R.A. Torrey on Insomnia

R. A. Torrey, Jersey Guy

As promised in my previous post, here are R.A. Torrey’s reflections on how he dealt with his insomnia, taken from, The Work of the Holy Spirit.(*) Reuben Archer Torrey (1856-1928) graduated from Yale and was an evangelist, author of more than 40 books, President of Moody Bible College, pastor of Moody Church. And I just learned he, like me, was also born in New Jersey. -AR


In the thought of the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete there is also a cure for insomnia. For two awful years, I suffered from insomnia. Night after night I would go to bed apparently almost dead for sleep; it seemed as though I must sleep, but I could not sleep; oh, the agony of those two years! It seemed as if I would lose my mind if I did not get relief.

Relief came at last and for years I went on without the suggestion of trouble from insomnia.

Then one night I retired to my room in the Institute, lay down expecting to fall asleep in a moment as I usually did, but scarcely had my head touched the pillow when I became aware that insomnia was back again.

If one has ever had it, he never forgets it and never mistakes it. It seemed as if insomnia were sitting on the foot-board of my bed, grinning at me and saying, I am back again for another two years. Oh, I thought, two more awful years of insomnia.

But that very morning, I had been lecturing to our students in the Institute about the Personality of the Holy Spirit and about the Holy Spirit as an ever-present Friend, and at once the thought came to me, What were you talking to the students about this morning? What were you telling them? and I looked up and said, Thou blessed Spirit of God, Thou art here. I am not alone. If Thou hast anything to say to me, I will listen, and

He began to open to me some of the deep and precious things about my Lord and Saviour, things, that filled my soul with joy and rest, and the next thing I knew I was asleep and the next thing I knew it was tomorrow morning.

So whenever insomnia has come my way since, I have simply remembered that the Holy Spirit was there and I have looked up to Him to speak to me and to teach me and He has done so and insomnia has taken its flight.

(*) R.A. Torrey, as they say, forgot more Bible in his life than I’ll ever know. Even so, I feel I owe it to my readers to include a small postscript about his remarks. Being Reformed, I believe Scripture is clear that the Lord speaks to us through the Scriptures read, prayed, sung, preached, etc. I’m not entirely comfortable with prayer being a time to “listen for God” as some, including Torrey, suggest. If we think we heard from God apart from the Scriptures, we must test and compare every such inclination with the Scriptures themselves. God will never contradict his Word. -AR

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