Here's an excerpt from my book "Powerful Prayers for Challenging Times." The e-book is only .99 cents today through Sunday (March 5 - 8, 2015). I pray you will find the peace and relief you need.
Jackie M. Johnson
When You’re Busy and Stressed
Prayers for Peace and Rest
I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.
It was late when I finally finished eating dinner. Tired and bleary-eyed from a long week at work, I opened the kitchen cupboard to put away my spaghetti leftovers and stopped suddenly.
What am I doing?
I shook my head and laughed and put the food in the refrigerator where it belonged. I was exhausted.
The past few months had been a whirlwind, and tension was taking its toll. Of course, putting Italian food in the wrong place was the least of it. Most nights I was up late working, folding laundry, or doing “one more thing” before going to bed, wondering why the days were so long and the nights so short.
I don’t think I’m the only one who has too much to do and never enough time.
Recently, Amanda’s company had layoffs. While she’s glad to still have a job, she’s overloaded with work now that her firm employs significantly less people. Rachel is a stay-at-home mom with three kids under age four who laughs when you say the word rest, since she never seems to get enough. And Darnell, who works three jobs just to get by, wonders when he will ever get a good night’s sleep.
Indeed, we are a generation of busy people—working hard but hardly living. Getting enough rest, replenishing rest, is often at the bottom of our priority lists.
So Many Reasons, So Little Time
We all have our reasons why we don’t make rest a priority. Some are self-imposed. Some people stay continually busy in order to avoid pain and disappointment. Others live a life of constant activity because they’re trying to please others or keep up appearances.
I’ve heard bleary-eyed nine-year-olds complain about their packed weekly routine of soccer, piano, and dance in addition to school and homework because it’s what their parents want.
Of course, people have busy seasons in life, like a couple with a newborn baby or an accountant during tax time. But for some, being busy all the time seems to be a badge of honor. Have you ever run into someone you haven’t seen in a while and said, “Hi! How are you?” and she replies, “Good. I’m so busy these days.”
In the exhaustion of daily living, we often complain, “There’s so much to do and never enough time” instead of saying a quiet prayer, “Lord, I am so tired. Please help me.” And that’s exactly what God will do when you ask him. There is a better way to find a better life, but sometimes false beliefs keep us stuck on a hamster wheel of perpetual motion.
Lies We Believe about Rest
To be sure, there is a time to work. God uniquely created each of us with talents and abilities to make a contribution in life. We may be good at what we do and find satisfaction in a job well done. But there is also a time to cease from our labor.
Being driven is one thing; being a slave to what we do—bound by guilt, condemnation, perfectionism, or people pleasing—is bondage. Unknowingly, we are living a lie.
“The lie the taskmasters want you to swallow is that you cannot rest until your work’s all done, and done better than you’re currently doing it,” said Mark Buchanan in The Rest of God. “But the truth is, the work’s never done, and never done quite right. It’s always more than you can finish and less than you had hoped for.”[i]
If we address some of the lies and release them, then physical rest and inner peace—soul rest—can replace worry and fear, and things can begin to change. Read each one listed here and talk to God about what is keeping you from getting the rest you need.
• Lie: I can do everything and do it all on my own. A person who believes this lie thinks she has to make everything happen, do everything for everyone, and do it all by herself. Some may call her a martyr; others may call her a control freak. She believes her way is the “right” way and that she must save the world. The truth is that we are sorely deceived when we think we are a junior Jesus. We don’t save the world; he already did that for us. It’s the ultimate deception when we think we are like God or we are God (Gen. 3:5).
• Lie: Rest is a luxury for a privileged few. I used to think this when I was short on funds and working three jobs just to stay afloat. It didn’t seem fair, but I felt guilty when I rested. Then I came across the book When I Relax I Feel Guilty by Tim Hansel and learned that I had a right to rest. In fact, rest was God’s idea (Gen. 2:2–3).
• Lie: I don’t deserve to rest. Rest is a gift. You don’t earn it. A slave-driver mentality is not from God but the enemy, the one who is out to destroy you. The truth is that when you come to know Christ you are set free (John ).
• Lie: Rest is a waste of time. In reality, taking time to renew your weary self is time well spent. It’s an investment that will pay off physically, mentally, emotionally, and relationally because you will be a better you—for others and for yourself. Stopping periodically to get refreshed ultimately helps you get the job done more effectively.
• Lie: If I rest, I won’t get it all done. This lie goes back to the fundamental question of whose agenda we are following. A major heart shift happens when we begin to realize that life is about God’s plan, his story. We live for God, not for ourselves. He will enable us to get done what he wants accomplished each day when we are surrendered and willing.
The Value of Rest
I am a lot like my German grandmother,
She constantly bustled around the kitchen making spaetzle and sauerkraut, and
it took some doing to get her to actually sit down at the dinner table with the
rest of us. Like her, I want to get stuff done. I have many lists and find
satisfaction in crossing off what I’ve accomplished. While it’s true that being
productive can be a good thing, I’ve often gone to extremes, and it has taken me
time to learn the value of rest.
Rest is essential for many reasons.
Rest is necessary, both physically and emotionally. It’s essential to life and good health. Sometimes we are so preoccupied with trying to gain more in life that we often fail to realize what is lost in the process. In the demanding pace of life, we may lose perspective, forget things, or mess up our priorities. We lose peace of mind and connection with God and others. Our health and relationships suffer. We feel cranky, scattered, or alone.
In our efforts to be efficient, we may not always be effective. Often, we lose heart.
And we need to find it again.
Perhaps we don’t value rest because we’ve forgotten what it means. Our perception may be skewed by a culture that praises busyness and devalues silence, stillness, and reflection.
