My friend and colleague ran a beautiful devotion for us on Wednesday morning all about the importance of rest. It made me reflect and I would love to share some thoughts on rest I’ve had in response to her devotion. It is around a 5min read so if you’re too busy then please read past. Although, perhaps if you’re too busy, maybe you’re exactly the person who ought to read it…
We work from a place of rest, not rest from our place of work
For a lot of us, rest tends to be an afterthought or an unattainable dream. Even when we do finally rest, most of us are wound up so tight we can’t truly rest and recover. But this is not the picture of rest we see in the Bible at all. The gospels say that Jesus often went alone and prayed. In fact, the busier Jesus got, the more time he spent resting! Martin Luther even embraced this way of life by waking up earlier on busy days to pray. He wouldn’t let his schedule dictate his state of mind. He prioritised prayer and rest and allowed his work to flow out of that, not the other way around. Does your work flow from your rest, or does your rest flow from your work? In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life, he says that Jesus invites those who are weary and burdened to come to him, and he will give them rest. I love the way Eugene Peterson puts it in his rewording:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Rest is a gift to be given, not a goal to be grasped
I don’t know if you picked up on it, but Jesus’ phrasing is very interesting. He says, “I will give you rest.” Does that fit into your understanding of rest? Or is rest something you achieve? In Jesus’ mind, a ‘real rest’ looks like presence. Watching, learning, talking, walking alongside.
I would love to introduce you to breath prayers. They are very simple prayers that you might like to include in your routine of rest. For God to use our breath as a conduit for his presence is both shockingly simple and intensely intimate. God is always present in me, even when I go on autopilot and I stop noticing. God is at any moment as close as the oxygen in my lungs.
In the Biblical languages, the word for breath is also the word used for Spirit. The image here is that as we breathe, we are literally experiencing God’s presence flowing through our bodies. As we breathe out, we feel God’s spirit relieve us of our burdens, and gift us with the rest Jesus promises.
Romans 8:16 in The Message interpretation says this:
“God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.”
That is what’s going on here in our breathing. It is a knowing on a completely different kind of level. God’s Spirit is touching ours in beautiful presence and relationship. What a special moment, if only we would stop and notice.
As we pray a breath prayer, we meditate on short, simple phrases on both the inhale and the exhale. My suggestion would be to breathe in for 3, hold for 3, and breathe out for 3. Try it with these words:
Inhale: God of rest
Exhale: Restore my soul
Grace and peace,
Children’s Ministry Chaplain
Lutheran Education Queensland