There is renewed interest in spiritual exercises these days. There is interest in prayer and fasting, meditation and lectio divina. All of these have their precedents in Scripture by precept and by example. But the most neglected of all spiritual pursuits seems to be spiritual rest. Life is compared to a battle, or a race, or a journey. One of the most needful things is simply rest.
Some people worry that rest equates to laziness. But sometimes that suspicion of rest is a mask for an unwillingness to rest, to let down our guard. The comments I hear sometimes make me wonder: do people feel guilty for enjoying a moment of quiet rest? Are we so surrounded by hyper-achievers who are constantly overscheduled that we consider it not only normal but right? Do we think of rest as a sign of weakness, or lack of ambition, or lack of dedication?
My favorite part of Psalm 23 is where the Good Shepherd makes the sheep lie down in green pastures by still waters, and in doing this he restores their souls. So I think that if we want to restore our souls, then the spiritual "exercise" most needful is to rest.