Prayer for the Sleep Deprived

Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Almighty and Loving Father, Lord of the Sabbath, Blessed Spirit,

All praise and honor be to you for you taught us how to rest even though you yourself never grow tired of work or of us. For you know that tired people cannot love you or their neighbors.

Forgive us for forgetting your good example and caring law. Remind us gently of our oversights and failures, but keep our families and friends safe from our neglect while we tarry.

Thank you for your patience. Teach us to honor you and your law rightly. May we grow to be good examples of a balanced life to those around us.

In the power of your Holy Spirit, guard our careers and our self-esteem as we dial back on our work, our activities, and our frantic use of time to practice Sabbath. May our work obsession and stress addiction no longer rule our lives.

In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.

Prayer for the Sleep Deprived

Also see:

Prayer for Healthy Limits 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site:, Publisher site:


Continue Reading

Monday Monologue, Interpretation 2.0, May 28, 2018 (Podcast)

Stephen W. Hiemstra,
Stephen W. Hiemstra, 2017

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I share a prayer for rest and a followup reflection on biblical interpretation.

To listen, click on the link below.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

Monday Monologue, Interpretation 2.0, May 28, 2018 (Podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site:, Publisher site:

Newsletter at:

Continue Reading

Prayer for Rest

Doldrums, Sand Dune in Ocean City, MarylandLord of the Sabbath,

Teach me to rest.

Disconnect me from the Internet; take away my phone; transport  me go off the grid.

That I might rest with you.

That I might be truly present with others.

That I might once again cherish my time not working.

Calm my nerves; cleanse me of fear; let me not care what others think.

That I might recognize the man in the mirror.

That I might care for my kids and my parents

That I might be your servant without reservation.

Forgive my absence in mind and body; grant me your presence; fill my empty heart with your Holy Spirit

Breath life into these bones.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Prayer for Rest

Also see:

A Roadmap of Simple Faith

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

A Place for Authoritative Prayer 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site:, Publisher site:

Newsletter at:

Continue Reading

9. Prayers of a Life in Tension by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Prayers_of_a_Life_in_Tension_webLord of the Sabbath,

Teach us to rest in a weary world; Teach us to rest in a world too proud. Help us to be humble salt—salt to provide flavor; salt that preserves; salt that graces every table—in a world too busy to notice. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, teach us to offer rest to the weary among us. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.

Continue Reading

Prayer Day 34: A Christian Guide to Spirituality by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Espera verano 2015
Espera verano 2015

Compassionate Father, Lover of our souls, Holy Spirit. Draw us to yourself: Open our hearts; Illumine our thoughts; Strengthen our hands in your service. Grant us rest with you today and every day. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Padre Compasivo, Amante de nuestras almas, Espíritu Santo, atráenos a ti mismo; abre nuestros corazones; ilumina nuestros pensamientos; fortalece nuestras manos en Tu servicio. Concédesnos descanso contigo hoy y todos los días. En el nombre de Jesús oramos. Amén.

Continue Reading

Prayer Day 10: A Christian Guide to Spirituality by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Available on
Available on

Loving Father, Beloved Son, Holy Spirit. We praise you for sharing yourself with us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and stepping into history. Your silent suffering on the cross shouts your love into our fallen world. Thank you for modeling a perfect life; bearing our sins on the cross; and granting us resurrection peace. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Amoroso Padre, Querido Hijo, Espíritu Santo. Te alabamos por compartir ti mismos con nosotros en la persona de Jesús de Nazaret y por entrar de la historia. Tu sufrimiento silencio en la cruz grita tu amor en el mundo caído. Gracias por modelar una vida perfecta; por llevar nuestros pecados en la cruz; y por nos concede la paz de resurrección. En el nombre de Jesús oramos, Amén.

Continue Reading

Christmas as Sabbath Rest

Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

“the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” (Matt 12:8)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

What is the first sin in the Bible?

The typical response is that the first sin occurred when Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 3:6). An alternative interpretation points out that although Adam and Eve were created in Genesis 1, when God rests on the first Sabbath in Genesis 2 they are not mentioned (Feinberg 1998, 16). The first sin in scripture is then argued to be a sin of omission (not doing good)—of Adam and Eve refusing to participate in Sabbath rest. It was as if God threw a party and they refused to come [1].

After that, the sin in Genesis escalated from disrespect into open rebellion. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve commit their first sin of commission (doing evil). In Genesis 4, Cain kills Abel and Lamech takes revenge. In Genesis 5, Noah—the man who rested—is born [2]. In Genesis 6, God tells Noah to build an ark because he planned to send a flood in response to the depth of human corruption and sin. After the flood, only Noah and his family remained [3].

This interpretation is echoed in the New Testament where the kingdom of God compared to a wedding. Jesus tells an enigmatic parable of a king who held a wedding banquet for his son. When the banquet was ready, the king sent his servants to inform his guests. But, instead of responding to the reminder, many of the intended guests ignored the invitation while others committed acts of violence, even murder, against the king’s servants. The climax to this story comes in verse 7: “The king was angry, and he sent his troops and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.” (Matt 22:7)

If we treat Sabbath rest as a foretaste of the kingdom of God, this parable can be an allegory to the first sin, in which Adam and Eve refused God’s invitation to join him in the first Sabbath. The original sin, according to this interpretation, was the contemptuous rejection of God’s generous invitation on the seventh day. The fact that the parable of the wedding feast is a parable of judgment is an emphatic reminder that God really wants us to rest with Him.

