Made for Prayer
I am always on the lookout for strange things that speak to our human nature in a way that profoundly resonates with the experience of Christians throughout the ages. Yesterday, I came across this TED talk about our natural sleep cycle. It’s a talk that lasts for less than 6 minutes, and I really encourage you to take “the scientist’s” word for it rather than “the engineer who happens to be theologically intrigued”‘s word for it.
Over the last year or so, I have had the distinct privilege of meeting some rather fantastic monastic communities. Their faithfulness in prayer, particularly as it relates to observing their own rule in their cells, blew my mind. At least it did until I watched this TED talk.
Let me explain.
Jessa Gamble dropped a rather surprising sentence in her talk that observed when people live in the absence of artificial light and live near the equator, they generally go to bed at about 8pm, wake near midnight for a period of meditative contemplation, and then sleep again from about 2am until sunrise. This natural cycle maps amazingly well to the monastic prayer cycles of Compline before bed, the Midnight office at midnight, and Matins at sunrise. I never had any idea how monastics managed to keep with a prayer rule that incorporated the Midnight office until this TED talk introduced the idea that such a practice may be entirely natural.
Additionally, I thought it to be quizzical that our ability to observe such a natural cycle could be recreated if we avoid the artificial light in our lives. When I contrast the compact florescent against the Light of Christ, it is pretty clear which source should have the upper hand.
But then again, it is absolutely mind-boggling to think about not living in a land of artificial light. We schedule so much of our lives around the ability to stay in illumined spaces just that much longer to get all sorts of things done. What would it possibly look like if we considered asking God to illumine our relationship with artificial light, both in the literal sense of the bulbs around our homes and in the figurative sense of the various idols we have?
O God, teach us to pray.