Bishop Afolabi – Sleeping at prayer time

Bishop Jacob Afolabi, Senior Pastor, Christ Chapel Bible Church




by Bishop Jacob Afolabi


“Natural sleep is humanly necessary. But to Watch and Pray is most needful for our safety from temptations.”  Sleep is used in the Bible in three specific ways:-  1. For natural rest of the physical frame – natural sleep.  2. For the indolence and dullness of the soul or careless ignorance. 3. A state of physical death – Cessation of natural life. For the purpose of this message we shall apply the first two meanings to sleep, that is, natural sleep – due to careless ignorance.  Jesus taught us to Watch and Pray so that we would not fall into temptation. Temptations come to make us weak,  unfaithful and unfit to be in the company of God or Man.

Let us learn lessons from the Bible, that mentioned the records of those who chose to sleep when they should pray.  David slept – in a time of war    In the spring of the year,[fn] when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. They destroyed the Ammonite army and laid siege to the city of Rabbah. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem… Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath…. He sent someone to find out who she was, and he was told, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.”   (2 Samuel 11:1 – 3)

Instead of keeping a vigil while his army was engaged in a war, David slept.  David slept while his army fought, and he fell into a horrible temptation.  Temptations sometimes come as beauties to behold and to possess.  Sisera slept in a time of war. Sisera was Captain of an army who lost his head as he fell into deep sleep in “an enemy’s tent.”  He fell asleep in a time of Prayers. (Judges 4: 17 – 22).   Jonah slept – in a time of storms.  (Jonah 1:1-6).  Jonah was a rebel. His rebellion led him to go contrary to the ways of God, and he was soon fatigued and worn out with mental anxiety.  But instead of giving himself to prayers, he ‘fell’ asleep.  There is no conscience so rotten as that of a disobedient Christian!!! The pagan sailors were praying, but Jonah was sleeping.(Jonah 1:3 & 5).  

The ten virgins all slept ‘waiting’ for the bridegroom.  “When the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep>”  (Mt.25:5).  Sleep in itself is not sinful, it is only natural. But the discipline of waiting should also include the discipline of keeping awake. A little slumber puts a temporary end to our waiting…for the Lord.

The disciples slept at the transfiguration. “About eight days later Jesus took Peter, John, and James up on a mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly, two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared and began talking with Jesus. They were glorious to see. And they were speaking about his exodus from this world, which was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem. Peter and the others had fallen asleep. When they woke up, they saw Jesus’ glory and the two men standing with him.”  (Luke 9:28-32). 

Peter, James and John nearly missed “the greatest show on earth,” The Transfiguration of Jesus Christ, because they were heavy with sleep. The discipline of avoiding sleep, (keeping the vigil), as well as the discipline of prayer, go together.  The disciples slept (again) – at Gethsemane, “Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me…. Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour?  Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”  (Matt.26:36-41).  Although the Lord had urged them to “watch,” (v.38), they had come out of a very trying day, and they were full of grief at the thought of losing the company of the Lord. It was understandable if they fell under these influences. Luke in his gospel said “they were sleeping for sorrow.” (Luke 22:45).

About the writer

Nigerian-born Bishop Jacob Afolabi is Senior Pastor at the Christ Chapel Bible Church in Ottawa.  he is the recipient of many community awards, including the 2017 Black History Ottawa Community Builder award, for his many years of community work. He is the founder of the Ottawa Pastors’ forum and has  contributed inspiring articles in community newspapers and commentary on community radio stations, as well training a new generation of pastors. He can be reached at:



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