Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Become Hebrew Once a Week and Improve Your Prayer Life

WHAT we Westerners typically call ‘wasting time’ is a novel concept for rest called Sabbath.
How wrong have we come to think!
I must admit I’ve come to enjoy my infrequent Sabbath’s so much I barely wanted them to finish, and I certainly felt the anticipation of grief that the following day I would be compelled to re-enter the dogged fray.
Sabbath teaches us to pray.  For it’s in silence and solitude, in the spiritual discipline of doing totally nothing, and certainly having nothing planned so far as activity is concerned, that we finally do recover our spiritual faculties and capacities.
Sabbath holds us open to the Hebrew concept of day — just one day — first there is evening and then there is morning.  First comes rest; a period of utter unproductiveness so God’s Spirit might work productively on us, which then flows out; grace, light from our soul.  On non-Sabbath days that’s about energy for creativity and inspiration from the free flow of imagination as we invest in the life of the day.
But Sabbath is special.
In itself, Sabbath is prayer.  The whole idea of the Hebrew Sabbath is prayer.  God gets us all to himself, and none of our works’ righteousness is of any credit to us; indeed, the credit that goes to us is to be lost to the world for a whole day; or, for some, it may be more realistic to say a portion of a day (a few hours).
The Hebrew Sabbath, commencing at evening, through the rest of night, is permission to sleep well.  It’s permission to die to one’s self and every ‘important’ thing, as if nothing in the whole of life was important; actually, as if we were already dead.
What is embellished in Sabbath, in and through us, is the fluidity of grace as it works into the nodules of our visceral soul.  Rather than working into an ether of burnout, constantly demanding more and more of ourselves, running on fumes, we’re given scope for course correction.
And that course correction is a form of prayer called Sabbath.
The unforced rhythms of grace, as Eugene Peterson would call them, are essential fodder for the Christian endeavour.  If we have no grace we have no connection with the Spirit, and everything we do for God is done in our own strength.
Grace is an inflow from a thriving prayer life.  The more we give ourselves to God, the better our prayer life.
The silence and solitude of Sabbath with God is its own prayer endeavour.  When we entrust ourselves into God’s comforting hands, he abounds to us his copious magnanimous grace.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Acknowledgement: to Eugene Peterson’s Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987. pp. 67-70.

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