Monday, October 13, 2003

Turning it over to God (10/13/03)

I frequently ask new people if they'd like to join this fasting and prayer group. As you can guess, they frequently answer "no". The top excuse I hear goes something like "I don't do so good giving up food" or "I can't concentrate at work on an empty stomach" or "I work in construction and not eating could be dangerous". Perhaps we should expand what we think of when we hear the word "fast". As Christians, fasting is the act of practicing self-denial in an effort to strengthen our reliance on God through prayer. This self-denial does not have to be food. It could be coffee, television, spending money, or anything else that would personally remind us to frequently turn to prayer. So, next time someone is giving you that "food" excuse, give them the alternatives.

Does this mean we should be able to grow our numbers rapidly? The main excuse no longer holds water. Should we even be trying to grow this list? What's it matter? Why get more people started fasting? In a moment of clarity last week, one possible answer came to me - the way we pray when we are fasting starts us down the path of truly turning things over to God. It helps to teach us when and how to pray. Sure, many of us have quiet time set aside in our daily schedule. Our typical quiet time involves prayer, bible reading and reflection. The trap we can fall into is letting it be the only prayer time in our day. As satan attacks us throughout the day, instant prayer response is needed to nip him in the bud. Fasting trains us for this instant prayer response. Fasting is rehearsing our prayer response with a benign temptation such as food so that we turn to prayer immediately for the malignant temptations (greed, envy, lust, etc.). It's like prayer aerobics. We're being trained to turn to God instead of ourselves.
So basically, this week we are praying for our fast. We're praying that the fast teaches us what it's supposed to teach us. Let's also pray that we can get more people "exercising" along with us.

Have a great week and a great fast.
Your brother,