My studies of the Spiritual Disciplines and the Lent season have recently lead me down a path to a face-to-face confrontation with the need for fasting and prayer in the daily lives of Christians.
In recent years, I have come to personally discover the power of ardent, submissive prayer to our Heavenly Father. His healing, provision, guidance, peace, and grace are all available to us if we will just submit to him and speak to him. Prayer has become something that is no longer a chore for me, but something that I long to do. I find myself praying in some of the oddest places and times, simply because to not pray seems inconceivable. The song Let us Pray by Steven Curtis Chapman comes to mind, because he tells us to “pray without end, and when we’re finished start again”. But this is not the only key to prayer. We must also be sumissive in our prayers – willing to accept and incarnate the will of God in our lives, even when what God is telling us seems to go against the motives of self. We must also bring faith to our prayers. Without faith, our prayers lack the power to transform – not God, but ourselves. Without faith that God will answer our prayer with a definitive YES or NO in his time, the prayer itself lacks a critical element.
Fasting is a discipline that I have found myself contemplating a lot lately. It has been on my mind considerably for the last 8 months or so, but I must confess that I have yet to practice it. This is not because I am lazy, or because I find it unimortant. On the contrary, I am discovering that fasting is a critical aspect of a submissive Christian’s life. JD Walt recently gave a wonderfully insightful glance at the significance of fasting which you can read on the Asbury Seminary blog here:
He discusses the fact that fasting is more than just the “giving up” of food to show that we are disciplined and devoted to the will of God. Instead, it is an opportunity to transform ourselves, and realize that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. It is about recognizing that the need for our spiritual bread is more important than physical satisfaction – that we can live without the physical, but not without the grace and love of God.
So what am I waiting for? Why haven’t I fasted yet? Fear . . .
I’m not afraid of giving something up – we have been asked to give up many things to follow Christ, and have received more blessings than I can count in return. There is no fear for me in doing without, for God’s provision is truly enough. I am, however, afraid of “getting it wrong”. I read the other day that fasting was such a common part of the Jewish lifestyle, that there was no question how or when to do it. It is sad how we have let the Disciplines fade from our culture to the point where these things are no longer common knowledge. I am a victim of my own lack of knowledge on “how” to fast. I am also afraid of the outcome, in all honesty. God has been working so mightily in my life and that of my wife, and he has taught us to take steps – one at a time – toward his goal. Sometimes I feel that if I begin the fast, I will be plunged headlong into the race. From that moment on, there will be no more baby steps – I will have to really “run for the prize”.
So why does that frighten me? Because a stumble at a run hurts a lot more than one at a crawl. And I don’t want to fail Him.
But maybe its time to release myself from the paralyzing fear of messing up a perfection that I alone can never attain anyway. Maybe it is time to answer the call to a life of Discipline. Maybe its time to enter the race, and allow God to open up a whole new realm of possibilities in my life.
Is it time for you?