Sabbath rest is important enough to God that is the fourth and the longest of the Ten Commandments given to Moses (Exod 20:8–11). Why was it important to the Jewish people? Free people rest; slaves work. The experience of slavery in Egypt and later in Babylon was a reminder that rest is a privilege not always enjoyed.

Are we a free people? Do we rest? Do we rest with God?

Jesus described himself as the Lord of the Sabbath, not to do away with it, but to refocus it on God’s desire for our lives. Sabbath rest is a gateway to the other spiritual disciplines because it makes the other disciplines easier to pursue. Rested people have the energy to care. Exhausted people struggle to care for God and for their neighbors.

Confusion about Sabbath arises, in part, because the Jewish Sabbath was the last day of the week, while Christians celebrated Sabbath on the first day of the week [4]. Pastors and others that must work Sundays often designate another day as their Sabbath and inform their family and friends. The point is to consecrate a day each week to honor and rest with God.

[1] One weakness with this interpretation is that Adam and Eve felt guilty over their nakedness, not other things such as empathy over the pain that they caused God (Gen 3:7).

[2]  In Hebrew, Noah means he rests (Feinberg 1998, 28). Also see: Kline (2006, 229).

[3] Kline (2006, 221–27) views story of Noah as a re-creation event. Noah’s ark serves as a prototype of the tabernacle, the temple, and, ultimately, heaven itself.

[4] Chang (2006, 81) writes: “Sunday is the first day of the week, but the early Christians also called it the eighth day. By call it the eighth day, the Christian understood the resurrection event as breaking through the earthly limitation of the weekly cycle.”


Chan, Simon. 2006. Liturgical Theology: The Church as a Worshiping Community. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.

Feinberg, Jeffrey Enoch. 1998. Walk Genesis: A Messianic Jewish Devotional Commentary. Clarksville, MD: Lederer Books.

Kline, Meredith G. 2006. Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Convenental Worldview. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers.

Continue Reading

Keep The Sabbath Holy (Fourth Commandment)

Photo by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Photo by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day. (Deut 5:12-15)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

The divine origin of the Sabbath is well-attested in both the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, it is the only commandment that appears also in the creation account and it is also the longest commandment—an indicator of emphasis. In the New Testament, Jesus refers to himself as the Lord of the Sabbath (Matt 12:8; Luke 6:5) and performs several miracles specifically on the Sabbath. Why all this attention to the Sabbath?

A key to understanding Sabbath is found in Hebrews 4, which list four aspects of Sabbath rest: physical rest, weekly Sabbath rest, rest in the Promised Land, and heavenly rest—our return to the Garden of Eden.

Physical rest is underrated by many Christians. Jesus says: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28) How are we to love God and love our neighbors when we are physically exhausted all the time? Sabbath rest allows us to build the physical, emotional, and spiritual capacity to experience God and to have compassion for our neighbors.

We see a clue to this interpretation of Sabbath when we compare the Exodus and Deuteronomy renderings of the Fourth Commandment. Deuteronomy adds the sentence: “You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.” (Deut 5:15) Free people rest; slaves work. Are we, Americans, truly free? Sabbath rest is a symbol of our Christian freedom.

The Promised Land, promised rest (Ps 95:11), heaven, and the new Eden (Rev 22:2) all display and reinforce Sabbath imagery. The image of our Divine Shepherd is one who gives heavenly rest: “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.” (Ps 23:2) Sadly, this poetic image of rest only seems to come up at funerals. Why not start now?

Continue Reading

Resting in God, Psalm 23:2

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

Riverside Presbyterian Church, Sterling, VA


Lord God, heavenly King, loving Father – Rest with us this morning. In the power of your Holy Spirit, inspires the words that are spoken and illuminate the words heard. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Monday, February 12, 2007 was a long day for me.

Driving on Route 66 halfway to Washington at about 6:40 a.m., I received a phone call from my mother. She told me that my sister, Diane, had suffered a heart attack and stroke. She is asking for her brothers. After the call from mom, I turned around and headed back to Centreville. A few minutes later, I picked up my brother and we drove to an unfamiliar hospital in Philadelphia. Upon arriving at the hospital at the end of the morning I found my parents. My sister was in a bed on life support. Unfortunately, it was too late. Diane had left us.

We read together Psalm 23, we said goodbye to Diane, and prayed.

Psalm 23 is familiar and powerful. Why do we find comfort resting with God?


He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters (Psalm 23:2 ESV).

Anyone familiar with the Middle East knows that green pastures are hard to find and wars fought over scarce water resources. The desserts are best known for nasty weeds and drought. So when our verse speaks of green pastures and still waters, the psalmist makes an allusion to the Garden of Eden, one of the biblical visions of heaven. Listen to the words in Genesis:

And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.  And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers (Gen 2:8-10 ESV).

