Updated: Mar 22
Tuesday 21st March to Thursday 23rd March 2023
This week as part of our Lent observance, we hold three days of prayer and fasting. We are doing this because we sense the Spirit leading us to do so. We have an on-going sense of the Spirit calling us to ‘wait on him’ akin to the way the disciples obeyed Jesus’ instruction in Acts 1:8 to wait for the coming of the Spirit. Prayer and fasting emphasise our human limitations and our dependency on God. They are a way of placing ourselves in a position of humility and surrender and opening ourselves to the work of the Spirit. It is so powerful when we chose to do this corporately. I encourage all of us to take part in some way. I am conscious that the extent to which we can do this will vary from person to person. Also, for some of us, prayer and fasting may be a completely new experience for us, for others, we are old hands. So, I encourage you to take part in this in a manner appropriate to you and in a manner that represents a small step forward for you in this area. Here’s some examples of how you might take part:
Fast from food for all or some of the time. If you are new to fasting, I suggest simply fasting for a short time, maybe skip one meal and devote the time you would have spent eating to prayer.
Fast from something else for all or some of the time – a type of food, TV, social media, etc.
Prayer walk – maybe at lunch time go on a prayer walk around the area praying a listening to what God is saying.
Join with others to pray – arrange a get together for prayer.
Attend the gathered prayer at 8pm on Thurs 23 March after which we will break fast together.
If you are only fasting for a short time, we would encourage you to fast for the end of the three days, so that whenever you fast it finishes on Thursday at 8pm.
Day 1 Prayer Guidance
Here are some thoughts on the focus for prayer on day 1 of fasting from Sami.
We are praying in response to an on-going sense of the Holy Spirit speaking about waiting on God. In Acts 1, Jesus instructed his disciples to wait for the Spirit before embarking on the mission. The Spirit would empower and equip them to witness to the ends of the earth. The disciples obediently yielded themselves to Jesus and grew in hunger for and dependency on the Spirit. The call to witness to the ends of the earth is an open ended one – as Christ’s church, we share that call. For those early disciples, the risen Jesus was the embodiment of hope for a broken world. When the Spirit came, they were filled with zeal to share that hope.
On day 1 of prayer and fasting, let’s pray that we may see with new eyes the brokenness and lostness of our world – to put this another way, pray we see people around us as God sees them. What we are talking about here is sensing God’s heart for our friends, neighbours, work colleagues, family members, and the wider community in which we live – that is our mission field, that is where we begin.
So, join me today in praying that God would break our hearts for the things that break his. You might want to mediate on some Bible verses as below.
‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ John 3:16
Jesus answered them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but those who are ill. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’ Luke 5:31-32
‘When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ Mat 9:36
‘Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.’ Mat 20:32
Day 2 Prayer Guidance
Here are some thoughts on the focus for prayer on day 2 of fasting from Sami.
Today, join me in praying with Jesus Then he said to his disciples, ‘to send out workers into his harvest field’ (Mat 9:32). After praying yesterday that God would fill us with his compassion for the lost and the broken, let’s today pray that God would send out workers into his harvest field. And while we do that, let’s be ready to be the answer to our own prayers. Our hurting world desperately needs to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. As God’s people together we share in the mission of Jesus to proclaim and demonstrate the kingdom of God. This will look different for all of us, it could mean: actively witnessing to our friends, leading a discipleship group or new initiative, hearing the call into intercession, working out what it means to be salt and light in the work place, finding a way of bringing loving service to our world and so on. So, pray with me that:
God would send workers into his harvest field.
For five friends/family members who don’t yet know Jesus
For open heavens – that God would pour out his powerful saving grace on our community
For boldness to share our faith
God would show you, me, and us together how he is calling us into mission.
You may also wish to meditate on the below Bible verses. And do share with us any sense of God speaking.
‘Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’ Mat 9:37-38
‘When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal those who were ill. 3 He told them: ‘Take nothing for the journey – no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. 4 Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. 5 If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’ 6 So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.’ Luke 9:1-6
‘After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 ‘The time has come,’ he said. ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!’ Mark 1:14-15
‘Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’ Mat 28:16-20
Day 3 Prayer Guidance
Here are some thoughts on the focus for prayer on day 3 of fasting from Sami.
