Updated: May 24
Many of us will be aware by now that there is a growing theme around prayer and fasting for us as a family at St John’s. Not all of us will have the same level of understanding or experience when it comes to this, so we thought we could all continue learning together through some simple guidance found below. Ultimately there is no right or wrong way in this area, however scripture shows us there is power in a united approach within communities.
When it comes to prayer specifically, it is significant when we:
Pray for - Gods kingdom to come in our world/neighbourhood/household
Regularly - intercede for those whom God has laid on our hearts.
Use the - Psalms of Ascent as prayers over Clarendon Park and abroad.
When it comes to connecting prayer and fasting together we can:
Use our - discomfort as a reminder that all is not well in our communities
Identify - with those who hunger and thirst, waiting for provision
Wait on - God, just as we wait on our next meal, expectant He will respond
Prayer Meeting Tonight (Wednesday 24th May) - 7.30pm - Octagon Room
Then if you are available, please do join us tonight at 7.30pm in the Octagon Room for an evening of Prayer & Worship. This will end at 9pm with breaking fast together by eating Baked Potatoes!
General Guidance on Fasting
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.