Pope Francis acknowledged recently that he sometimes drifts off while praying. This makes perfect sense to me, and I’m not even Catholic.
It might seem a shocking confession from someone a billion people believe has a direct line to God. How could His Holiness nod off while talking to the creator of the universe?
Well, there’s a precedent for it. Somewhere in the New Testament, Jesus scolds his apostles for conking off while he’s doing some serious praying in the Garden of Gastronomy. Something like that. I don’t know. Look it up.
So, why wouldn’t the pope fall asleep in the middle of prayer? It’s the perfect time. He’s at rest, his eyes are closed, the prayers are probably long and complicated. Plus, he’s 80 years old.
My father, who’s only a few years ahead of Pope Francis, naps in the middle of conversations with entities he can actually see. Several years ago, I watched him snooze through a fire drill on a cruise liner.
The Old Man won’t admit to it, but before he surrendered his driver license, he once dozed off while getting a traffic ticket. Mom had to wake him up so he could sign it.
I’ve fallen asleep while praying under less-trying circumstances. When I was a Mormon missionary, my companions and I would end our long day with obligatory prayers beside our beds.
If it had been a particularly tough day, I sometimes didn’t make it past, “Heavenly Father, thanks for my many bless … ”
I’d wake up two hours later with my face planted on the mattress and still kneeling on a concrete floor. One night, I had to throw a shoe at Elder English to get him to stop snore-praying and get into his damn bed so I could go back to sleep.
One reason prayer might be hard to stay awake during is that, more often than not, it’s a one-way conversation.
Me • “And would thou please bless Elder Barkus to die in his sleep tonight? Thou hast exterminated millions of people already, Father. What’s one more?”
God • [Silence].
You might argue this was an inappropriate prayer, but you weren’t there and have no idea that I was actually pleading with the Lord to keep me from becoming a murderer.
For those who have never prayed, or aren’t particularly religious anymore, there are but three kinds of prayer during which it is impossible to fall asleep.
First are really short prayers, the kind offered just before diving into a long-awaited meal, or when the Super Bowl is tied with five minutes to go, or when a service runs tediously long because some gasbag won’t shut up and everyone just wants to close with prayer and go the hell home.
Second are loud prayers. It’s impossible to sleep while someone is raving with a Bible and a snake, backed by drums and electric guitars. This goes double for supplications offered over the screams of an unwilling human sacrifice.
Finally, there are prayers proffered with considerable urgency while being shot at or stuck inside a car spinning out of control on a dark mountain road. I’ve been through this before, and it’s virtually impossible not to maintain a keen interest in contacting your maker.
It’s different for everyone, but those are the basics. For me, short, heartfelt, and to-the-point communication with deity is best. I don’t want to risk getting on the creator’s nerves any more than I already have.