Falling Asleep in Prayer

Q:  I pray daily, at least once a day, using the Centering Prayer method. Sometimes I will fall asleep and then wake myself up abruptly from the dream state I fall into. This can happen multi-times in a single prayer session. Is this normal? Is this something to be avoided? (And if so, how?) Perhaps this is related, but sometimes I am reluctant to do my Centering Prayer because I find it relaxes me too much. If I have a lot of energy it can slow me down so much I actually fall asleep. Again, is this normal? Is this something to be avoided?

A:  Thank you for your question. I think it is counterproductive and “muddies the waters” to make judgements about what is normal; it has a good cop/ bad cop feel to it.

Do people fall asleep during Centering Prayer? Yes, I have and I know others do. When I am aware that this has happened, I just continue my prayer.  I do not see it as lost time, as my intention to be with God was never consciously withdrawn. The reason for sleep or the content of the dream is unimportant in relationship to your willingness to sit and spend the time in prayer. In a sense, you can “sleep on the job” and it doesn’t matter.  As Fr. Thomas Keating quips, if you are falling asleep in the prayer, you must need the rest!  God doesn’t care!

As a high energy person who feels the prayer slows you down, I would suggest that this is a blessing for you and perhaps others around you!  I believe as a result of the break there is more of the divine at work in your high energy and a little less of you.

Hang in there; I applaud your faithfulness to consenting to God’s presence and action.

– Fr. Carl