by John Mark Comer
Begin with prayer (5 minutes)
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting (around a table, on the couch, the floor of a living room, etc.).
If you’re up for it, and your setting is quiet, spend a few minutes in silence. Why silence? Because we live in a busy, noisy world, under the non-stop assault of digital distraction. In the midst of all the chaos, it’s hard at times to hear one another, let alone the voice of God. As we gather together as a family, we want to hear what the Father is saying to and through each of us, and respond in turn. A great way to do that is to begin with a moment of quiet.
Have somebody lead a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Spend a little time in triads (15-20 minutes)
If you are in a Community of seven or more, divide into small groups of 3–4 people each (ideally same gender).
Spend a few minutes catching up on life…
Then, talk through the following debrief questions:
1. Did you listen to the teaching? What was the main take away for you?
2. Is Sabbath already a part of your life, or no? If yes, to what extent?
3. What has been (or do you sense will be) your greatest obstacle in practicing Sabbath?
Transition back to one large group (10-15 minutes)
Ask a few questions about the last week’s Practice:
1. Is the Practice of Sabbath new to you? Was it part of your upbringing? Did you grow up with any kind of negative understanding about it?
2. How does the idea of practicing Sabbath make you feel? Nervous about Sabbath being too legalistic? Skeptical about working this into your schedule? Full of anticipation for rest? Something entirely different?
3. In what ways do you see our culture pushing back against a life of rest?
Read this overview
We live in a cultural moment of restlessness. The unsatisfied desires of our human condition are exacerbated by the barrage of digital marketing from a consumption-oriented, consumer-driven economy. We have multi-billion dollar, multi-national industries hovering over our minds – via our devices – in an attempt to monetize our restlessness. But rest doesn’t come from buying a product; it comes from Sabbath. A word that literally means stopping. The Sabbath is an entire day set aside to stop - stop working, stop wanting, stop worrying, etc.—and to simply rest in God’s presence.
Most followers of Jesus (at least, in the modern, Western world) no longer practice Sabbath. This means many of us are missing out on one of the most life-giving practices of the way of Jesus, and arguably, one of the most important for our cultural moment.
Since this Practice is brand new for many of us, the goal of week one is to start with the basics: just set aside a 24 hour time period to rest and worship; mark a beginning and end time, each with a ritual of your own design; and spend the day in Sabbath delight. It sounds easy, but, like all good things, it takes practice. So be patient with yourself, with this Practice, and with God. Let yourself settle into the “rest for your soul” that Jesus has on offer.
Talk about the coming week’s Practice as a Community (10–30 minutes)
Here’s the Practice for the coming week:
1. Mark out a 24 hour time period (or as close as you can) to rest and worship
There are three common variations of this Practice:
- The traditional Sabbath: from 20 minutes before sundown Friday night to the same time Saturday late afternoon. (This works well for people who are especially busy on Sundays with church activities or other events.)
- The Lord’s Day Sabbath: from the Sunday morning (or sometimes Saturday night) gathering, through bedtime on Sunday. (This works best for most people, as Sunday is the calmest day in the city, and we already set aside time to worship as a community.)
- The midweek Sabbath: any day during the week. (This works best for people with odd or sporadic work schedules and have a midweek day off.)
Decide in advance if you want to begin in the evening—with a dinner or just before bed—or in the morning. We recommend starting in the evening, but there’s no “right way.”
If at all possible, establish a regular rhythm of Sabbath on the same day each week.
2. Pick a ritual to clearly begin and end your Sabbath
Much of the Sabbath is about rhythms and rituals that set aside the day as “holy.” Beginning and ending with a marked moment will help you settle into rest, and help you reenter the week with a restful spirit.
Here are a few ideas of how to begin the sabbath from both ancient tradition and modern practice:
Light two candles (symbolic for the two commands in Exodus and Deuteronomy to “remember” and “observe” the Sabbath). Invite the Spirit of Jesus to come and give your home light, joy, love, peace, and rest.
Pour a glass of wine (or grape juice for the kids or the straight edge). Pray a blessing over the drink and give thanks.
If you have a family, this is where, traditionally, the father speaks a blessing over the children and the mother. If you’re with roommates or friends, this can be a wonderful time to bless each other, with prayers like: May you be happy and full of joy. May the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace. May you find rest for your soul. Etc.
Read a Psalm, sing a song, quote a poem, or pray a liturgy to center on God.
Pray: ask the Holy Spirit bring a spirit of rest over your life and lead and guide you through the next 24 hours.
If you begin at night, share a meal with your family or friends.
If you begin in the morning, go to church and worship.
Here are a few ideas to end your Sabbath:
Take a slow, leisurely prayer walk around your neighborhood, nearby park, or nature reserve.
Read a psalm.
Share a meal with family and friends.
Spend some time alone or with your family and friends in prayers of gratitude.
Traditionally, the Sabbath ends by sitting on the floor, lighting a special havdalah candle, and sharing 1) the best part of your Sabbath, and 2) what you are looking forward to in the week ahead, passing around sweet smelling spices to savor the day, and ending with prayers of gratitude.
3. Spend an entire day in rest and worship.
Fill your day with activities that are life-giving for your soul. Begin to distinguish between recreation and restoration. Begin to transition from entertainment, TV, social media, shopping, and going “out,” to activities that deeply connect you to Jesus and his rest.
Traditionally there are twelve activities that mark Sabbath practice:
Lighting the candles
Blessing the children
Eating a meal
Worshipping with your Community
Making love (if you’re married)
Spending time alone with God
Spending time with family and friends
This is not a “to do” list: there are no “to do”s on Sabbath! No oughts or shoulds. This is just a list of activities many people find restful and restorative.
Adapt your day to your personality, preference, stage of life, and however it is you connect with God: time in nature, walking your dog to the park, playing frisbee golf with your kids, getting lost in a good novel, etc. Just take the day to pamper your soul in God’s presence.
Work through these discussion questions (10-15 minutes)
1. Any thoughts, creative ideas, or feedback on this coming week’s Practice?
2. What activities do you find most restful? Connect you to God?
3. What do you think has to change in your life for Sabbath to become a part of your practice?