40 Days of Sabbath and Prayer 2023
Join us for our annual 40 Day Challenge! We’ve all been through so much over the last several years. I have heard from many of you in our GTF community who have lost jobs, businesses, marriages, and the lives of friends and loved ones. The shaking the world has been through has taken its toll, and we are wearier than ever. We didn’t enter the shaking well rested and without struggle. We were already stressed, and people were experiencing burnout more than ever. So much division and hatred were unleashed upon the earth, and we are still reeling from the effects of it all.
And so, I feel led to change up our prayer challenge. This year, let’s journey into God’s Sabbath Way, practicing the rest, joy, and delight the Lord has for us. It’s time for a reset with Jesus. I hope you’ll join us!
Before intentional Sabbath
Before I started to delve deep into God’s heart for us in Sabbath, I saw it mostly as a bunch of rules and regulations that grace had settled. (You can see Jack’s article here on how because of Jesus we can enter our true Sabbath rest ) I’m embarrassed to admit, that article became a really good justification for me to ignore rest and Sabbath.
Of all the blessings in waking with Jesus, Sabbath is among our culture’s least received. And we are suffering because of it.
My journey into Sabbath has been long and winding. I was raised Mormon in Utah. The Sabbath meant going to church plus a list of things you couldn’t do that day. When I grew up and met Jesus, one of the ways Christians separated themselves from the Mormon culture around us was in how we treated Sundays. We often went to brunch after church because Mormons can’t spend money on Sundays. Doing some grocery shopping on Sundays was a joy because the stores were so empty. We didn’t necessarily work on Sundays, but we would have no problem doing so if we needed to. We aren’t under the law. It felt like freedom in Christ, as if we were showcasing how we were set apart: we were saved by grace, not by rules. Keeping the list of Sabbath rules seemed unimportant at best and something to flaunt by avoiding it at worst. But soon that freedom became bondage as we lived lives with no rest.
When we began Grace thru Faith, Jack would write his weekly article on Saturday, and I would publish it Sunday morning before we left for church. Years later, when the Lord sent us to Mexico and we were in full-time ministry, taking care of ministry needs on Sunday seemed a noble task. As the ministry grew, Jack’s Ask a Bible Teacher column brought in more questions than he could ever answer, and our outreaches grew and grew. Sunday quickly became another day to get things done that we couldn’t during the other six days. I never thought about another way. We only have so much time and a high calling, and we must make the most of every opportunity because the days are evil. (Eph 5:16). Besides, we have already entered into our Sabbath rest in Jesus. In Him, the work of salvation is finished, the fulfillment of the commandment for Sabbath. And that is all I thought about the matter.
Then Jack went Home to Jesus in 2015, and my responsibilities doubled. The Lord has supernaturally grown the ministry since then. I think it glorifies Him to grow this ministry because it’s obvious to everyone that it couldn’t be because of my skill or talent. It could only be God! I’m humbled every single day that He continues to do so. And in this blessing, I felt (still do) a great responsibility to steward Jack’s legacy well. Soon, there weren’t many differences between one day of work and the next. All days were needed, and even then, I couldn’t possibly do all I needed to do. And not once did I see this as a problem! What a blessing to have. How can I complain when there is still so much more need? Our time here is short (James 4:14), and I must do all the Lord wants me to do with it. Looking back I can see how this just wasn’t sustainable. But when you’re in the middle of something, it’s hard to see past it.
The pitfalls of avoiding rest
I’ve suffered from migraines my whole adult life. I’ve found things that help, but it has seemed most affected by the severe barometric pressure changes so constant here at sea level, on the coast of northern Baja. They grew fully unmanageable by 2020, and by early 2021 they became debilitating. Ministry during the pandemic was brutal. We saw the Lord multiply provision and bring food to everyone we serve. We saw miracles break out in hospital rooms in India. But we also lost many people to covid. We worked around the clock to keep people fed, and to school all the children we serve. And it was working! But the migraines became more and more debilitating. And this brought me to my current Sabbath journey. Dear friends prayed for me daily. Each day was a struggle. And it kept getting worse. And migraines kept coming. Instead of reconsidering my habits, I saw it as a virtue to push through and keep going. Migraines come with many symptoms, and pain is just one. I would keep working on my computer until I had almost vomitted on my keyboard. And I saw this as a virtue. If any of our volunteers or workers did this, I would be concerned, but for myself, I think I felt justified in making the most of this opportunity because the days are evil.
Friends and prayer partners in the ministry rallied around me and prayed, and they couldn’t understand why I kept getting worse. And I really didn’t connect my crazy pace and all the stress with the physical symptoms at all. I saw it as a virtue. Spiritual pride is such a tricky thing because that is the allure. It feels righteous. But it isn’t of God.
