men talking about how bad things were. Mumblings and doubts about the future of his kingdom were everywhere, but David remained silent. That is, he got close to God and gave the Lord a chance to speak peace and power into his heart.

D. Shining

Note the Shining Face of God.

Discouragement was all around David, but you read that he prayed, “Lord, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us.”

David prayed for God to make His shining face clear to him and to his troops in this midst of the dark times they were facing. Listen carefully to what I am about to say. There are plenty of people who will be discouragers in the good times and they are even worse in the difficult times – don’t be one of those people or listen to those people. Also, don't spend your time people who are discourage you. And be sure you encourage people, even in your own times of trouble. Ask God to show His face to you. No matter how dark it is where you are, it is always bright where God is. Call Him into your situation and ask Him to show Himself to you, and ask God to reveal Himself to others around you.

Almost all of us have flown on commercial airlines. I flew on numerous planes in the army, and Jayne and I have flown all around the world in our years in the ministry. One of the beautiful experiences of flying is the change that occurs when the plane departs from the airport on a dreary, cloudy, ugly day. After a few minutes in the air, the plane breaks through the clouds and the sunshine can be so bright it practically hurts your eyes. You become aware that it is not dark everywhere. Somewhere the sun is shining. With God, the sun (and, yes, the Son) is always shining. There is a bright place just beyond our sight, even when we feel that we are going through dark places. We are to rise up in prayer, to find the glowing presence of God, shinning above the clounds of this world.

E. Seek

Seek God’s face. In Psalm 27:8 David wrote ...

“When You said, “Seek My face,”

My heart said to You, “Your face, Lord, I will seek.”

Yes, that is the answer. God is always calling us to seek Him, and those that seek Him early find Him. Seek Him upon your bed at night and you will sleep. Seek Him when you rise in the morning and He will lead you in the light of day.

IV. Praying with Delight

David found joy that money can't buy. In Psalm 4:7 he wrote,

“You have put gladness in my heart,

More than in the season that their grain and wine increased.”

All the great harvests and good times that others were experiencing could not compare to the peace that David had in his heart because of the presence, peace, power and promises of God. God put gladness in his heart, even when others were moaning. God gave David peace, even when David's own heart was waning. And, God put joy in David's heart even when he was deep in despair. While David was suffering, and his enemies seemed to be successful, God gave David assurance and sleep.

David reminds us that true joy is not found in things, position, pleasure, or money. All these fade with time, but the glory of the Lord is forever. David found His joy in God.

David said:

“I will lie down in peace, and sleep;

For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”

There it is! David knew how to sleep when troubles sought to keep him awake all night. Basically, David had prayed himself to sleep.


Somewhere I read about a little girl who was put in bed by her mother. The little girl looked out her bedroom window and saw the full moon shining in the heavens. “Mama,” the child asked, “is that God’s light?”

The mother answered, “Yes, honey, that is God’s light.”

The child then asked, “Will God turn out His light and go to sleep?”

The mother replied, “No darling, God does not sleep. He will stay awake and be sure you are cared for through the night.”

A simple message to a child, but one that is true. We need to sleep when it is time to sleep, for our God will not slumber and He will have His will done in our lives as we trust Him – and nothing is better than God’s will. We must learn in life's hardships to pray ourselves to sleep at night because we are trusting in the One who does not sleep nor slumber - nor does He ever desert those who know and trust Him.