The Lord calls us to work hard to rest well. Scotty Smith recently shared a prayer on this very subject that looks to what he calls “a glorious paradox and beautiful irony.” He bases it on words from Hebrews 4 (which I’ve included at the end). Here is what he prays:
Heavenly Father, what a most glorious paradox and beautiful irony this portion of your Word presents. You’re calling us to work diligently, to invest great effort, to strive with all our might to rest from our works that we might enter the rest of your work. Work hard to rest well. Work hard to cease working.
Once again I’m confronted with how the gospel contradicts the fundamental way I’ve been trained to approach every sphere of life—athletics, education, finances, career, reputation. “Do it the good ole’ fashioned way—earn it.” “God helps those who help themselves.” “You’ll always get what’s coming to you.” “You can do anything you set your mind to do.” These mantras have been my motivation for much of life; but they also been my madness, because performance-based living never really brings rest, just more restlessness.
Father, because the gospel is true, fortunately, I didn’t get what’s coming to me. You gave that to Jesus at the cross. You put my sin on him. You punished him with the punishment I deserve. And in exchange, you’ve given me what I never could’ve earned: complete forgiveness, the righteousness of Jesus, and your permanent favor resting on me.
You don’t help those who help themselves. You help those who admit they can’t help themselves. Salvation is of the Lord! There’s no greater rest than to know you are at peace with me—to be certain that you are resting and rejoicing in great love over me.
Jesus, you created the world in six days and then entered a Sabbath rest. Likewise, when you died on the cross, securing our salvation and the restoration of creation, you cried, “It is finished” (John 19:30). Your work was over and you rested, and now we enter your rest. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah!
Our never-ending work is to hear and believe this gospel. “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” (John 6:29). What a most liberating vocation you have given us. So very Amen I pray, in your holy and gracious name.
Here is the text for the prayer:
“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. … So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest” (Hebrews 4:1-3, 9-11).