Monday, January 7, 2013

Adventures in Sleepwalking: Being Sober unto Prayer


Awake and Asleep At the Same Time
When I was about 12 or 13 years old, one night during my sleep I woke up in the air, shocked to realize I had just jumped off the bed. When my dad was a child he walked in his sleep one night and threw his bed mattress and sheets out the upstairs window shouting “Fire, fire!” while his younger brother, my uncle Norwood, watched and laughed at him.

It’s difficult to explain somnambulism to someone who has never experienced it. Sleepwalking is an unusual state in which a person is sound asleep and acting out his dream, sometimes getting out of bed and walking around. He is awake enough to navigate through his environment but still asleep and interacting with the imaginary delusions of his dream. I have done this many times in my younger days.

Running From the Wrecking Ball
A few years ago I attended a conference with a group of pastors. We rented motel rooms with double beds in order to reduce each man’s cost. My friend Ron was across the room fast asleep on his bed. I was asleep in my bed but having a vivid dream about one of those huge wrecking balls that demolition experts use to destroy buildings. It was about to be dropped from a boom that had swung out over me. In an effort to escape I stood up on the bed and leaped to the floor trying to get out from under it. But the boom followed me, and so I took a couple quick steps and jumped up onto Ron’s bed. I managed to step over him without stepping on him, but I woke him from his sleep as I danced over him in a panic, running from that ball which was still hanging overhead and following me around the room.

Ron yelled out, “Billy, what are you doing?” as he watched me jump to the floor and run around the motel room trying to get away from that demolition ball. I call out, “Ron! How do you make that thing stop?”
He had no idea what “that thing” was, but playing along with my dream, his immediate response was a clear and authoritative, “By faith, brother.” I immediately stopped in my tracks and said, “Oh!” And then very calmly lay down and went back to sleep.

The True Watchman versus the Sleepwalker
“All you beasts of the field, come to devour, all you beasts in the forest. His watchmen are blind, they are all ignorant; they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; Dreamers, lying down, loving to slumber.” Isaiah 56: 9-10
“Watchmen” are intercessors who pray and do battle in the spiritual realm in behalf of others. They are supposed to be awake, alert, and standing guard while others are asleep. From their position on the wall they have a clear view of the surrounding area. They are able to see an enemy approaching from a distance and blow the trumpet to give warning to those in the city.

"Dreamers" refers to watchmen who have fallen asleep on the wall and are failing in their responsibility to pray effectively. The literal Hebrew refers to those who are raving or talking in their sleep. Their anxiety, caused by their neglect of responsibility, oppresses them in their sleep and causes them to dream they are performing their duties. These watchmen, instead of engaging the real spiritual battle in prayer, are fighting phantoms in their dreams—while the real enemy slips in through the breaches in the real wall and devours the city.

“Be sober unto prayer.” 1 Peter4: 7
The “dreamer” or “sleepwalker” is an appropriate description of the intercessor who is not sober.
Sobriety is sound judgment rooted in a right spirit. It refers to the ability to stay in the realm of reality. We maintain sobriety by being spiritually awake, keeping our hearts right, and maintaining communion with the Lord. This is especially important for the intercessor.

An unhealthy disposition can distort our insight and perspective. A bad attitude will hinder our prayers. Sometimes in the midst of problems and conflict we allow our spirits to be overcome by anger, resentment, bitterness, hate, disillusionment, and despair. These can lead to confusion and the inability to see clearly. We begin to pray out of strife or we ask amiss. We speak “words without knowledge” as Job did, or “call fire down from heaven” as some of Jesus’ disciples wanted to do, or we simply pray erroneously because our wrong spirit has caused us to incorrectly assess a situation.

Our self centeredness will cause us to lose the kingdom perspective, and our prayers will tend to reflect self-interest rather than God's interest. Our prayers will be motivated by our wants and wrong motives rather than a heart for God’s kingdom and purpose. Under healthy conditions we “see through a glass dimly,” but with a bad attitude we add confusion and distortion. An inaccurate perception of God and life does not help our prayers.

When we cultivate our relationship with the Lord, keep our hearts right, and keep our spirits clear of ungodly attitudes, God lifts us up above the dust and clouds of battle and gives us the divine perspective. This is sobriety. Our "instruments" are working and we maintain the ability to follow them (as an airline pilot in the clouds at night in bad weather). With a good heart we are more inclined to have a good perspective on reality. But in those times when we cannot see, when we are disoriented and do not understand, a right spirit will help us to engage in effective prayer.

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