“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29).
How many of you are tired and weary? How many need to rest in the loving arms of Jesus? “Rest. Rest. Rest in God’s love. The only work you are required now to do is to give your most intense attention to his still, small voice within” (Madame Jeanne Guyon). Jesus says in Matthew 11:28 “Come to Me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
We all would like to be able to rest not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. Today, Jesus is inviting us into his rest. We are not meant to walk around with the world on our shoulders. Life is just too much to bear at times. With sickness, sorrow, and pain, we can feel completely overwhelmed. Jesus did promise that he will not give us more than we can bear, although I must admit there are times I have questioned him how much more can I really take. Jesus wants us to learn from him, to know that he has everything under control and that we can simply trust him. It’s so terribly easy to give him our troubles and take them back with us. Mainly because we are comfortable with our problems and don’t know how to live without having them in our lives.
The prayer of rest is to pray always. The literal translation to pray always or without ceasing is “come to rest.” Anthony Bloom tells the story of an elderly woman who had been working at prayer with all her might but without ever sensing God’s presence. Wisely, the archbishop encouraged the old woman to go to her room each day and ‘for fifteen minutes knit before the face of God, but I forbid you to say one word of prayer. You just knit and try to enjoy the peace of your room.’ The woman received this counsel, and at first her only thought was, ‘Oh, how nice. I have fifteen minutes during which I can do nothing without being guilty!’ In time, however, she began to enter the silence created by her knitting. Soon, she said, ‘I perceived that this silence had substance. It was not the absence of something but presence of something.’ As she continued her daily knitting, she discovered that ‘at the heart of the silence there was he who is all stillness, all peace, all poise.’ She had let go of her tight-fisted efforts to enter God’s presence and, by doing so, she discovered God’s presence is already there.
We cannot be completely passive all the time, there is to be action for the Lord. God doesn’t want us to sit around and do nothing. Extraverts would truly struggle with this. He wants us to be active in our relationship with him. However, for today, I just want us to know about God’s peace and rest that he offers us.
It’s hard for us many times to find rest because we do not know what to pray or sometimes how to pray. But take heart, Romans 8:26-27 says “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” The Holy Spirit lives within us. He intercedes on our behalf to Jesus who intercedes to the Father who responds to his Son and Spirit that lives within us. We do not have to have everything perfect when we pray. We can rest in knowing that the Holy Spirit prays on our behalf. God is speaking to God in and through us. What an amazing thought! We don’t have to worry about being perfect with our prayers, because God knows our hearts.
There are several ways that we can enter this time of rest. The first is solitude. In solitude, we voluntarily abstain from our normal patterns of activity and interaction with people for a time in order to discover our strength and well-being comes from God alone. In solitude, we gently press into the Holy of Holies where we are stilled in the presence of God. The second is silencio- the stillness of creaturely activity. In silencio, we still every motion and activity that is not rooted in God. We become quiet, hushed, motionless until we are God-centred. We let go of all distractions around us and focus on God. The third way is recollection. Recollection simply means focus. It means gaining tranquillity of the mind, heart and spirit. Sometimes we just need a retreat to get away from all the noise in our lives. All three of these ways of entering into rest is being still before God. Psalm 46.10 tells us that we are to “be still and know that He is God.” All in chapter 46, there is a lot going on around the psalmist and he declares God’s word in basically declaring that no matter what is happening, we are to be still in the presence of God almighty, desist all that we are doing and just be with God.
Jean Vanier, the founder of the L’Arche communities for mentally handicapped people, shares an illustration that I think really helps us to understand the perfect rest we have in God. He cups his hands lightly and says, ‘Suppose I have a wounded bird in my hands. What would happen if I closed my hands completely?’ The response is immediate. ‘Why, the bird will be crushed and die.’ ‘Well then, what would happen if I opened my hands completely?’ ‘Oh, no, then the bird will try to fly away, and it will fall and die.’ Vanier smiles and says, ‘The right place is like my cupped hand, neither open nor totally closed. It is the space where growth can take place.’ For us, the hands of God are cupped lightly. We have enough freedom so that we can stretch and grow, but also we have enough protection so that we will not be injured- and so we can be healed. Here is the prayer of rest, staying in God’s protection with his Spirit crying out on our behalf.
Imagine yourselves just now in the cup of God’s hands. Just be silent in His presence and allow Him to sing over you, to strengthen you, to give you rest…
Let Your God Love You (Edwina Gateley)
Be silent, be still. Alone. Empty before God. Say nothing. Ask nothing. Be silent, Be still. Let God look upon you, that is all. He knows. He understands. He loves you with an enormous love. He only wants to look upon you with His love. Quiet. Still be. Let God- love you.
Stillness- I sit in Your presence stilled and quiet, lifting my heart to You, I let go all worries, anxieties and plans: I place them in your hands. I wait on You, passive and expectant, I let you come into the inmost core of my being, into the deep centre of my life where You are already there. You are within me, You are here now as you are with everyone who is willing to welcome you. I let go, I sink and merge into You, I let You take over, I let You carry me.
I AM WITH YOU-
Here is no place in all creation where I am not. There is no part of your life in which I am absent. I am deeply embedded in the core of your being, and will be for all eternity. I will not remove myself, I am the ground of your being. I am your strength and comfort, the spring and source of your life. I am with you. I am in you. I am for you. I am above you. I am around you. I am beneath you. In your communion with me you will know the purity of my truth. You will know the warmth of my love. You will know the assurance of my peace. You will know the joy of my real presence. You will know the wonder of my healing. You will behold my Glory.