Yesterday, some of us went prayer walking. We walked up Queen’s Road praying. We prayed on the streets of people we know who don’t yet know Jesus. We went into the school and asked them what they wanted prayer for (peace and workload is what they said). We went to places where we know darkness exists in our locality and prayed for Jesus, the Light of the World to come. Prayer walking is so powerful. It doesn’t just change others, it changes us!
Today we recognise that we cannot fulfil the call of God in our own strength and with our own wisdom. We are totally dependent on him. This was why Jesus instructed his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Spirit before heeding his call to be witnesses. The Spirit empowers us for the mission of Jesus. Jesus calls us into battle. The world doesn’t always welcome the Gospel. As we will hear in our next instalment on Ephesians this coming Sunday, ‘…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.’ The Holy Spirit gives us boldness for the mission. So we pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit: on us, on our wider community, on the people for whom we have been praying. We pray for the boldness to faithfully proclaim and demonstrate the Good News.
Do come to worship and pray together at 8pm this evening followed by food.
Bible verses to guide your meditation:
‘Again, Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ John 20:21-22
‘Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.’ Acts 4:29-31
‘Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.’ Eph 6:10-12
‘For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.’ Eph 3:14-17
‘But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ Acts 1:8
Couch to ‘3-day’ – Guide to Fasting
Below is some guidance on fasting that we have shared previously.
Fasting is a core Christian practice, part of the very basics, but something that has got lost in the Western Church over the last century or so. Jesus’ words ‘When you fast...’ suggest that it’s something he assumes his followers will do. But for many of us, the idea of fasting is new, strange, or even intimidating. But it’s a habit we can learn and grow in and has many benefits. A bit like learning to run and using the Couch to 5K model for running, fasting is something we can start slowly with and grow to be better at.
Why do Christians fast?
Much has been written in the media over recent years about the physical health benefits of fasting. But Christian fasting is primarily a spiritual habit with many spiritual benefits. Fasting is a gift; it is a means of grace. Fasting increases our dependence on God. When we’re physically weak, we can feel greater awareness of His strength. ‘Fasting… is a divine corrective to the pride of the human heart. It is a discipline of the body with a tendency to humble the soul.’ Sometimes our prayers seem to gain increased closeness or clarity. It’s a particularly good practice in those times when we feel a bit spiritually stuck, plateaued, or dry, when we are finding other disciplines difficult. Fasting can help give us a bit of a kick-start. Don’t get sucked into a sort of ‘super-spiritualism’ where the physical feat becomes the goal or the focus. It’s a tool to help us honour God, draw close to Him and see breakthrough in prayer. So what are the spiritual reasons to fast. Here are some, fasting:
is Biblical (Matthew 9:15)
increases our dependence on God
helps us divert our attention from fleshly distractions and place our attention on God. It is a way of seeking his wisdom (Daniel 9:3)
restores intimacy (Joel 2:12-13)
provokes divine intervention in our lives and the lives of those around us, (Esther 4:16)
amplifies the power of prayer. It acts as an accompaniment to prayer in certain situations (Ezra 8:23, Mark 9:29)
crucifies the power of the flesh and helps us overcome temptation (Luke 4:2-4)
exposes our carnal nature and helps us get rid of them (Isaiah 58:3-7)
is a way of consecrating ourselves to God (Joel 1:14)
How does it work?
Simple really, just voluntarily go without food for a set period and include times of prayer within that (one good option is to pray when you would usually have been preparing/eating food). If food is a difficult issue for you or there are health complications involved, feel free to wisely avoid this practice without any guilt or pressure...there are alternative ways of fasting. For example, you could choose to eliminate luxury foods for a period or fast from TV or social media and instead use the time to pray. But for most of us, completely fasting from food is probably something we’re more capable of than we realise.
Start small, just skipping one or two meals and fasting food but not drink. Work up to 24 hour fasts from food and drink (except water. Keep drinking water.). Once you have reached 24 hours, consider going for longer. Do be careful about any health reasons why you shouldn’t do this, but if none are present, extending your fasting time to 2, 3 or more days can be a spiritually powerful experience. If you do fast for a longer time, keep drinking water, rest lots, and you may need to take paracetamol to help with caffeine withdrawal or headaches. If you plan to go longer than two days, before you do it, make sure you read further the practical guidelines about how to do it. A good book is ‘God’s Chosen Fast’ by Arthur Wallace, or Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.