I once stumbled on a tweet that went thus:
“I can’t understand why the ushers in church won’t let me sleep in my own father’s house”.
You know the feeling, don’t you? You’ve been all jumpy and alive on your way to church; busy with social media or something along that line. You arrive in church and the praise session is t-i-g-h-t. You dance yourself to a frenzy, convinced this will be an incredible service – at least for you.
Then the music stops. You sit quietly; perspiring heavily but happy too.
Then the fans (or worse, air conditioning) kick in.
Hah. ..Thank goodness, you heave as the sweat promptly vacates your forehead, chased off by the relentless wafts of cool air. Your body temperature starts to drop and you feel this overwhelming calmness. Peace that passes all understanding, right? Indeed.
Five minutes later
and the only reason you could tell you’d been asleep was because you just woke up! How did that happen?
No way! Not today! You’d resolved to keep your eyelids apart by fire, by force. Shaking your head vigorously, you adjust in your seat only to nod off again like a drugged rag doll. The tug of war goes back and forth.
Just like that, you’ve missed out on the service. Benediction’s over. Next week will be better, you promise. But that’s what you said the last time.
and the time before that.
and the time before the time before that.
Is this you? Do you find yourself struggling to stay awake in church despite your better intentions? Here are a few tips you may want to look at.
#1. Get some sleep!
I’m tempted to say “duh!” right there but I’ll behave myself. Your body has a naturally alternating cycle of activity and rest. Work with it. If you’re up till 2am, it’s only natural that your body will want to make up for the rest it was wrongfully denied.
Have you considered going to bed earlier on Saturdays? Your schedule may not always permit it, but have you tried this before? You may need to give up a movie or some social media time but that’s how life works – it’s the law of exchange. For everything you want, you’ll trade something you have. The question then, really is, do you personally consider your alertness in church worth going to bed earlier for? Only you can decide for yourself.
#2. Get (and stay!) involved.
Snoozing happens when you’re disconnected. Get involved with the activities. Open your bible and read when requested (it’s amazing the number of worshippers who do not open their bibles in church today thanks to screen projections).
Instead of thinking about your post-service plans, pray during prayer time. Don’t just grumble mindlessly under your breath. Speak out to God. Take notes during the sermon (and I don’t mean writing down the preacher’s clever rhymes or quotable quotes). Put down what you’re actually learning from what is being said. Let your notes be a personal compendium of the nuggets you extracted from the sermon, not just a sketchy summary of what the guy in front was saying.
#3. Think ‘Application’.
19th century clergyman, Dwight L. Moody said “the bible was not given to fill our heads with knowledge; but to change our lives”. Admittedly, some preachers are boring and may not always help you see the connection between what they say on sunday and your life on monday, but this is your life we’re talking about here. We cannot blame anyone for how it turns out, can we?
It is your responsibility to train your mind to think in terms of applying what you hear in church to your life. Yes, sometimes, the link is not apparent but with sincere prayer AND some meditation (thinking), you’ll find exactly where your life fits into what you’ve heard.
#4. Join the ushers.
This is brilliant. What better way to stop yourself from napping than helping others stay awake? You know, what you make happen for others, comes back to you. Help others stay awake by enlisting as an usher in your church and your problems with keeping your eyes open will be history in no time.
Do you know that a guy once died because he dozed off in church? I’m serious.
And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead
Acts 20:9 (KJV)
Thankfully, you and I do not need to face death to get this right. Time spent in church can be a great investment – but we have to make the most of it by applying practical wisdom to stay alert, engaged and focused in those two or so hours. That ain’t too much to ask, right?
Have you struggled, or do you still struggle (maybe occasionally) with staying awake in church? How has it been? I’m sure this list is nowhere near exhaustive. Call it a conversation opener. For example, some have alluded that the devil has a role to play in this, especially since most worshippers become wide awake again as soon as they step outside! What’s really going on? Let’s get talking. I look forward to reading your comments.
P.S: Tip #4 was added on a lighter note.
Live by Design.
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