Do you feel too busy to pray? Or maybe you want to pray but don’t know what to say? I invite you to experience the rest of God’s presence when you learn to pray the REST way.
Many of us grew up knowing that we should pray every day, but to be honest? It’s quite a struggle. A 2019 survey from Crossway revealed that the biggest obstacle to a thriving prayer life is distraction. (What? You thought you’re the only one? Nope. Friend, pull up a chair, because you’re in good company here.) The other obstacles were indifference, busyness, and loss for words.
And even during those times when we do make time to pray, it can feel rushed, our minds wandering, and we wonder if it makes any difference at all.
That’s why I developed Prayers of REST—it’s a method of prayer that helps us slow down to hear God’s voice and rest in His loving presence. Over the past few years, it’s also become the basis of the Prayers of REST podcast (downloaded over 200,000 times around the world), and a 365-day devotional published by Moody Publishers.
Ready to learn how pray the REST way?
Let’s dig in.
What Is Prayers of REST?
To make this simple prayer method easy to remember, REST is an acronym that helps guide us in conversation and stillness with God:
- Recite God’s Goodness
- Express Your Neediness
- Seek His Stillness
- Trust His Faithfulness
Like other prayer models that you may have used in the past, prayers of REST include praise and adoration (in the “R” section), confession (in the “E” section), and supplication (in the “T” section). However, REST is different in several ways, the biggest being time set aside to be still and silent with God (in the “S” section).
Most of us live hurried lives, and even our prayers can feel rushed. But our souls were not made to hustle 24/7. We must learn to slow down and be still in God’s presence if we are to know Him deeper and hear His voice. Consider God’s invitation:
“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth.”
Psalm 46:11 (NIV)
Prayer is a two-way conversation with God, especially when we’re praying through Scripture, which is my favorite way to pray. Simply choose a verse or short passage as your focus for your time of prayer, and follow the REST prayer method as outlined below.
Recite God’s Goodness
Let’s begin by reciting God’s goodness, declaring who He is and what He has done in our lives.
When you’re praying God’s Word, read the passage again and ask yourself, “What does this tell me about God?” What attributes, names, or characteristics of God’s are listed in the text? Worship Him for who He is, and then consider how God has displayed these attributes in your own life.
If you’re praying through a situation (like a tricky relationship or a hard emotion), ask yourself how God has shown His goodness even in these difficult circumstances. Where have you seen His hand at work? When have you experienced His presence? Praise Him for His goodness.
When we hear the word “recite,” it might invoke images of children’s rote recitation of multiplication tables or Latin conjugations. But reciting is simply repeating something over and over again so we don’t forget.
We all suffer from soul amnesia, forgetting who God is and what He has done from one day to the next. That’s why even David said:
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
Psalm 103:1-2 (NIV)
If we don’t recite God’s goodness, we’ll forget His faithfulness. So this is where we begin, by reciting (out loud, if possible), how God has shown us His goodness. Sometimes this is just a few sentences, grounding myself in the reality of who God is and what He has done, and other times I’ll spend more time listing His blessings, recounting His answers to my prayers, and remembering His works in my family life as well, going back to my parents and grandparents.
Reciting God’s Goodness not only reminds us of how God works in our lives, but it can also strengthen our faith. Our God is a God who keeps His promises and we can see that through His touch on our daily experiences.
Express Your Neediness
Next, we express our neediness, confessing our sins and our need for God’s forgiveness and grace. Not only are we prone to forget God’s goodness, but we’re also prone to think of ourselves more highly than we ought, and we glibly skim over our own sins and shortcomings, while becoming easily offended by others’ slights toward us.
This is a time to ask God’s Spirit to search us and reveal hidden sin. As the psalmist prayed:
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)
The good news is that when we confess our sins, God is gracious and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (see 1 John 1:9-10). So confessing our sins is a freeing experience, because we can finally stop pretending we’ve got it all together, get honest about our failures, and receive God’s forgiveness. Plus, He also promises to give us mercy and grace to help us in our time of need (see Hebrews 4:16).