A dear friend had been praying for me and said she had the impression that I wasn’t listening to what the Lord was saying. Now, my prayer list is miles long, and I spend several hours first thing in the morning with Jesus. I was shocked at what she said, but the Holy Spirit confirmed the truth of it. I was so overloaded by the needs in the ministry that everything else had fallen away, and my health was suffering. And as I began to pray about it, I realized that because my prayer list was miles long, I was mostly just asking instead of listening in prayer. My sweet fellowship and communion with the Lord had turned into a laundry list of to-do items. (You’ve seen our outreaches. There are a lot of people who need God’s help!) So I immediately decided to pare things down and begin again fresh in spending time with God, not just giving Him my lists of requests. And this is how my new Sabbath journey began.
Baby steps into Sabbath
Now that I was paying attention, all of a sudden, the concept and practice of the Sabbath was everywhere. People sent me books, forwarded me articles, and emailed me asking questions about it. I knew it was time to figure out what God wanted me to do about it. What is the New Testament, grace-filled version of Sabbath?
I had a few hang-ups. First, I didn’t view this work as “work.” It’s ministry. It’s a joy and a calling. I was very hesitant to stop, even for a day. Jack’s own words told me that I had already fulfilled and entered my Sabbath rest. But, thankfully, the Lord has so much more in store for us!
When I looked at taking a day off, it was scary. There was too much to do. There was no way I could handle cramming seven days into six. So I started comparing it to tithing. No one who gives regularly would ever stop. It’s too blessed and too fun! We see the Lord redeem what we have and make it all work, with extra besides! But for those who have never tithed, it’s scary. How can they make all their expenses work with less money?
When I took my first real, intentional Sabbath, I thought the Lord would make it work like finances. I would give Him this day, and He would make all the rest of them work out. I would supernaturally be able to get the same amount done in six days instead of seven. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work this way. I couldn’t get it all done in six days. But, somehow, that was still ok. Maybe some of those things didn’t need to be done by me or at all. It required more guidance from the Lord.
Receive the gift of Sabbath
What I thought in the beginning was a new productivity tool for me, I am now beginning to see it as a gift. It’s not just for getting more done in less time. It’s not just a tool to resist the idols of producing and consuming in our culture. It is an invitation to delight and joy and practice the way of God’s Kingdom in the here and now. My journey is new and I’m excited to walk it along with you. I can’t believe I avoided this gift for so long.
Join me these next 40 days in unwrapping and delighting in this gift of Sabbath with the Lord and with each other. We will uncover what we’ve been told and experienced and compare it to God’s desire for Sabbath. We will walk the path together and cheer each other on.
One of the best things about the GFT community is that we are so diverse. So some of you will be old hats at this, and some are wondering if it’s for you, and everything in between. No matter where you start, the Lord will always honor our desire to know Him more and align ourselves with His will. He will have surprises and blessings in store for you these 40 days. I can’t wait to begin with you!
Just like our other 40 day challenges, you won’t be the same person on day 40 as you are today. This will be a challenge. Every act we make toward God is opposed. So we will begin and continue this challenge with prayer:
Father God, I lift up each person joining this challenge to you. Strengthen them as they walk this path with you. Protect them from all that opposes them. Encourage them as they take steps to know you more and discover your heart for them in Sabbath. We ask for supernatural provision for this these 40 days, provision for their material needs and for time and energy and attention. We ask you to go before them and move the hearts of those in their family and work who will be affected by this. Bring your shalom into their hearts and bless them abundantly these 40 days. Surprise them with your goodness, Lord. In the mighty name of Jesus, amen.
So what are our first steps? If you already have a Sabbath practice, what is working and what isn’t? Is it a delight or is it just a day where you cannot do certain things?
If you are new to this, look at your schedule and see where you can carve out time for Sabbath. It doesn’t have to be a specific day. Look for other things you can do to orient yourself to enjoying your relationship with God and delighting in His creation whenever you can. Look for places in your week where you can prioritize rest over productivity. If you don’t have a full day to devote, carve out what you can. And ask God to open your schedule and move the hearts of those you’ll need help from. Look at your sleep. Are you getting 8 hours a night? Are you rested?
When I first began, I asked everyone I spoke to about their Sabbaths. What did they do? What did they not do? I’d love to hear from you. If you already have a practice, what does your Sabbath look like? If not, what do you need to test it out? How can we pray for you during these 40 days? You can email me or fill out our Contact form to let me know!
Next time we’ll go more into the practice and go over the questions and suggestions you send me!