Eden pictures restoration. Here the world’s corruption is not present. Nor there is no sin. We are in full communion with God. There is no death, there is no fear. Here we find peace in the biblical sense of Shalom, which means not only the absence of conflict, but also a fullness of spirit caused by communion with God himself.

Consequently, resting with God gives comfort deeper than just green grass and clear water, because all conflicts and struggles have been eliminated.

He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters (Psalm 23:2 ESV).


The theme of rest appears in the New Testament. Jesus said: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (ἀναπαύσω (BNT), Matthew 11:28 ESV). The author of Hebrews expands on this idea and uses the word, rest, four times with four different meanings. Listen for the four uses of rest in Hebrews 4.

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.  For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.  For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,'” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world.  For he has somewhere spoken of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” (Heb 4:1-4 ESV)

These four lines are dense. We could have a Sunday school class on nothing but these four verses. By the end, we see the word, rest, interpreted four different ways: physical rest, Sabbath rest, rest in the Promised Land, and heavenly rest. Please stay with me when I explained why. Vaya conmigo!

The story begins in the Greek text with the word for the rest: κατάπαυσις.  Here is the only place in the New Testament where it is used. However, the text refers to two passages from the Old Testament: Genesis 2 and Psalm 95. Allow me a few minutes to look at these passages.

Genesis 2. This passage is familiar because God rests on the seventh day. Here rest means to stop working. If you think about it, however, this idea seems strange. Ask yourself: was God physically tired when He rested on the seventh day? OBVIOUSLY NOT:  exhaustion is a problem for us, not for God. God was never physically tired from creating. Maybe God stopped creating for spending time with us (2X) (Murray 1996, 159-60).

Psalm 95. This Psalm is less familiar. We read in verses 10-11: forty years I was angry with that generation, and said: For forty years I loathed that generation and said, They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways. Therefore I swore in my wrath, They shall not enter my rest. (Psalm 95:10-11 ESV)

The rest here is a metaphor for the Promised Land. The generation of Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land, they could not enter into the rest of God, because they did not believe that God would keep his word (2X) (Murray 1996, 156).

In Hebrews 4 includes a mystery. Why does the author say that the promise of rest still stands? When this book was written, the people of Israel had lived in Palestine for a long time. How could the author say that the promise of the Promised Land is still standing? The image here is of Jesus as our new Joshua who leads us from this earth to heaven (Murray 1996, 160-61). Here we find heavenly rest.

So we see the word, the rest played four ways in Hebrews 4:  physical rest, Sabbath rest, rest in the Promised Land, and heavenly rest – a return to Eden. Each of these inferences applies also to Psalm 23.


Christian psychologist Henry Cloud, asks the question: which values ​​are not optional in your life? (2X) Our deepest values ​​are not the most urgent, but they determine the quality of your life and are easily overlooked (Cloud 2008, 133-142).

How can we rest as God intended? Three are obvious: practice physical rest, observe Sabbath rest, and mediate on heaven.

First:  Practice Physical Rest. The obvious place to start is the physical rest. If you want to feel more holy, take a nap (2X). People hurried have decreased ability to love God and neighbor. Hurry is not just a messy schedule, but a messy heart (Ortberg 2002, 72, 79, 81). Practice physical rest.

Second: Observe Sabbath Rest. Spend quality time with your family in front of God.  As the psalmist writes:  Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! (Psalm 46:10 ESV).  Abraham Heschel (2005, 15) describes the Sabbath as:  a palace in time that we build (2X). Observe Sabbath rest.

Third: Mediate on Heaven. Heaven is two important things: a place where God lives and our eternal destiny. Because we know that the future lies with Christ, we can afford to take greater risks in life to bring heaven to earth. C.S. Lewis (2001, 134) writes: If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were those who thought most of the next. Mediate on heaven.

In short, the rest practiced three classes: physical rest practice, observe Sabbath rest, and mediate on heaven.


Almighty Father. Thank you for the spiritual gift of rest. Help us to rest with you now and always. In the power of your Holy Spirit, guide our thoughts and keep us close to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


Brueggemann, Walter.  1984.  The Message of the Psalms:  A Theological Commentary.  Minneapolis:  Augsburg.

Cloud, Henry.  2008. The One-Life Solution:  Reclaim Your Personal Life While Achieving Greater Professional Success.  New York:  Harper Business.

Heschel, Abraham Joshua.  2005.  The Sabbath (Orig. Pub. 1951).  New York:  Farrar, Straus, and Ciroux.

Lane, William.  1985.  Hebrews:  A Call to Commitment.  Vancouver:  Regent College Publishing.

Lewis, C.S.  2001.  Mere Christianity (Orig. Pub.1952).  New York:  HarperCollins.

Murray, Andrew. 1996.  The Holiest of All (Orig. Pub. 1894).  New Kensington: Whitaker House.

Ortberg, John.  2002.  The Life You’ve Always Wanted:  Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan.

Continue Reading