I had been an early riser in the past. But since my nerves became so weak, I thought it best for me to have more rest. For this reason I rose between six and seven, and sometimes after seven. I purposely got into the habit of sleeping a quarter of an hour or half an hour after dinner.
I thought I found benefit from the much-needed relaxation. In this way, however, my soul had suffered considerably. Unavoidable work often came upon me before I had sufficient time for prayer and reading the Word.
I finally decided that, whatever my body might suffer, I would no longer let the most precious part of the day pass away while I was in bed. By the grace of God I was able to begin the very next day to rise earlier and have continued to rise early since that time. I allow myself now-about seven hours of sleep. Although I am far from being strong and have much to tire me mentally, I find this is quite sufficient to refresh me. In addition, I gave up sleeping after dinner. The result has been that I can have long and precious times for prayer and meditation before breakfast.
Concerning my body and the state of my nerves, I have been much better since. The worst thing I could have done for my weak nerves was to have lain an hour or more in bed than I used to before my illness because it actually weakened my body.
I want to encourage all believers to get into the habit of rising early to meet with God. How much time should be allowed for rest? No rule of universal application can be given because all persons do not require the same amount of sleep. Also the same persons, at different times, according to the strength or weakness of their body, may require more or less. Most doctors agree that healthy men do not require more than between six or seven hours of sleep, and females need no more than seven or eight hours.
Children of God should be careful not to allow themselves too little sleep since few men can do with less than six hours of sleep and still be well in body and mind. As a young man, before I went to the university, I went to bed regularly at ten and rose at four, studied hard, and was in good health. Since I have allowed myself only about seven hours, I have been much better in body and in nerves than when I spent eight or eight and a half hours in bed.
Someone may ask, "But why should I rise early?" To remain too long in bed is a waste of time. Wasting-time is unbecoming a saint who is bought by the precious blood of Jesus. His time and all he has is to be used for the Lord. If we sleep more than is necessary for the refreshment of the body, it is wasting the time the Lord has entrusted us to be used for His glory, for our own benefit, and for the benefit of the aims and unbelievers around us.
Just as too much food injures the body, the same is true regarding sleep. Medical persons would readily agree that lying longer in bed than is necessary to strengthen the body actually weakens it.
It also injures the soul. Lying too long in bed not merely keeps us from giving the most precious part of the day to prayer and meditation, but this sloth leads also to many other evils. Anyone who spends one, two, or three hours in prayer and meditation before breakfast will soon discover the beneficial effect early rising has on the outward and inward man.
It may be said, "But how shall I set about rising early?" My advice is: Do not delay. Begin tomorrow. But do not depend on your own strength. You may have begun to rise early in the past but have given it up. If you depend on your own strength in this matter, it will come to nothing. In every good work, we must depend on the Lord. If anyone rises so that he may give the time which he takes from sleep to prayer and meditation, let him be sure that Satan will try to put obstacles in the way.
Trust in the Lord for help. You will honor Him if you expect help from Him in this matter. Pray for help, expect help, and you will have it. In addition to this, go to bed early. If you stay up late, you cannot rise early. Let no pressure of engagements keep you from going habitually early to bed. If you fail in this, you neither can nor should get up early because your body requires rest.
Rise at once when you are awake. Remain not a minute longer in bed or else you are likely to fall asleep again. Do not be discouraged by feeling drowsy and tired from rising early. This will soon wear off. After a few days you will feel stronger and fresher than when you used to lie an hour or two longer than you needed. Always allow yourself the same hours for sleep. Make no change except on account of sickness.
"My own experience has been, almost invariably, that if I have not the needful sleep, my spiritual enjoyment and strength is greatly affected by it.
I judge it of great moment that the believer, in travelling, should seek as much as possible to refrain from travelling by night, or from travelling in such a way as that he is deprived of the needful night's rest; for if he does not, he will be unable with renewed bodily and mental strength to give himself to prayer and meditation, and the reading of the Holy Scriptures, and he will surely feel the pernicious effects of this all the day long. There may occur cases when travelling by night cannot be avoided; but, if it can, though we should seem to lose time by it, and though it should cost more money, I would most affectionately and solemnly recommend refraining from night-travelling; for, in addition to drawing beyond measure upon our bodily strength, must be losers spiritually.
The next thing I would advise with reference to travelling is, with all one's might seek morning by morning, before setting out, to take time for meditation and prayer, and reading the word of God; for although we are always exposed to temptation, yet are so especially in travelling. Travelling is one of devil's especial opportunities for tempting us. Think of that, dear fellow believers.
Seek always to ascertain carefully the mind of God, before you begin anything; but so in particular before you go on a journey, so that you may be quite sure that it is the will of God that you should undertake that journey, lest you should needlessly expose yourself to one of the special opportunities of the devil ensnare you. So far from envying those who have a carriage and horses at their command, or an abundance of means, so that they are not hindered from travelling for want of means, let us who are not thus situated rather thank God that in this particular we are not exposed to the temptation of needing to be less careful in ascertaining the will of God before we set out on a journey."