Practicals of Praying through the Night
by Fia Curley
The idea of praying through the night can seem daunting to some people.
It makes sense.
The world is dark, everything is closed, and most people are sleeping—except for the few night owls who should have been sleeping hours ago messaging you about not being able to sleep or work they’re doing.
Just the mention of praying in the overnight hours garners various responses, many of which are laced with disbelief, traces of shock, and often are accompanied with confused expression.
“Oh, I could never do that.”
“I can’t stay up that late.”
“I worked nights once—it was horrible.”
It’s understandable. Even the disciples had trouble staying awake to pray.
And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”
He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”
Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:37–41)
A key component of night-and-day prayer is prayer that continues throughout the night hours. However, ever more significant than the time of day prayer is taking place is the reason why prayer is taking place and what it will yield. As we continue to bring our petitions before His throne, our generous Father reveals His desire to partner with us and bring about His goodness and answers to injustice in our present day. The act of praying at night is also a principle referred to in Luke 18, primarily linked to the Lord’s corrective response to injustice.
Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’”
Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:1–8)
Although praying at night is a key component of night-and-day prayer, it really is less about when prayer is happening and more about what is taking place and why.
As prayer continues, we get to enter the reality of the Lord’s Prayer, seeing God’s will being done and His Kingdom coming, advancing, on the earth (Matthew 6:10).
This is what Jesus displayed, not just with His outward actions before men, but His times alone in prayer. Prayer during the night hours is noted throughout Scripture.
It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. (Luke 6:12)
At midnight I shall rise to give thanks to You Because of Your righteous ordinances.(Psalm 119:62)
But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. (Acts 16:25)
Although praying at night may sound like it would be a challenge—and sometimes can be—there are simple steps to help make it easier to stay awake and alert throughout the night.
Take Care of Your Body
Although we often think of prayer as an activity connected to the spiritual part of our being, what’s happening with our bodies can also have an affect on our times of prayer and what we think about these hours we invest in praying at night. Consider these three points and apply them to the idea of praying during the night.
1. Get Enough Sleep
This may seem counterintuitive, but contrary to popular belief, successfully praying through the night actually requires sleep. This is not an exercise in denying yourself rest, but in the discipline of self control as you modify your schedule to sleep at specified times so you’re better able to stay awake and pray throughout the night. If your time of praying at night is extended for a season and requires a complete schedule change, then getting the right amount of sleep for your body becomes a priority in order to maintain a consistent and healthy sleep schedule that works with your circadian rhythm.
2. Fuel Your Body
The human body doesn’t function that well without proper fuel. Unless there’s a specified time of fasting from food, it’s best to follow a balanced meal plan that allows for your body to receive necessary vitamins and nutrients, including fruits and vegetables. Caffeine and sugar may provide a temporary boost, but ultimately are only momentary distractions from our body’s need for balance.
As a principle, the Lord made our bodies to feel better and function better when we get enough physical activity. Whether it’s our usual time spent in the garden or going for a jog or a walk, actually putting our bodies in motion helps with the overall rhythm of our sleep and alertness. Physical activity also has a substantial impact on our mood and outlook in life.
Get Your Mind Right
Even when all the physical factors of praying at night are working in your favor, it can still be a challenge to find a good routine if your perspective is off.
1. Watch Your Thoughts
When we start to magnify the difficulties, even our mental grumbling and complaining can undermine the current progress we’ve achieved in adjusting to the physical demands of a different schedule. If the constant meditation is focused on what you’re missing by changing your schedule to accommodate prayer at night, or what you’ve given up to make prayer a normal part of your routine, these may make praying at night a short-term experience.
2. Maintain Your Focus
During the time of actual prayer, having an outline of how you will utilize your designated time can be helpful. It could be a list of prayer requests from family members and friends or specific passages of Scripture that you desire to pray over friends, coworkers, people groups, or your own emotions. Actually having a technique for praying, such as pray-reading the Word, can help sustain prayer for longer periods of time, producing a dialogue with the Lord.
3. Let the Lord Judge
It’s normal to start something with an idea of how it should look or what needs to happen. And it’s good to have goals, as long as they’re realistic and you’ve given your body time to adjust. But when there are moments in which your goals aren’t being achieved, you’ve dozed off again, and your body feels tired, instead of condemning yourself or giving into accusation that praying at night is impossible, futile, or worthless, remember to let the Lord judge how He thinks you’re doing. Seek His thoughts to find out what He speaks over your time of prayer before Him.
Whether you feel called to pray at night or just have the desire and the ability to spend hours at night praying, responding to the opportunity to pray when many around you are sleeping is a response the Lord see and appreciates.
As members of the body engage in the reality of Luke 18, we partner with what the Lord is doing in the earth at this time, praying His desires into the lives of those around us—whether we’re asking our good Father for healing, petitioning Jesus for salvation of entire people groups, or inviting the Comforter to sustain hurting people in the midst of violence and turmoil or to bring restoration of broken relationships.
Almighty God is powerful and wise enough to resolve all societal problems and turmoil simply, without hesitation. He has chosen to bring resolution by answering the prayers of His children in this span of time before His Son returns to rule as King of the earth.
In this exchange, we learn how His Kingdom works, how He rules, and what we can give to see His will accomplished in this day.
As we ask, seek, and knock in the nights, we are inviting the God of all the earth to invade the dark places in the lives of friends, family members, cities, people groups, and governments.
We are agreeing with Jesus.
“Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)
In order for there to be night-and-day prayer, there must be prayer at night. Fire in the Night is the IHOPKC internship structured around the NightWatch, the hours of the prayer room from midnight to 6am. Consider joining us for a three- or six-month internship in Kansas City. Learn more »
Fia Curley served on the NightWatch at IHOPKC for many years, participating in prayer, worship, and intercession from midnight to 6am. Currently attending college in New York, she enjoys blending her passion for prayer, worship, and journalism as she labors with the Lord to see His goodness revealed to families, government leaders, and immigrants from non-Christian nations.