By Norris Burkes March 17 2024


There have been times that I’ve been found napping in my office.

My chaplain response to that is, “No, I’m not napping. This is my prayer time.”

That’s because in reality, I may be doing both – napping and praying.

I call this time my “ABC prayer nap.”

The meditative technique follows the Jewish tradition of acrostic prayers where each line of the prayer starts with a consecutive letter of the alphabet. It’s a bit like playing Theological Scrabble.

I have three prayers I can choose from (limit, one per nap.) Each prayer begins with one of these three introductory phrases.

  1. God, help me to be . . .
  2. God, thank you for . . .
  3. God, forgive me for being . . .

As I ease back in my office recliner, I choose one of those opening phrases followed by a request that starts the alphabet.  For instance, the first phrase might begin, “God, help me to be Assuring. Followed by, “God, help me to be a Benefit to others.

The second ABC prayer follows the advice of an old hymn: “Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings, see what God has done.”

These are prayers in which I thank God for my Children or something intangible like my Dreams. Each letter stands for whatever word floats into my mind that inspires an “attitude of gratitude.”

My first and second prayer formats are meant to be inward and restorative. I try to do one prayer phrase per breath, so they bring sleep quickly.

However, the third prayer – “God forgive me for being” goes deeper, helping me face my own inadequacies.  

During one recent nap, I voiced this prayer fairly quickly until I got to three letters not commonly used – I, J and K.

The letters had me searching my conscience for what I needed to ask. I remembered my wife commenting about the time I spent on the phone away from our family.

“God, forgive me for being Inattentive. Help me to be attentive and remember where you’ve placed me in the moment.”

Since I had justified my phone usage as important business, I found it necessary to also ask God to “Forgive my desire to be Justified. I don’t like being wrong. I like being right and just – sometimes at the expense of my relationships.”

The next letter was much harder. “Forgive me, Lord, for Killing. Forgive me,” I prayed, “for the times I’ve killed – or at least squelched – the image of God I saw in others.”

This word was inspired by a hard saying from Jesus. Recorded in the modern translation of the Bible called “The Message,” it reads:

“I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.”

When I use the first two prayers, I’m usually asleep before I’m halfway through. However, the forgiveness prayer will often keep me awake as I work through the entire alphabet.

But like most naps, these ABC naps often keep me awake a bit past my evening bedtime. These are the moments I’ve tried to explain to my wife how my “praying” is keeping us both awake.

“Hmm,” she says, “Maybe next time you should reverse the alphabet. Start with “Z” and ask God to ‘Forgive my desire to be so Zealous.’”

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You can read more about spiritual practices in my book, “Thriving Beyond Surviving.” Buy any of my books online at or send $20 for a signed copy to 10556 Combie Rd. Suite 6643 Auburn, CA 95602. Comments received at same address or by email: or voicemail at (843) 608-9715.