40 Days of Prayer 2024

It’s that time of year again! I’m so excited for our time together over the next 46 days, growing closer to the Lord and preparing our hearts for Resurrection Sunday.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” NLT

In this upside-down Kingdom of God, is there a better place to begin a 40 day challenge than with rest? Last year, we focused on the foundational practice of Sabbath, and we heard so many amazing stories of what the Lord did in your hearts and lives through it! It was such a significant challenge, and we experienced a lot of interference during it. We had consistent power outages, making it impossible to keep in touch with you during the whole challenge. But the Lord honored our commitment, and so many told me about experiencing a renewed peace and a freshness in their relationship with the Lord and with their loved ones. I heard several stories about healings in marriage relationships and families, and work schedules that were miraculously able to be changed to allow Rest. Praise God! It’s been life and paradigm-shifting for me. And I’m ready for our next chapter together, going further in practices that grow us and bring us closer to the Lord and to each other!

Getting practical

I get asked often for tips on HOW to do the Christian life. How do we make head knowledge into heart knowledge? How do we actually grow and mature in Christ?  We try so hard to act and react like Him, but like Paul in Romans 7, we keep failing. 

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul compares the Christian life to a race we are running. He says all who run go into strict training. And this analogy helps because we know we can’t run a race well by trying. We know need to train to run a race well! And my favorite analogy for this training is also from Paul, in Romans 12. We can’t transform ourselves. Only God has that power. And in order to let Him, we are to be living sacrifices making ourselves available for God’s transforming work. 

What does this training, this placing ourselves on the altar of Romans 12 actually look like in practice? 

And so, these next 40 days, we’ll practice together things Jesus did, presenting ourselves to God as living sacrifices. Not to earn points or favor, but to submit ourselves to the One who can mold, shape, and transform us. We are clay, and each day we are being molded. It’s hard not to be molded by the world. But when we walk with Jesus and do as He did, we place ourselves on the altar and make ourselves available for molding. And this is a beautiful, and sometimes scary picture, but what does it look like in day-to-day practice?

8 practices for 5 days

Since I wrote our Christmas letter to you, I’ve thought a lot about this being the 8th year since Jack went Home. His two favorite numbers in Bible number symbolism were 8 and 5, and wouldn’t you know it, 8 5s is 40! (8 symbolizes new beginnings, 5 symbolizes grace, and 40 symbolizes testing.) So, for this challenge, we’ll take 8 of the things Jesus did that we can model to grow closer to Him and climb up on the altar for transformation. And we’ll focus on each one for 5 days. This will be our training for these 40 days, and in it, we will see the transformation God will bring as we climb up on the altar each day. As in other years, we’ll take Sundays off of our challenge, modeling the fast and feast rhythm of our brothers and sisters during Lent. 

Rest is a perfect place to begin our challenge this year. Clearing space, ceasing, and giving the Lord our time before looking to add in other practices. I’ve found this habit is foundational to others, orienting our hearts, our time, and therefore our lives toward God.

We start from rest

Sabbath is not just a rule that we have to take one day off “for Jesus”, but a principle of HOW we approach our work. God rested after His week of work, and that is how I had seen the Sabbath for decades. But in Genesis, we see that for us, our rest begins our week. Adam and Eve were created on day 6. The 7th day was their first day. Rest is not a reward for work well done. We begin with rest. We work FROM rest, not FOR rest. We do not work to earn our rest. Rest comes first. Rest is a gift from our Creator, who knows best how we should order our time. This shift in perspective has been transformational in my life. Rest is a gift that I had been rejecting for decades. There isn’t a certain amount of things we must accomplish each week before we deserve to rest.

Rest has been my most challenging practice. I was raised in an extreme Mormon, works-based family who saw sleep as wasteful and something to be avoided. When I was a teenager, my dad had me “train” my brain to go in and out of REM sleep faster so that I would only need 4 hours of sleep. Going to bed at midnight and waking up at 4 am, was the ultimate goal. He believed that if I were sleep-deprived enough, it would force my body to become “more efficient.” This has led to a lifetime of sleep challenges for me, not the least of which was my view of rest as sinful and wasteful. Because of this upbringing, rest has been a tough battle for me, even when I could say logically that I did not believe it to be true. Long after we are grown and know Jesus, the programming of our childhood is still there, waiting to be overwritten. As I practice Sabbath, I show my mind, body, and soul that I accept the Lord’s gift of rest.

You may not have had such an extreme experience with rest and work, but you probably absorbed the society’s views of “working for the weekend” or earning a rest. You may have absorbed the view that being productive is our highest aim. Being productive is not bad; it’s the perversion of work to our highest aim that the enemy has done in our culture. Work is good, but elevating it to the top is perverse. We are not worth more when we produce more. God does not love us more when we are more productive. We don’t earn any points for this. Accepting the Love of God and loving others with this love would undoubtedly rank as a higher aim in the life of a Christian. Fostering our relationship with God and maturing in Christ would certainly be above the producing we do for our work. Work is important, vital, and good. But elevating it to such a ridiculous height is damaging. And Sabbath helps us put work in its rightful place. 

