As our new year kicks off in September, we are leaning heavily on God as we continue in pandemic times. We are taking this month to pray and fast. For a lot of people fasting is a new idea and so we want to explain why and how we can fast and pray.
With Diaspora in September, we will finish our series on the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus’ most in-depth message in the Bible. In October and November, we will expand on our spring series with more teaching and experiences about praying and hearing God. Another reason to fast and pray in preparation.
Fasting is a practice that has been part of the Church since the beginning.
We fast for several reasons:
-to help us focus our hunger on God instead of food
-fasting is an act of worship that helps us hear from God
-to live out the truth that God is our nourishment, our food and drink
-to remind us to pray with regularity each day just as we eat meals
-to demonstrate our devotion to God, putting him above our physical needs
-to demonstrate the seriousness of prayer – it is life giving to us
-we fast as part of following God so we also seek to act in accordance with God’s other teachings including loving our neighbour
When fasting is referred to in the Bible it speaks of giving up food or drink.
So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting. I also wore rough burlap and sprinkled myself with ashes.
So you go to the Temple on the next day of fasting, and read the messages from the Lord that I have had you write on this scroll. Read them so the people who are there from all over Judah will hear them.
‘We have fasted before you!’ they say.
‘Why aren’t you impressed?
We have been very hard on ourselves,
and you don’t even notice it!’
“I will tell you why!” I respond.
“It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves.
Even while you fast,
you keep oppressing your workers.
4 What good is fasting
when you keep on fighting and quarreling?
This kind of fasting
will never get you anywhere with me.
5 You humble yourselves
by going through the motions of penance,
bowing your heads
like reeds bending in the wind.
You dress in burlap
and cover yourselves with ashes.
Is this what you call fasting?
Do you really think this will please the Lord?
6 “No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
7 Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
8 “Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
9 Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumours!
Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer.
One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Appoint Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.” So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way.
This month, we are inviting our Diaspora family to fast in such a way that it is a challenge to you. You are seeking to grow in faith and in worship, prayer and hearing God’s voice. Fasting helps.
You can fast food and/or drink. Or you can choose to fast something else. For instance, you could fast social media, cell phones, caffeine, chocolate, netflix or something else. It is still an act of worship as you put God first and redirect your desire for the fasted item to desire for God.
In that desire/hunger, you can worship, journal, read the Bible, and especially pray including listening for God to speak to you. This is another good chance to use our Hearing God training from this year.
How often should you fast?
We invite you to take this as a challenge and opportunity to grow in faith, worship, prayer and listening to God. Do take your physical limitations into consideration. If you wanted to do an extended food fast you should consult a doctor first. But don’t just give in to your usual pattern of eating.
You could fast food for a day a week, a meal a week, one day of the month, or a particular meal each day for a week or all month. There’s room for the faith challenge that works in your case. You can fast other items for whatever time period God is leading you to. Ask God what you should do! And then go for it!
As you fast and pray use the techniques you learning in Hearing God. Read the scriptures, take time to listen, journal a conversation with God, expect to hear from God, and use the SMORP acronym. (Scripture, Message, Obedience, Repentance, Prayer)
Fasting is one more good biblical method for us to draw close to God. As His children we seek to hear His voice.