“Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.” I would suspect that commandment prompts one of at least three reactions within most of you; guilt because you know you don’t, pride because you think you do, or apathy because it just doesn’t seem like that big of a deal anymore.
What was God’s purpose for establishing the Sabbath? Obviously he didn’t need to rest after creation, yet he chose to rest and then declared that time as blessed and holy. Why is Sabbath so precious to God?
I saw something I’ve never noticed before, at least not in this way. In the Deuteronomy 5 account of the Sabbath commandment it ends by instructing them to remember that they “were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”
I’ve always connected that with the preceding instruction to include servants in the day off. But what if God also wanted to remind them of the 7-day-a-week brick quotas they had to fill as slaves in Egypt. With that perspective in mind it’s not “I can’t work on the Sabbath”, but rather “You mean I don’t have to work today?”
But why is our resting precious to God? Notice that God specifically reminds them that it was his power and intervention that brought this freedom. I think that the point is for this resting to turn their attention to God. It’s precious, blessed and holy because God created them (us) for intimacy with him, and Sabbath is when that is established and deepened. Analogy time:
When we bought our house we decided to put in a Jacuzzi tub big enough for two in the basement. That was one of the best things we did. Even in a busy household with three teenage boys and their friends, Wendy and I could close the door, fill the tub and have a stay at home date night. We’d soak our weary selves and share with each other the events of our day, discuss hopes and dreams, and fears and concerns. The intimacy we developed there carried us through the routines and schedules of the rest of week.
Sabbath is “date night” with God. I’ve realized I haven’t done Sabbath well. I’m on a journey to discover more deeply what doing it well looks like in my life. It’s not about “have to’s” and “can’ts” it’s about treasuring what he treasures – intimacy with him. I can’t encourage you enough to take that journey for yourself.
How well do you pray? Now there’s a question that’ll make a lot of church people squirm. It’s likely stating the obvious to say that prayer is important, but for all the books and sermons about prayer I would suggest most of us don’t pray very well.
Now before you get too down on yourself this shouldn’t come as a surprise. Romans 8:26 says flat out that we’re weak and don’t know how to pray. So the first place to start strengthening your praying is to admit your weakness and that you need help. That help comes from the Holy Spirit as Romans goes on to say.
But how does a person tap into that help? Two other places, Ephesians 6:18 and Jude 20, instruct us to “pray in the Spirit.” How does a person pray in the Spirit? Perhaps this will help.
Over the years and I’ve had the privilege of helping to work or move cattle at a variety of outfits from grassland ranches to parkland grazing co-ops to mixed farms. And every place has its own style and technique for handling the cows. Some places are slow and laid back using very gentle pressure, while other places are intense and rammy. Some places the cows are talked to in low quiet tones and then at others there’s as much yelling at each other as there is at the herd.
I have my personal preference as to what style is most effective but I discovered that if a guy is going to be of any help he’s got to watch how the boss handles things and adapt to fit in. You have to pay attention and read how his system works and what the cattle are used to. Otherwise you end up more in the way and the animals get confused and everybody gets frustrated. Odds are you won’t be invited back.
Praying in the Spirit is simply paying attention to and responding to the moves and guidance of the Spirit and not putting any confidence in my own nature. Easier said than done? Well maybe, but try this: Pray scripture. The Psalms are an easy place to start, because many of them are prayers, but much of scripture can be prayed. For example:
Hebrews 12:1-3, Father help me throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and instead run with perseverance the race marked out for me. Prompt me to fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Keep forefront in my mind him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that I won’t grow weary and lose heart.