If you aren’t currently enjoying a Sabbath, I encourage you to look for ways you can begin accepting this gift. If your work schedule won’t currently allow it, begin asking God to help orchestrate this ability for you. In the meantime, look for ways you can honor the perspective of rest coming first. If you don’t get 8 hours of sleep a night, begin going to bed earlier. Give your body, mind, and soul the gift of rest. Look at your perspective on rest and work.

Doing as Jesus did

After discovering what I had been missing with God’s gift of rest, I then wondered what other things I might have missed that others take for granted. And so I then began looking at the life of Jesus to see what other practices I could intentionally model as I grow as a disciple of Jesus. And I’m inviting us all to do them together—40 days of deliberately practicing some of the ways of Jesus together. 

And so, as we begin these 40 days together, preparing our hearts for Resurrection Sunday and training to be more like Him, we will start with rest. It’s hard to be the loving, patient joyful people we are called to be when we are sleep-deprived, compulsively busy, and always in a hurry. It’s almost impossible to hear God over the noise and busyness of modern life. When I began focusing on Sabbath and rest, I began about as far away from this mentally and physically as possible. I had created a life that prioritized the opposite. I saw sleep as unproductive, and my overworking was just being faithful to Paul’s admonition to make the most of my time because the days are evil. I thought I was being a good steward even while I worked myself into a migraine-pain-filled burnout. I ignored the very real signs my body was giving me and believed that if I made my will strong enough, I could push through it.

Whether you are overwhelmed with work, with family or life, or just need more joy and delight in you life, you will be blessed by embracing a rhythm of Sabbath and rest. We are called to live differently from the world—to work and serve from a place of rest. Not just the spiritual rest of salvation in Jesus, but also rest for your body, mind, and soul. And I’m excited to focus on this and more together with you over the next 40 days.

Let’s read our verse for today again:

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” NLT

For prayer and/or journalling:
What burdens are you carrying that are not yours to carry? What can you place at the foot of the cross today? What might the easy yoke of Jesus look like for you during this 40-day period and in this season of your life?

Heart position:
We accept this gift from the Lord, beginning from a place of rest. Rest in Christ, and the physical and mental rest He grants us. This rest is not something we can earn, it is a gift from God.

 Action steps:
If you are new to this and cannot take a full 24 hours yet, carve out as many hours in one day as you can. Take 4-6 hours and devote them to delighting in Jesus. Set aside your phone and your to-do list. Brainstorm by yourself or with family or friends things that would bring your heart delight. Maybe you need to begin with a nap to catch up on physical rest long needed. Maybe reading a book just for fun or walking in nature. Maybe time toward a hobby or passion. I know families who like to cook together, then go for a walk and leave the dishes for the next day.  If you’ve had only experience with the have-tos of a spiritual practice, it’s important to spend time with things that feel delightful to you first. Remember this is a gift, it’s not a to-do list of a spiritual kind.

If you’ve been doing this practice for ages, ask the Lord for new ways to bring delight into it. Are you approaching it as a rule that has to be followed or a gift to open in delight? Are there activities or practices you can add that seem too good or too exciting? It’s often the desires that seem too good that are from the Lord. Do you know God as One who loves to delight you? Look throughout creation and see the extravagance God placed here for us, just to delight our senses. If your Sabbath is not full of joy and delight, ask the Lord for inspiration.

If Sundays are filled with working for the local church, many choose to either Sabbath Friday night to Saturday night or on a weekday.

If you need tips for choosing or even filling your Sabbath, email me or come chat with us in the forum.

Pray with us:

Father, we dedicate these 40 days to you and consecrate our hearts and minds to you. Fill our hearts with the love you have for us, and bring us opportunities to share this love with those around us. Make room in our souls and lives for these practices we see Jesus doing as we apprentice under Him. Keep the enemy bound from interfering as we choose to do your will each day. Search our hearts for anything that will hinder our walk with you, and empower us to remove each distraction and hindrance. Strengthen us for this challenge and encourage us when it gets hard. For we know growth is hard, but that you are with us. Strengthen our relationship with you, and with our families and community. Let us shine your light so bright as we move into Resurrection Sunday. We pray for all seeking miraculous answers to their prayers. We lift up each marriage at risk, each body and minds that needs your healing, and for those in need of your provision for finances and work. As we come together in the Spirit these 40 days, Lord work your power in the lives of all here. Change us, transform us, and heal us, Lord for your Name and for your glory. In the mighty Name of Jesus, we pray together in faith. Amen and amen.

I can’t wait to grow with you in this challenge! Remember that perfection is not the goal, progress is. Whenever you miss a day or stumble, just pick right back where we are and join in. You won’t be the same person on day 40 that you are today!

With so much love! ♥ Samantha