I stumbled upon a new spiritual discipline this past year. It isn’t new in the sense that no one has ever done it before—quite to the contrary (see more below)—nor new in that I myself have never done it in the past. But it is new in the sense that this is the first time in my life that this practice has become a regular part of my life. This new pattern has become one of the most spiritually rejuvenating activities with which I have ever engaged.
What is this discipline? When I cannot sleep at night, including and perhaps especially when I first lie down to go to sleep, I mentally meditate on long Scripture passages. I don’t speak the words aloud since my wife is asleep beside me, but I recite in my mind chapters of Scripture until I fall asleep.
What are the benefits I have gained from doing this regularly? Four benefits stand out:
First, I have discovered that God’s Word is sinking deeper into my heart than ever before, probably since I am mulling over what God has revealed during the quietest period of my day. I am used to diving deep into God’s Word; but this activity is helping to sink God’s Word deeper into me.
Second, when I am mentally focusing on Scripture, I am not worrying about the concerns of life. Since I have a tendency to worry—especially when I first place my head on my pillow at night—quoting through Scripture has become an intentional way to set worry aside as I meditate on God’s truth.
Third, I am having an easier time falling asleep than has been the case in the past. I think this positive change is likely connected in some way to my second point. By focusing upon Scripture, I am fixing my mind on one thing rather than allowing my thoughts to bounce around from one set of concerns to another. In so doing, I am consciously committing my concerns to the Lord, and allowing them to rest in the Lord. Let me be honest, there have been times when I have had to quote through a lot of Scripture before I have finally fallen asleep. But, on the whole, this practice has yielded more sleep than anything else I have tried in the past.
The final benefit is that I find myself more motivated to memorize Scripture because of this practice. Every new passage of Scripture committed to memory—and upon which I can draw in the night—increases my delight in meditating on Scripture in the night. Discovering that I was more motivated to memorize additional Scripture than before was an unanticipated benefit of quoting Scripture in the night.
An interesting side note—and something that I didn’t anticipate—is that when I wake up in the morning, I can usually recall within a few verses the place where I left off quoting when I fell asleep. Isn’t that interesting?
Now, it turns out that there is nothing at all new about this practice. God’s people have been quoting Scripture in the night for millennia. The Psalmist writes, “My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word” (Psalm 119:148). But as a regular part of my life in Christ, this is something new for me. As a result of engaging in this new discipline, I am receiving encouragement and guidance from God as I meditate at length on his Word, worrying less about my daily cares while lying in bed, increasingly motivated to memorize more than I already have, and falling asleep more easily—all because I am quoting Scripture in the night.
For a simple approach to memorizing Scripture, go to this blog post.
For a book to encourage you in how to engage spiritually with God’s Word, go to this book.