Practicing Life-Giving Sabbath

  • 5 March 2018
  • Randy Wollf

field of flowersRivendell, an Elven realm in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, is a beautiful haven of rest – a place protected from the dangers plaguing Middle Earth. In The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien describes the peace that Frodo and his companions experience in Rivendell after narrowly escaping the evil forces bent on destroying them. In Rivendell, 

The future, good or ill, was not forgotten, but ceased to have any power over the present.

Tolkien’s description captures something of the essence of Sabbath. When we practice Sabbath, whether it’s setting aside a full day or part of a day each week, we experience rest and peace amidst the rigors of life. In his book, The Rest of God, Mark Buchanan says we experience Sabbath when we stop doing what is necessary and do that which gives life. Life’s obligations and challenges don’t go away, but practicing Sabbath gives us a break from them and affords us the space to replenish ourselves and refocus on God and His priorities.

The Bible clearly teaches the importance of observing a Sabbath day of rest. God, Himself, rested after His creation work (Genesis 2:3). Did He need to rest? No. But by resting, God set an example for His human creation—the ones He made in His image—so that we would live maximum lives in keeping with His design for us.

Walter Brueggemann, in Reverberations of Faith, said:

Sabbath provides a visible testimony that God is at the center of life—that human production and consumption take place in a world ordered, blessed, and restrained by the God of all creation.

Practicing Sabbath is an acknowledgment that God is in control and that we trust Him to look after His creation (including us) as we rest. For those of us who struggle with workaholic tendencies, taking a daylong break from what is necessary breaks us free from our compulsion to engage in excessive work activities. Sometimes, we are motivated to work excessively because we believe we have financial needs. Other times, we simply work too much because we want more of things we don’t necessarily need. In both cases, taking a day off will help us to refocus on God as the One who provides and to realign our priorities in keeping with His desires. 

Five Reasons to Go on a Prayer Retreat

  • 13 November 2015
  • Randy Wollf

Last week, I had the opportunity to go on a daylong prayer retreat. I came away refreshed, more in love with Jesus, and with a keener sense of His priorities for my life. Going on these kinds of retreats is something I’ve been doing for over 20 years (sometimes more regularly than others). Here are five reasons why I do them (and why I think others should consider doing them, as well):

We Experience Rest and Refreshment

When I go on a prayer retreat, I try not to schedule too many activities. It’s an opportunity for me to slow down – to practice a true day of rest. I come away from these times refreshed in body, mind, and spirit.

We Enter into Silence

Susan Moto says, “In a noise-polluted world, it is even difficult to hear ourselves think let alone try to be still and know God. Yet it seems essential for our spiritual life to seek some silence, no matter how busy we may be. Silence is not to be shunned as empty space, but to be befriended as fertile ground for intimacy with God.”

I know that silence is difficult to embrace when we are not used to it (yes, it may mean shutting off our electronic devices). Yet, silence creates a space where we can experience God in a deeper way.

We Connect with Jesus

Healthy relationships require time to connect. A prayer retreat gives us the opportunity to spend prolonged, intimate time with Jesus – listening, talking, and just being together. During a prayer retreat, I will find myself adoring God through praise. I’ll spend time interceding for others. Sometimes, I’m brought to my knees in confession as the Spirit reveals sin in my life. Throughout the day, I experience God’s love and express my love to Him. I cannot think of a time when I left a prayer retreat not feeling more in love with Jesus.

We Gain a Renewed Focus

When I remove myself from my normal activities for a prolonged period of time, I am better able to focus on Jesus. As I do so, I am more likely to gain his perspective on my life, both the present and the future. My fears and anxieties begin to fade into the background as God takes centre stage.

We Receive Guidance

There is something powerful about prolonged, uninterrupted time with God that allows us to draw close to Him and hear His quiet voice. Whether it’s related to a significant personal decision, a family matter, or a work situation, I find that God will often speak into those situations as I take time to listen.

What is your experience with prayer retreats? I would love to hear what you have found beneficial (you can leave a comment below).