Monday, September 08, 2008

Call to Prayer and Fasting!

Fasting is a spiritual discipline that our culture will not make easy for us. WE LOVE FOOD. In fact, the messages of almost every commercial urge us to buy, buy and buy and eat, eat and eat. Oh, and I love to eat!

But this post is to call our community and our readers to prayer and fasting. OK, the prayer is easy but what is fasting for? Since our community is seriously considering purchasing a building we are desiring the direction and blessing of GOD on this process. So, we call you the reader to not only pray but also set a time aside to fast.
The primary purpose of fasting is for focusing on God. If you do fast, you find out early on, the pangs of hunger may serve as reminders to focus our hearts on God. As we develop in this practice, fasting will result in an increasing spiritual sensitivity. We will be more "tuned in" to the Spirit's leading. We will be more aware of our own inner condition. We will be more aware of the needs of others.
When Jesus was fasting in the desert he was tempted to turn stones into loaves of bread, but he said, "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). Another time, Jesus' disciples urged Jesus to eat some food (here, Jesus was not said to be fasting), he responded, "I have food to eat that you know nothing about…My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish the work" (John 4:32,34). In abstaining from food and/or drink, we discover an alternative source of strength.
One reason to fast is to eliminate the things that keep us from experiencing the fullness of life in God. Through this practice of abstaining from food and/or drink, God can break our bondage to satisfying ourselves. Fasting reveals the things that control us.
Fasting will reveal much more than our dependence on food. As we focus on the character and presence of God instead of food, our character will be revealed to us. We will have a heightened spiritual awareness not only of God, but of our own hearts. As Richard Foster writes, "Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear-if they are within us, they will surface during fasting." This is a benefit to us because with these things revealed, they can also be addressed.
Fasting is not commanded, but is assumed. Jesus said, "When you fast…" (Matthew 6:16). As with any discipline, there is the danger to turn it into law, but we must not make it so. Fasting is not for impressing others. Jesus essentially said, "When you fast, don't make a big show of it." If you fast, it does not make you superior to others. In fact, if you think yourself better than others because of it, that will only display your spiritual poverty.
Fasting is not magic. The teaching of some may imply that fasting can be used to influence God to act. We do not go on hunger strikes to force God's hand-that is an attempt to manipulate God. Neither do we need to make extravagant pleas to move Him to action (Consider the parable of widow and judge in Luke 18:2-8; also Jesus teaching about prayer in Matthew 6:7-8 and 7:7-12). Fasting is not to try to get God to change his mind, but to help us "see more clearly" what God is doing.
How do we fast?
1) Keep your focus. As you begin the practice of fasting it will be important to keep reminding yourself of the purpose of fasting. Your body will argue (grumbling, weakness, headaches), but don't let those things distract you from your goal. Allow them to serve as reminders to pray or to be still before God.
2) Start out small. Take baby steps into it by fasting one or two meals, one day a week. Then you may increase that as is appropriate (read Richard Foster's book, Celebration of Discipline and the chapter on fasting).
3) Meditate on Jesus' teaching and practice of fasting along with related Scriptures. Read Matthew 4:1-11, 6:16-18, 9:15; John 4:42-34; Luke 12:22-34; Phil 3:19; Rom 16:17-18; 1 Cor 6:12-13).


CriticalDreams said...

A Cheeseburger Is Not Always A Cheeseburger:

Happy to hear you raise the subject of fasting!

The only church I've really known before Soul Sanctuary was an Orthodox one; fasting is a BIG deal to the Orthodox. Some very devout Greeks I know fast for the entire, last week of lent, only drinking water, eating bread twice a day, and praying for hours upon hours daily. But is that fasting to draw closer to Christ, or just tradition?

By asking this question, I challenge the beloved church that I was baptized in... but I feel that we must challenge in the name of Christ. For it is His name that we have to remain true to, not a building, nor a way of doing things, simply "just because we always have". Do people know why they fast?

Simply put, if we can't resist a cheeseburger, what happens when the devil really digs in his heels? What then, can we resist? How can we serve in the Lord's name if we're too weak in our flesh to pass some fast food up?

Fasting is a tool that we all have access to, and it can be a very powerful one. When fasting is approached with Jesus in our hearts, and on our minds, a cheeseburger is not just a cheeseburger; it's a spiritual weapon.

Yes, I just (oddly) compared spiritual warfare with fast food. I will stand by it because I know that the evil one is tricky enough to use food against us. Want proof? Look at obesity rates, and the "billions and billions served".

Let's instead, get billions and billions TO serve!

SoulPastor said...

Great Post!

Anonymous said...

I have fasted many times and truly believe the truth of what you said. Lately, I've been feeling a pull to buckle down and (despite the societal inconvenience) do it once again.

I started the fast last night.

For some strange reason, I felt the need to stop by and read your blog today.

Odd how brilliant minds think alike.


T. said...

I'll be praying and fasting as you've suggested. I think it's a fantastic discipline to practice, especially in a society that values food so highly.

I know that in past fasts the biggest difficulty was preparing food for my family while going without. I even remember a few times popping something in my mouth without even thinking. Honest mistakes that reminded me of my selfish nature. The hunger pangs really do draw my thoughts to prayer again and again.

Loved the comments from critical dreams

Anonymous said...

Thanks for bring up the topic of fasting. Fasting for me has been uncomfortabe, especially in the area of food. Food has also become an addiction over the years for comfort, love, especially to sooth my fears, like so many other pulls people in our community may be struggling with; such as alchol, theft, drug's, sexual sin etc. But with that said, I wonder how many of us if we took the time to fast and pray, during our strong desires to want to cave into something that has held us back year after year (our addictions; during this time of fasting; can also be a time of Freedom. If you are going to be praying and fasting, think of other area's besides food that have held you in captive for many days/years, that you want to be free of. I also wonder when we are all finally free from our addictions, what the church would really look like; ok this last statement can be a whole other topic!