Prayer and Fasting

fastingWe are moving forward in our series about the spiritual discipline of prayer; about creating a rhythm of life that it is in communication with Jesus. Prayer, as we looked at last week, it NOT about asking for things – even good things.

The goal of prayer is to get to know God! It is about bring our heart, soul, lives into unity with God.

In keeping with that theme, we will be talking about prayer and fasting (click here to listen to the audio version of this talk). Next week, on March 30th, we will be kicking off a 21-day corporate prayer and fasting period. This has become a tradition in our church with this year marking the fourth year we have done this. It is interesting to me how God has used this periods of fasting and prayer within the life of our church

o    2011 – Pastoral transition from Brian to Emily and me
o    2012 – Looking at buying property; we actually bought the land right after the fast ended
o    2013 – A period of looking at our souls, our family, our jobs, our calling

*    It was a tough time in the church
*    The evil one was attacking us from all sides

o    2014 – We are combining all the elements from the last three years

*    Pastor transition
*    Building plans
*    Renewed life with God
*    Fighting off attacks

Because of all of the stuff that is going on, we need to be in tune with God more than ever. Remember, fasting is not about getting answers to these problems per say.  We are not trying to change God’s mind or force Him to talk to us. We are not trying to get God to like us better

Fasting is about re-aligning OUR mind, heart and soul coming into line with God’s

We get distracted; we get confused; we get sidetracked. We need to re-tune our lives so that we are inline with God’s plumb-line.

Psalms 139:23-24

•    Let us turn to Psalms 139 for a bit
•    This is a song of King David

o    The most famous king of ancient Israel
o    The man whom God testified about saying ‘I have found in David the son of Jesse a man after my heart, who will do all my will.’ –Acts 13:22

•    In other words, when David writes down something we should listen
•    The Psalm starts with David acknowledging that God knows everything

o    God has searched him and knows his thoughts
o    There is no were that David can go to get away from God
o    God formed him in his mother’s womb
o    David, as such, seeks to love the things God loves and hate the things that God hates

•    Then in the last two verses comes a powerful statement

Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting!

•    Let us unpack these two verses a bit as they will guide us into this journey of fasting

o    Let these two verses be on your lips as you pray and fast
o    Dwell on them
o    Mediate on them
o    Breath them

•    “Search me, God,”

o    David gives God permission to come close
o    This is powerful as we can tell God to stay away
o    We can hold back the dark corners of our lives
o    Unforgiveness, bitterness, lack of trust, pet sins we want to keep…
o    If God is really who we say He is, then we should come to Him like David and say “Search me, go deep with me, all that I am is your Lord”

•    “know my heart”

o    David is asking God to show him what he loves in this life
o    We need to follow David’s example
o    To asking God to know our heart, to reveal to us that we care about the most
o    To unpack the perversions and distortions of our hearts and make it clean
o    God wants to renew us, to give us a clean heart
o    To do that, we have to allow him to come in with a broom and clean up

•    “test me”

o    David continues on in this dynamic moment of Spirit-led honesty
o    He wants God to make known to him what he truly believes
o    Do we really believe God’s word?
o    Do we really believe that God loves us and has mercy towards us?
o    Do we truly believe that God has our best interests in mind?
o    Test us God, put us to the test!
o    We want to know you more!

•    “know my anxious thoughts”

o    To welcome God into the emotional components of our lives
o    To come into our vulnerabilities
o    To root through my emotional makeup and speak to me about any strongholds you see

•    “See if there is any offensive way in me”

o    David is inviting God to shine a spotlight on the sins in his life
o    Are we brave enough to do this?
o    It is scary, I know… I’m reading the Scriptures and going, “oh my Lord, I don’t want to do that!”
o    I would rather not come to you with this message because it means that I have to do it!
o    Yet, what is the alternative?
o    To tell my Lover, my King, the one who I have given everything too – to tell the one whom I would die for that they are meaningless to me?!
o    NO! A thousand times no!!
o    I no longer belong to myself – I have been bought by the blood of the Lamb
o    I no longer live for myself or for my own desires
o    I belong to Jesus
o    As such, I MUST – I HAVE TOO – say, “Jesus, search me – test me – see if there is any wickedness in me – root it is out, take it out – help me O Lord for I’m a man of unclean lips living in a people of unclean lips!”

•    “lead me in the way everlasting!”

o    Why go through all this?!
o    First off because God tells us too!!
o    Secondly, because this is the way to life everlasting
o    To hang onto our sins and stuff is to be dead
o    The way to life, to real life, is to open yourself up to God and allow him to replace your heart, desires, wants, needs, with His heart, desires, wants and needs
o    It is a heart transplant

Corporate Fasting

•    Next week as we kick off a 21-day corporate fast, I think we need to review Psalms 139
•    We need to drink it in
•    We need to internalize Psalms 139:17-18

How amazing are your thoughts concerning me!
   How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

•    God wants the best for us!
•    The kicker is that we disagree with God on what is ‘best’

o    We want to define it our way
o    Money in the bank
o    No troubles
o    No problems
o    Everyone doing what we want them too

•    Let me tell you, the way to grow is through strife!

o    We don’t like it
o    But it is how we grow deeper in knowing God

•    If we truly want to know God, then we have to let Him in deep

o    If we truly want to know God, then we have to go to where we have no options but to trust him
o    We have to say “no” to ourselves and let him catch us

•    As we enter this time of fasting and praying, my prayer – my hope – for each of us is that we will let God search us and test us
•    Let us go deep

Practical Stuff

•    On a practical side, I know that it is easy to dismiss this time of prayer and fasting due to one’s health limits or work type
•    A lot of times when we hear the word “fasting” we think of not eating anything solid

o    We think that in order to fast we have to go on a liquid only diet

•    In the 1st Century, the most common type of fasting was a partial fast

o    It was removing all meat and rich foods
o    Sugars, cakes and the like

•    The people of the 1st Century couldn’t go inside to a central cooled or heated room

o    They had to work hard to survive

•    They didn’t have the luxury of doing a full liquid only fast

o    As such, they just removed part of their diet
o    That way every time they wanted meat or sugars they would remember what they were doing

•    For those of you who have health limits or do hard manual work

o    I would ask you all to prayerfully consider a partial fast
o    Talk to God about it this week and see what He says

•    Perhaps God will tell us to give up coffee

o    or meat and sugar
o    Or something else
o    I don’t know what the King will tell you

•    I just know that this is the season of Lent
•    God wants to go deep with us