So when you’re reading a Bible passage, you might ask, “What does this text reveal about my heart? Is there any specific sin this passage brings to mind that I need to confess?”
If you’re facing a difficult situation, pause to consider what baggage you’re bringing into that relationship or circumstance, and if you’ve made mistakes that you need to confess. Is there guilt that’s weighing you down? Or recurring temptations that trip you up?
Get honest with God. He already knows it all anyway. This is our chance to stop trying to do life on our own, and to tell God how desperately we need Him.
Seek His Stillness
After pouring our hearts out in praise, worship, and confession, it’s tempting to wrap it all up with a quick “Amen” and head out the door to more pressing matters. At least, that was the way I used to pray for years and years, until the hustle caught up with me and I found myself longing for peace and stillness.
So that’s what the “S” in REST is right smack in the middle of the acronym: to remind us to slow down, to be still, and to be silent before God.
This is a time to bask in God’s glorious love for you, and let Him quiet you with His love. Consider this breathtaking passage from Zephaniah:
The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17 NKJV)
How often we’re too rushed, even in our prayers and Bible study, to truly enjoy the presence of God! Yet here He is, inviting us to simply be still and be loved by Him.
This is also a great time to ask the Holy Spirit: is there anything You want to say to me? About this passage? Or this relationship? Or this situation?” Whatever it is you’re facing, why don’t you ask God what His input is? Jesus said:
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. […] My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:14, 27 NIV)
Let’s not let the world drown out the voice of our Good Shepherd. Instead, let’s make time, in prayer, to seek His stillness and listen to His voice.
(For a deeper dive into what the Bible says about stillness, here’s 28+ Verses about Stillness and Rest in God’s Presence.)
Trust His Faithfulness
Finally, it’s time to trust God’s faithfulness, declaring our confidence that God is who He said He is and He will do what He said He will do—in the world, and in our lives too.
We bring our specific requests before God, knowing that He delights to hear our requests and He gives good gifts to His children (see Matthew 7:11). We cast our cares upon Him because we trust that He cares for us (see 1 Peter 5:7). And preach to our own hearts what we know to be true in our minds: God will be faithful to complete His good work in us and through us:
“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6 NIV)
When using Prayers of REST to pray God’s Word, I like to pray: “God, is there anything You’re calling me to do in response to Your Word? Help me be quick to listen and obey.” I’ll write down whatever He brings to mind, and then act on it in a continued spirit of ongoing prayer.
I’ve found it so helpful to end my prayers with this time of Trusting God’s Faithfulness, even saying out loud, “God, I trust You,” because there’s such a strong undercurrent of worry and anxiety in our social media feeds, on news channels, and just in general. We need to continue entrusting our cares to God every time they come back to mind.
So when you find yourself worrying about that thing you just prayed for, stop. Give it over to the Lord again, trusting that He will be faithful to complete the work He started. You can start with Reciting God’s Goodness and praying through the REST prayer format; or just open up your hands toward the heavens and whisper, “God, I trust You,” as you release this burden into His faithful care.
Prayers of REST in Practice
Okay, so what does this actually look like in real life? Do you have to get away to a monastery to spend hours upon hours praying the rest way to experience God’s peace and stillness?
Thankfully, no. Prayers of REST are for normal people living busy 21st-century lives.
That’s what’s so beautiful about this method of prayer: you can pray anywhere, anytime, about anything, and for any length of time.
For example, if my kids are squabbling in the living room over a toy, and I feel like I’m about to lose my temper and yell at them because I’m elbow-deep in sud water and I’m already feeling overwhelmed and exhausted (hypothetically speaking, not that this has ever happened to me), I might pause right there at the sink, take a deep breath, and pray:
Lord, thank You that You are a patient Father. You’re slow to anger and rich in love. You don’t treat me as my sins deserve; You show endless kindness toward me. (That’s the R: Recite God’s Goodness.)
God, I confess that I’m tired and overwhelmed right now, and I’m this close to yelling at my kids. I just feel like I can’t deal with their bickering anymore. Would you fill me up with Your love, Your kindness, and Your patience right now? I need You. (That’s the E: Express Your Neediness.)
