If there is one thing I have excelled at all my life, it is sleeping.

Yet, although I love to sleep, I have often stayed up late. When I was little, I’d stay up so I could watch Perry Mason with my dad. Now that I’m older I find myself reading my favorite online magazine or texting my boyfriend far into the night. I am quite likely to skip sleep for entertainment, love, or for obligations like studying.

But I rarely do so to spend more time with God.

When I read the story of Jesus’ agony in the garden (Matthew 26:36-46) the night before he was put to death, I sometimes find myself judging his closest friends: “What?! None of these friends decided to stay awake to pray with JESUS?” Then I am promptly humbled by the little voice inside my head that says: “Well, when was the last time YOU stayed awake to pray with Jesus?”

Middle-of-the-night prayer is an ancient Christian tradition that makes a bold statement.

Watchful, middle-of-the-night prayer is an ancient Christian tradition that makes a bold statement. It says: “God, you are more important even than sleep.” It is also a sign of trust: “God, I know you are and will be my strength.”

Some of my friends have told me that they find it much easier to pray far into the night when they do it with friends. Some do this weekly with for 5 hours or more. During those hours, they will read Scripture together, meditate on it, and pray through it — worshipping God, thanking him, praising him, and interceding for their church, their city, their country, and the world. They say that it not only helps them draw near to God; it also helps them draw closer to one another.

I also can say that I have never lost out by spending time with God at night. When I do stay up late to spend more time with him, I often feel more rested —spiritually and physically — when morning comes. And I always feel that those extra hours spent in his presence have allowed me to draw closer to him.

How about you? What helps you draw near to God and gain strength from him?

updated August 2019

Photo Credit: Tiko Giorgadze