At least once in our life time or even several times, we would have fallen asleep while praying. Subsequently, the fact that we have been weak and not having been awake during prayer, disturbs our conscience with the question, “I wanted to pray well, but because I was so exhausted, I could not control my weakness. Would God accept my prayer?” Some people could watch a movie for two hours or watch a game on the TV for three hours; but it might be very difficult to be awake in prayer even for half hour. Hence, it raises a question in mind, “Is it right to fall asleep while praying?”
St. Theresa of Lisieux, gives us an insight about falling asleep during prayer: In her own diary, she has frankly and honestly admitted that she had struggled to stay awake during the Liturgy of the Hours (it is official prayer that the clergy and the religious do), her personal prayer time and her thanksgiving after receiving Holy Communion. This is what she states regarding her weakness:
“I should be distressed that I drop off to sleep during my prayers and during my thanksgiving after Holy Communion. But I don’t feel at all distressed. I know that children are just as dear to their parents whether they are asleep or awake…. I just think that God “knows our frame; “he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14).”
This is, in fact, an experience of a loving and trusting childlike relationship between St. Theresa of Lisieux and God.
As an additional anecdote, you may remember the headline news, when Pope Francis visited US in 2015 that he dozed off during his first Mass in USA. Was he wrong? Not at all. In one sense, it shows one’s humanness and in the spiritual sense it is like “Being like a child in the arms of our loving Father.”
We come to the House of God to discharge our burden and be filled with His peace in prayer as He invites us saying, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Let us not be disturbed, in case we happen to fall asleep.
God bless you
Fr. Arul Joseph V.