Show me the way I should go. Teach me what to say to my children right now. (That’s the S: Seek His Stillness. And I might be drying off my hands at this point, turning from the sink, and taking one more deep breath.)
God, I trust You to help me parent these children You’ve given me. Help me teach them to love one another, as You have loved us. (That’s the T: Trust His Faithfulness. And at this point, I’ll step in if the situation deems intervention, and the whole time I’m talking to my kids, I’m continuing an inner conversation with God.)
That whole prayer may take just about 20 seconds, but it provides a brief pause in my parenting–an opportunity to rest with God and enter into a potentially explosive situation with His peace leading me.
Do I do this perfectly every time? Of course not. I’m still learning, alongside you. But over the past years of praying the REST way, I’ve become much quicker to talk to Jesus about tough situations rather than jumping ahead on my own.
Another way I’ve used the Prayers of REST method is during my quiet time with Jesus. It’s fairly easy to adapt my current Bible reading plan and journal through the R-E-S-T framework for a few verses. I like to alternate between inductive Bible studies (using the FEAST method) and reflective prayer journaling using this REST method. You can use a simple notebook to keep track of what your prayers, but we made it easy for you with this Prayer Journal: 60 Days of Prayers of REST.
Let’s Pray Together the REST Way
Now that you know what each of the letters stands for, you can get started right away! Here are a few resources to help you make prayers of REST a habit in your life:
The Prayers of REST Podcast
The Prayers of REST podcast gently guides you in praying God’s Word in under 10 minutes. In these episodes, you can easily follow along as we pray the REST way, with both modeled prayer and quiet space for you to pray. New prayer episodes release each week, but with over 100 episodes in the archive, this podcast will help you make daily prayers a habit even on the busiest days.
The Prayers of REST Devotional
Sometimes we want to pray, we just don’t know what to say. If that ever happens to you, you’ll definitely benefit from my newest devotional, Prayers of REST: Daily Prompts to Slow Down and Hear God’s Voice.
Each prayer can be read in less than two minutes, so busyness ought never to get in the way, but it can easily serve as a springboard to longer prayers. I hope this book becomes worn with use as you make your way into God’s throne room again and again.
With 365 daily prayers, this book contains a Scriptural prayer for every situation you’ll encounter: from prayers for sadness, happiness, anger, and fear; to prayers for children, spouses, and acquaintances; to prayers for mornings, evenings, holidays, and just normal days. Just flip through the pages of the book and within moments you’ll find a prayer that will make you say, “Ahh… that’s exactly what I’m dealing with right now.”
I’ve also included collections of prayers we might not think to pray, but that form our souls, our theology, and our affections with the Good News of Jesus. You can gather together a few friends for any of these 10-day prayer challenges based on REST prayers: Who I Am in Christ; Putting on the Armor of God; Living Out the Fruit of the Spirit; Experiencing the Presence of Jesus; and Living out the Sermon on the Mount. These were some of my favorite prayers to write, and I hope they stir in you great affection and devotion to our King Jesus.
And if you’ve read and enjoyed any of my previous books, you’ll be happy to know that I’ve also curated prayers of REST for each of my books, so you’ll find 10 prayers to help you Unwrap the Names of Jesus during Advent, Uncover the Love of Jesus during Lent, Walk in Food Freedom while reading Full, and Treasure God’s Word while studying Colossians.
As you can tell, I poured all of my heart into the prayers of this book, and I hope it serves you and your family for generations to come.
The Prayers of REST Bookmark
If you have a good grasp of the REST prayer format and all you’re looking for is a simple way to remember what each letter stands for, well here you go. We made this prayer bookmark just for you.
I hope that this post helps you make conversation with God a regular part of your daily rhythm. Remember that there’s no wrong way to pray as long as you’re seeking God with a sincere heart. Just as Jesus taught His disciples to pray, so He’ll guide us through His Spirit into His loving presence.
If this post was helpful to you, would you share it with a friend? Simply forward it to them in an email or share the link on social media. And if you end up using the Prayers of REST method, I’d love to hear about it! Simply tag me on Instagram @asheritah or reply to one of my emails to let me know.