Rest brings margin to your life, spaces that allow you to replenish and restore beauty and balance. Without it, life is an endless cycle of work, chores, and errands. And that’s not what God intended. Joy, peace, fun, and play are essential parts of life too.
Consider a score of music. Without well-placed rests, beats of silence, a song would run on and on; it would fail to achieve its true purpose. And it would surely weary the listener’s ear. So composers use whole, half, or quarter rests—longer or shorter beats—to make beautiful music. Is there a way for you to find some well-placed rests in your own life? For example:
A quarter rest, which is brief, could be a ten-minute walk to clear your head and say a short prayer. Often, I get my best ideas when I get up from my desk and have a change of scenery.
A half rest could be a weekend away or even getting a restful night’s sleep.
A whole rest, a longer period of time, could be a much-needed vacation or spiritual retreat.
Replenishing rest looks different for everyone. Whether it’s lingering over a cup of tea with a friend, taking a nap, or enjoying a one-minute vacation gazing at the Hawaiian beaches on your wall calendar, think about how you can get refueled in your life, because when we’re well rested, we are better equipped to serve God and others— and enjoy our lives.
Rest is trusting God. Busyness is the amount of activity in your life; stress is how you handle it—or don’t. You were never meant to do life on your own or carry the weight of the world like boulders in a backpack. When you release your worries to God, you’re saying that you trust him. Instead of being anxious, you can rely on the fact that God said he would take care of all your needs. God is always at work, even when you’re asleep. When you are feeling overwhelmed, say to yourself, “I cannot, but God can.” God can do anything; nothing is too hard for him, even restoring peace to your whirlwind life.
Rest is God’s idea. God gives you permission to rest. In fact, it was his idea from the beginning. In the first book of the Bible, Genesis, we learn that God created the heavens and the earth “all in their vast array” (Gen. 2:1). Imagine the sheer delight of God as master artist and architect, forming star-studded galaxies, planets that spin, and gravity to tether us all to the earth. After he created, he rested (whatever that looks like for God) and gave us a pattern to follow for our own lives.
The heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. (Gen. 2:1–3, emphasis added)
Jesus knew well the importance of rest. He had three years, only a short time, to accomplish his mission, yet he often left the crowds to get away and pray. He invites us to lay down our burdens and find real rest in the “unforced rhythms of grace,” as the Message explains:
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. (Matt. 11:28–30)
Jesus knew that in order to be about his Father’s business, he needed to be connected in prayer to God the Father. How can we be empowered to live our full lives? By releasing our cares and making prayer a priority.
Making Prayer a PriorityLife is a marathon, not a sprint. We need to pace ourselves.
Instead of constantly getting caught up in the urgent things in life, we can find a way to attend to the important things when we remember to pray. Take a look at your schedule. Have you built in any time for prayer, for rest, for fun?
As you reprioritize, ask yourself what you can delegate or let go of (either for now or forever). Then make a decision to put prayer on your to-do list each day. It will not only build your relationship with God (the primary purpose) but also give you the power and strength to accomplish what he wants done for that day—and beyond.
When you choose to make prayer a priority, you are really choosing God. That’s because prayer is a one-on-one conversation with your Creator. He knows you better than anyone, even better than you know yourself! Build your relationship with God as you would with a close friend. Talk, listen, and find out more about his character. You’ll gain insight, wisdom, and strength to face life’s challenges.
You may not always have a large block of time to pray. Some women I know pray as they’re feeding their baby or driving to work. But make every effort to be alone with God in a quiet place, to spend time with the One who loves you most. That’s where you will find the power to live and the peace you crave.
Choose to make prayer a priority every day. Talk with God, trust in him, rest on the inside even as you work. You may even look up, smile, and say a simple, “Thank you.”
Your days may be full, but your heart doesn’t have to be empty or anxious. Powerful prayer begins as you release your cares, connect with God, and allow him to work through you. Then enjoy the love and peace, freedom and power that are yours.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. (Ps. 62:5)
Strengthen Me, LordI can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Lord, it feels like there’s so much to accomplish each day, and sometimes it’s hard to rest. I’m afraid I won’t get it all done. I’m afraid I will fail. Yet, you promise to strengthen me. You are the mighty God! Help me to focus on what you can do, not what I cannot. Empower and encourage me. Give me the lasting strength only you can give. Replenish me so I can live life better and stronger. In Jesus’s name. Amen.
Getting My Priorities in OrderBut seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Lord, I have my agenda, but what do you want done today? Help me to prioritize all that needs to get done. In the midst of life’s busyness, help me to be centered on what’s truly important and not always get caught up in the urgent. Help me to put you first, for I know that from my replenishing time with you all else flows. I will seek you first. In Jesus’s name. Amen.
Finding Hope, Joy, and PeaceMay the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Lord, in the middle of my stressed-out life, I’m glad that you are my hope! As I strive to balance work, family, and life commitments, I need to remember to ask for help from the One who can do all things. Forgive me for trying to do it all on my own. Renew my energy and my joy. Invigorate me for all you have for me in this season of life. May I find inner calm despite outer circumstances. In Jesus’s name. Amen.
Rest for the WearyCome to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Lord, I am so grateful for rest. It was your idea in the first place! Instead of tossing and turning at night with eyes wide open, I give you my worries and cares, my lists and schedules. With open hands, help me to release all I cling to so tightly. I need rest for my spirit and my body. Let me live from a calm and grounded center as I come to you each day. In Jesus’s name. Amen.
[Excerpt from Powerful Prayers for Challenging Times by Jackie M. Johnson (Revell/Baker Publishing Group)]