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Early to Bed, Early to Rise…

Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise, or so said Benjamin Franklin, although he wasn’t the originator of the concept. In fact, it seems he might have taken it from Aristotle, (384 BC – 322 BC) who said, “It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.”

Ancient scripture also had a lot to say on the subject thousands of years before even Aristotle was credited with the idea:

How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: so shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man. (Pro 6:9-11)

As the door turneth upon his hinges, so doth the slothful upon his bed. (Pro 26:14)

It’s been a custom in my family for generations to rise with the sun every morning to pray. I learned as a child to get up early and for some years was blissfully unaware that anybody might feel anything other than cheerful about getting up in the mornings. A number of people have since questioned me as to why I don’t sleep in and just pray right after I get up, later, at a more “decent” hour of the morning…

Some of you may be familiar with the story of Daniel and his strict adherence to various practices such as prayer and diet customs which were from the same source (and family) as the ones that I observe…

David also wrote in Psalm 55:17: Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.

One of my grandmothers taught us early to meet with God at sunrise, noon and sunset every day, and to look forward to each prayer time at least as eagerly as one might do if they had an appointment with the most respected and important human individual imaginable. The identity of said imagined personage of course could vary widely! For some it might be the president or king of their country, others perhaps might be impressed by a celebrity of some sort, but regardless, if you had an invitation to meet with your esteemed hero, wouldn’t you make every effort to be ready and on time for the appointment, even if it was at an early hour of the morning? The excitement of the prospect would probably eliminate your sleepiness in short order and it’s unlikely that you’d even consider being late or not showing up without even calling to cancel!

How much more so when you’re meeting the Creator and Maintainer of the universe?

Of course, we also pray from moment to moment at any time or place during the day, in accordance with the advice given in 1Th 5:17: “pray without ceasing”, but there is a special blessing in showing up for a prearranged appointment with God. The feeling of His presence at such times is unmistakable. Try it and see; what do you have to lose, aside from perhaps a bit of sleep? As long as you’re up, you may get some other things accomplished as well! If you were to sleep just one hour less every day, (especially if you’re in the habit of staying in bed more than necessary) you would have the approximate equivalent of 2 months of 8 hour work days worth of extra time. Just think what you could accomplish if you put that time to constructive use…

My grandmother was a firm believer in the usefulness of developing good habits, and she usually assisted us in fun and interesting ways. To assist us in being able to wake easily, she would have us “practice” getting up in the mornings by setting up a game involving a simulated waking scenario. She usually did this at noon time prayer, which lent itself nicely to this practice session.

First we would lie in our beds while she told us a story. She always told the best stories, so it was no hardship to jump into bed and lie under our covers to listen! She’d have a washbowl and pitcher of appropriate temperature water set up and waiting nearby, just like it would be in the mornings; warm for cold weather and refreshingly cool for hot summer conditions. She was from a previous generation when running water was the exception and not the rule, and had an antique bowl and pitcher for this purpose that she was partial to. (for that matter, I’m no “spring chicken” myself these days, and my childhood lifestyle didn’t always include running water either)

After the story, we were to close our eyes and pretend to be asleep as if it were a new day dawning, and then she would call our names in the same manner as we were accustomed to in the mornings. When we heard our names, we’d take a deep breath, and stretch (she insisted this was very important) and then immediately sit up, and take several more full, deep breaths, then leave our beds and proceed joyfully (she encouraged us to clap our hands and skip and cavort) to the wash bowl and splash water on our faces and dry them on the towel just as was our usual morning routine. Then we proceeded to wherever it was determined that we would be having noontime prayer that day, which would be outside under a tree whenever possible.

I often think of my grandmother in the mornings when I wake up, and although I usually make my way to the wash bowl with somewhat more dignity than in those days, it’s still with joy in my heart and no desire to lie about in the bed.

To read more about my wise and wonderful grandmother, CLICK HERE to see my recent book, Ode to Mothers.

Reports from adult friends seem to indicate that a modified version of this process will also work to reprogram a person to lose the tendency to want to lie in bed, and instead find it easy to get up and begin the day. If you want to try this, you can set your alarm to go off in 5 minutes or so, (not so long that you’ll actually get sleepy and want a nap!) then get into bed and pretend it’s almost the morning waking time. When the alarm sounds, reach over immediately and turn it off, take a deep breath and stretch, sit up and take several deep, slow, focused and unhurried breaths, then get up and simulate whatever the first element of your morning routine is. (You might consider adding a few moments of prayer at this point in your routine if it isn’t already your custom)

One of the first things to do when you are ready to begin is to decide whether you will rise at an earlier hour or if you just want to make getting up at your usual waking time more comfortable. Naturally, for this to be of benefit, you need to be firmly committed to the plan. It’s important that you make an effort to follow the routine in the mornings when you’re really getting up, just as you practice it in the daytime.

It seems that it takes about a month to firmly establish most new habits, although most people who try this method say they notice positive results in a very short period of time.

Category: Children, Health  8 Comments