August 2, 2017: Sleeping in Class

~by Louis Templeman

Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep, but when they were fully awake they saw his glory . . ..” Luke 9: 32.

Imagine your boss, pastor or some leader you are emotionally bonded to asks you to pray with him. You agree and follow him to some secluded place. He prays so long you become bored, then sleepy, and finally drift off to dreamland. Eventually an animated conversation and a bright dazzling light awakens you. Once awake, you find your leader is glowing like a lightbulb and holding a conversation with saints, heroes of the faith, who have been dead for centuries.

Peter, James and John need not imagine such a story. They experienced it. This episode in Christ’s ministry must be very important. It is mentioned four times in the New Testament. Only Luke tells us how sleepy the disciples became. Luke, an outsider, a Gentile, got his story by asking questions. If I had the chance, I would also have questions.

Had these disciples not prayed many times with Jesus? Did they not know there would be a “show” or spectacular theophany? If not, was it rare for the spectacular to happen when they prayed alone with Jesus? Yes? Is that why it was easy to get bored and sleepy? Just another boring time of prayer? Is this the first time they had been with Jesus in the classroom of prayer? Was it always hard to stay awake?

I would like to ask why these were allowed to see his glory, to behold this event of the transfiguration. I mean, doesn’t falling asleep cut you out of such rewards?

“Keep awake therefore . . .”. Matthew 25: 13.

“Therefore keep awake . . . I say to all: keep awake.” Mark 13: 35, 36.

Why did these sleepers see his glory? Here is the answer that holds it all together. God is merciful. Prayer is hard work. Not only does the body find it inconvenient but the mind can focus on a hundred distractions that are not only interesting and entertaining but come without the effort required in meditation and concentrated prayer.

God is merciful. That is why they experienced this display of Christ’s glory. Also, we must see one more critical factor in the answer to the question: Why did God let these disciples, who sleep in class. Experience this moment? Simply because they showed up.

God is merciful. They may have fallen asleep in class but at least they showed up. Sometimes just showing up is the best thing we can do, even when in the face of the crisis at hand we feel so weak and limited in either skill or experience. Once when I was a pastor I answered the phone to find a man crying and in turmoil. He had just discovered his pharmacist wife was not only a drug addict but had just been caught stealing drugs from the pharmacy where she was employed.

To this day I cannot recall doing this man any good. All I did was answer the phone. Later I showed up at his house. I listened to him. I hugged him. I held his hand and prayed with him. Later when peace, harmony and sobriety were restored to the home he told me I got him through that crisis. The whole thing baffles me. All I did was show up. All I did was answer the phone. Sometimes that is all we can do. And, by God’s mercy that is, often, enough.

I find two chief lessons regarding prayer in the final words of Luke’s narrative:

There from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the thing they had seen. Luke 9: 35, 36.

What did they learn? Jesus is God’s son. Listen to him. We find prayer involves listening. Prayer is so much more than reading out a grocery list of wants and needs and complaints. Prayer is conversation. Prayer involves listening.

What else did they learn? Silence. Study silence. Find it. Nurture it. Cultivate it. Have you ever said to someone, “Let’s step over here where we can talk, where there’s not so much noise or distraction?” Silence is the native atmosphere for prayer. Especially silence in the heart even when silence in your natural surroundings is not possible.

In silence sleep is also a real temptation. Nevertheless, until you can consistently stay awake in the classroom of prayer, at least you can show up. Saint Therese said she felt no guilt if she fell asleep while she prayed. She likened it to a child coming to a parent full of questions, complaints, fears and worries only to fall asleep on her lap. Any good parent would welcome the sleeping child in arms as easily as the praying child at her knee.

That the disciples showed up was more important than the issue of sleeping while praying. Because they showed up Jesus was able to wake them up. This is not an encouragement to sleep in class; it is an encouragement to show up, whether you are sleepy or not.


Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D. Louis has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is fighting the good fight. Much of what he writes these days he is sharing his journey with us. Please keep Louis and his wife Joy in your prayers.

CLICK HERE to visit Louis’ Catholic Journeyman Archive

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • email
  • Digg
  • Google Bookmarks
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Twitthis
  • Yahoo! Bookmarks
  • MySpace
  • Sphinn
  • Mixx