Our upcoming quarterly prayer and fast is coming up on Wednesday, October 29th. Praying and fasting seems like such a Christian thing to do, which means that we might have forgotten why we do it. To help us in preparing for our gathered time together as a church I've outlined a couple reasons why we practice this as a church.
As Christians we have been reconciled to God through the gospel. In the gospel we are forgiven of our sins, Jesus' perfect life is credited to us, and we are adopted by God into His family. God's purpose of reconciliation is to bring us to Himself. To bring us to Himself so that we can have unhindered relationship, a relationship that all of us were created to enjoy from the very beginning of creation. The basis of the Christian's relationship with God is based solely on Jesus' life, death, resurrection, and ascension. We don't "DO" anything to earn God's favor and this is an important distinction to make when we talk about ways in which God has provided for us to grow in our relationship with Him. The gospel alone is what places us in God's family and keeps us there, end of story.
One of the ways that God has provided for us to enjoy relating with Him is through prayer. For Christians, prayer is expected (see Luke 11:1-4 as the inference is that we would pray to God, which is why Jesus says to the disciples, "When you pray...") because it deepens our relational joy with God. In prayer we get to thank God that He is our Father, have the opportunity to worship Him for who He is in all His perfection, to be reoriented to the truth that life is about living for Him (not ourselves), and to express profound dependence to Him as we humbling intercede and ask Him to display His power in many different ways. In all these ways our faith in God's His Sovereignty and goodness is strengthened and grows. Martin Luther once wrote, "If I should neglect prayer but a single day, I should lose a great deal of the fire of faith."
Sometimes as Christians we can tend to overcomplicate things so it's wise to keep things simple. Prayer is simply talking and listening to God. This can be done verbally or through our thoughts, but as Christians, because of the gospel, we have the privilege of having an audience with the Creator of everything. When you stop and think about it, prayer is an incredible privilege.
Another way that God has provided for us to grow in our relationship with Him is through the practice of fasting. Fasting for the Christian is volunteering to give up something for a certain period of time for the sake of growing in self-discipline. There are three primary objectives for this practice: to suppress the demands of the flesh (see 1 Corinthians 9:27), to prepare ourselves to hear from God, and to acknowledge and make visible our dependence upon Him. As Christians we do this by taking the time that we would normally use for eating food, technology, media/leisure, etc. and devote it more fully to God in prayer and focussing upon God's Word (biblical meditation).
Generally speaking, fasting technically refers to abstaining from food in particular, but we can and should consider fasting from anything that can dull our hunger and appetite for God. This list of potentially dulling influences could include really anything, even good things (smartphones, iPhones, and dumb phones are included). When we fast we voluntarily remove these things that we typically and subconsciously use to distract us from the awesome reality of who God really is. In our fast-paced world with a volume that is set to overwhelm all other competing sounds, fasting is a way that God uses to slow us down and help us listen. It serves to declutter our lives and our thoughts so that the glorious sound of the gospel will grow louder and with more clarity.
Here's some practical tips for fasting that I've compiled from a few resources:
This is why we attempt to have a regular practice of church-wide prayer and fasts. For your convenience here's the prayer points for our time together tomorrow as a church. I hope to see as many of you as possible tomorrow night (7:30 pm) and look forward to seeing how God uses this time in our lives individually and for us as a church body.
1. Healing: pray for our many church members who are experiencing physical affliction. pray for the gift of healing to be imparted to our church as well.
2. All In Series
- Thank God that He's "All In" for us
- Ask God to help us treasure Him more
- Grow in our love for one another
- Ask God for opportunities to disciple others
- Steward our resources in ways that glorify God (time, gifts, and money)