Saturday, March 27, 2010

Week of Prayer and Fasting

Our elders are starting a week of prayer and fasting tomorrow in preparation for Easter and in preparation for some big decisions we are facing in the next month. I will be offline all week and not be updating my blog. Here are a few of my thoughts on fasting that I put together for our church leaders. I pray that they are helpful to you as you approach times of fasting in your own life:

A couple of thoughts on fasting:

1. Definition: Traditionally, the word has been used to talk about voluntarily abstaining from food and/or drink for a certain period of time. Throughout church history, people have fasted for certain days or they have fasted for a certain meal over a set of days. However, the concept of fasting can apply to anything that we want to voluntarily abstain from that will allow us more time and energy to focus on God. The idea is to set aside something that is morally neutral (like food) to remind us that we are dependent on God for everything in life.

2. Wrong Goals: The Bible speaks explicitly about the danger of thinking that fasting (and other forms of religious activity) will move God to do something we want Him to do on our behalf. I encourage you to read Isaiah 58:1-12 and Zechariah 7:1-14 for clear warnings about using fasting as a means to manipulate God. In both of those passages, God reminds His people that what He wants most in his people is a heart like His (godly character and compassion) rather than empty religious activity. This does not mean, however, that fasting is unimportant. Jesus assumes that his followers will fast (read Matthew 6:16-18), but again makes sure to warn us of the temptation of trying to show others how holy we are by fasting.

3. Right Goals: Jesus says that instead of fasting for others to be impressed by our display of devotion to God, we should use times of fasting to actually draw near to God. In my own life, I have found that fasting improves my ability to listen to what God is saying. As I set aside part of my regular routine in order to seek God, I find that God’s voice becomes clearer and easier to discern. With all that in mind, our motives in fasting should be to better connect with Jesus, better discern the voice and direction of the Holy Spirit, to remind ourselves that God alone is the One that we fear and follow, to check our own hearts for areas of un-confessed sin, and to spend more time in prayer.

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