Prayer in the Newborn Days

Guys, I’m tired. We’re way past “watch a movie or read for a bit to recharge.” This is systemic, sleep deprived, newborn tired. 

The adult body needs 6–8 hours of sleep a night, but no one told babies that. For a few weeks we were fortunate to snatch one or two hours at a time overnight, or maybe less on a rough night. It’s getting marginally better, but wow could I do with one good night’s sleep. 

We all have something that we want, that our prayers return to again and again. Maybe for you it’s physical healing, a new job, greater patience, or a better relationship with your spouse, sibling, or child. I can’t speak for you, but when I pray I want to ask boldly—but also recognize “not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). 

I’ve been using Psalm 63:5–8 to guide my prayers.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

I do a lot of “remembering [God] upon my bed … in the watches of night” these days. I would really like to be “satisfied as with fat and rich food” with a good several hours of sleep! 

The satisfaction mentioned in this Psalm, however, comes not from receiving what I want, like good food or sleep, but from remembering and meditating on God: “for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy” (Psalm 63:7). 

It’s not wrong to ask God for sleep. My body works better with adequate sleep. When I’m rested, it’s easier to be patient with my daughter, husband, and very needy son and to maintain a positive outlook on the thankless parts of the newborn days.

Psalm 63 reminds me that my truest desire, what my soul clings to and what upholds me, must be God himself. If he upholds me by providing sleep, then wonderful! But if it’s another sleepless night, then I can cling to God and trust him to uphold me another way. 

Jesus taught his disciples to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). We’re taught elsewhere that the God who clothes the lilies will surely meet our needs (Luke 12:27–31). God met our deepest need in redeeming us from our sin through Jesus. He also sent the Holy Spirit to live in us, to guide us and sustain us while we are on earth. The Spirit hears my sleepy and sometimes wobbly prayers and intercedes for me before the Father (Romans 8:26–27). 

There’s tremendous comfort in this truth, but also a call to obedience. It’s tempting to use my lack of sleep to excuse sin, such as being short-tempered. My thinking sounds like Adam in the garden (Gen. 3:12): “The night’s sleep you gave me was too short, so I snapped at my husband.” I must rely on the Holy Spirit to change me and equip me to do right and avoid sin, just as much as I lean on him to supply the energy to change the next diaper. And when I fail, I cling to God’s reliable forgiveness and love: “your right hand upholds me” (Psalm 63:8).

I’ve tried to shape my prayers more along these lines: “God, please give me sleep tonight! Or, please give me the divine strength and stamina for the next day.” 

This makes it sound like I’m a content, spiritually satisfied person every day. Nope—I still really want sleep, and if I’m honest, in my flesh I want sleep more than I want to cling to God. So I re-read the note card by my bed where I wrote these verses, and pray for God to reorient my heart toward him.

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Sarah Wisniewski
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