Intimacy with God

Prayer should be passionate. And prayer should be the essence of peace and rest. God created the earth and all in it in six days – and then He rested. The crowning end of creation was rest. The last creature created on the sixth day was man, so the first full day for Adam and Eve was a day of rest. They were charged with cultivating and guarding the garden, but their first order of business was rest! In fact, even on the sixth day, Adam is induced to sleep – an afternoon nap. And during that time of rest, God acted in his behalf, creating arguably Adam’s greatest gift – Eve.

Rest is a form of prayer. In the creation narrative, the model offered us is that one entire day a week was to be given to prayerful rest, to time with God for inner renewal. The Sabbath was not to be supra-spiritual. Normal life is to be lived with an awareness of God’s Presence. We were created with this need for physical and spiritual rest. The law reversed the process, “Six days shall you labor and on the seventh, shall you rest.” (Exodus 20:9) In the Creation order, we were invited into God’s rest – rest with a forward view. It was preparation for the coming week. Man now was to be the creative one, replicating God’s behavior – growing and guarding the garden. Under the law, with the fall of man, the process was reversed. Man now had to earn his right to rest after six days of labor. Rest was recovered, but with a backward view. He entered the Sabbath, as a seventh day, not as a first full day out of rest.

When Jesus came, He reversed the order. He labored and then called us into rest, “My yoke is easy, my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). We worship, not on the Sabbath, but on the day of resurrection, the first day of the week. That is our Sabbath – and yet, Sabbath is no longer merely a day! It is a way of life. In the new order, out of grace, we begin our week with God, entering into His rest, and then laboring out of rest. This is God’s way – begin with prayerful rest.

In our fast-paced world, we live off caffeine and adrenaline. And adrenaline produces a high as powerful as morphine. It affects the body in much the same way, making use of the same receptors.[1] We are addicted to ‘fast’ – fast cars, fast 60-minute plots, fast money, fast sermons, fast prayers – fast! The thrill of a chase, the pursuit of the unknown, the new opportunity, the exotic experience, the unseen place. Rest is boring! A new goal quickly replaces another – so we pursue one carrot, then another. We are addicted to the chase. More precisely, to our inner stress hormones. They just lock onto a new target. Moving at 90 miles an hour, we have no idea that we are addicted to the chemicals in our own body.

Barbara and I raised five children – all different. Cheryl, our second, had an irritating habit. It worried me a bit when she was young. When a frightening storm arose or she faced an overwhelming problem, she would announce, “I am going to sleep.” And she did. I feared some developing phobia, a pattern of escape from reality. I wanted to her sit up with the rest of us, and bite her nails with us, as the thunder rattled the windows and the lightning danced around us. Now that she is grown, and I am only slightly wiser, I wish I could grow up to be like her. Be responsible. Do your best. Then sleep in peace. God is awake.

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P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.

[1] Don Colbert, Deadly Emotions: Understand the Mind-Body-Spirit Connection That Can Heal Or Destroy You (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 31.