Posts categorized Fasting and Prayer
Sometimes I listen with such intensity to music and voices and sundry sounds that I can’t hear my life.
What is my life saying and singing and sounding?
Frederich Buechner suggests that muting the noise pollution from time to time is critical to hearing my life.
“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”
Over the years I have made feeble efforts at transforming my narrowly defined Lenten fast into a more broadly experience Lenten rhythm of life.
I have heard the two most common items people fast during Lent are alcohol and chocolate. May I suggest abstaining from two things during your fast?
Abstaining from speed and sound. Slow down. Quiet down.
Listen to your life.
Sure doesn’t resonate with the soul, “He is an undisciplined Jesus follower.”
God’s spectacular gift of grace is often lived out as the removal of all faithful discipline and effort on the part of grace’s recipient.
Yes, God’s grace is an expensive, valuable, and luxurious gift given from His heart of love and mercy to all who are willing to welcome it’s reception.
What if discipline is required to embrace grace and faith and mercy?
Since faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God, might the discipline required to hear the word of God be a good thing?
James values the significance of the disciplines of drawing near to God, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you (James 4:8).”
Jesus fully supported the acts of the righteous life, private prayer, private fasting, and private alms, as assumed disciplines active in His followers lives.
God calls us, during the Lenten season, to the disciplines of grace; especially the grace of fasting, abstaining, and praying.
May it be said of us, “They are disciplined Jesus followers.”
Awaken the Wonder of the Holy Spirit For Me
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. Romans 8:26
Awaken the Wonder of the Holy Spirit In Me
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? 1 Corinthians 6:19
Awaken the Wonder of the Holy Spirit Upon Me
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
Awaken the Wonder of the Holy Spirit Through Me
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6
In the New Testament, we see the Holy Spirit empowering life and service for God’s mission in the world.
“…a Pentecostal perspective on Spirit baptism is integral to our continued sense of expectation and effectiveness in mission.” Bob Menzies
All believers are entitled to and should ardently expect and earnestly seek the promise of the Father.
- Luke 24:48-49
- Acts 1:4
- Acts 2:33
- Acts 2:39
This glorious “promise of the Father” is promised in Joel 2:28-32.
- I will pour out
- My Spirit
- On all flesh
- Prophecy, dreams, and visions.
What did an Old Testament “pour out” look like? Numbers 11:24-29
- The Lord came down in the cloud. 25
- Took some of the Spirit that was upon Moses and put it upon the 70 elders. 25
- As soon as the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. 25
What did a New Testament “pour out” look like? Acts 2:1-13
- Suddenly there came from heaven. 2
- With a sound of a mighty rushing wind. 2
- Divided tongues of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 3
- And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Vs. 4
- And began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. 4
Without a doubt, God has committed the “promise of the Father” to you.
- We ardently expect the promise of the Father (characterized by warmth of feeling typically expressed in eager zealous support or activity).
- We earnestly seek the promise of the Father (characterized by or proceeding from an intense and serious state of mind).
We ardently expect and earnestly seek God’s “pour out” of His Spirit upon each and every one of us.
The Bible reveals a solid link between fasting, prayer, and prophecy.
- Biblical prophetic promises
- Contemporary prophetic promises
- Personal prophetic promises
God is speaking His promises in the past, present, and future. Francis Schaeffer captures this truth in the title of his 1972 book, “He is There and He is Not Silent.”
From my perspective, fasting and prayer accomplishes the following in relation to God’s prophetic voice:
- Fasting and prayer, demonstrating humility and commitment, catches the attention of God and He responds by desiring to release His voice to you.
- Fasting and prayer, demonstrating humility and commitment, aligns my whole being with the ‘frequency’ of God and I hear what He has already been speaking.
- Fasting and prayer, demonstrating humility and commitment, helps silence my competing wills, and aligns me with the will of God and the process of hearing what He is saying about His will.
- Fasting and prayer and aligning myself with the will of God to hear the voice of God precedes the actions of God.
2 Chronicles 20
After this the Moabites and Ammonites, and with them some of the Meunites,[a] came against Jehoshaphat for battle. 2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A great multitude is coming against you from Edom,[b] from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar” (that is, Engedi). 3 Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4 And Judah assembled to seek help from the Lord; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.
5 And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court, 6 and said, “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. 7 Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 8 And they have lived in it and have built for you in it a sanctuary for your name, saying, 9 ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment,[c] or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ 10 And now behold, the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir, whom you would not let Israel invade when they came from the land of Egypt, and whom they avoided and did not destroy— 11 behold, they reward us by coming to drive us out of your possession, which you have given us to inherit. 12 O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
13 Meanwhile all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children. 14 And the Spirit of the Lord came[d] upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, son of Benaiah, son of Jeiel, son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. 15 And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. 16 Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”
18 Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. 19 And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.
20 And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” 21 And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say,
“Give thanks to the Lord,
for his steadfast love endures forever.”
22 And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed.23 For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another.
“Shut in with God in a Secret Place,” a song of unknown authorship, invites me to create a space where I remove every distraction and focus entirely upon God. Truthfully, both removing and focusing are a challenge.
Exteriority may be the natural tendency of the sinful heart. Eve and Adam, after their disobedience, practiced exteriority when they hid from God. Maybe, without thinking, they “hid” their exterior.
Surely, our first parents knew their interiority sourced the broken relationship and took the greatest damage. The inclination of the heart, from then until now, is to build a false sense of security through personal emphasis on exteriority.
In hiding my exterior, maybe my shattered and paralyzed interior won’t be noticed. Maybe my idolatry, fraudulence, incompetence, and self preservation can hide from God too.
In the secret place with God I gain the faith to come out from my misbelief that I can and should hide my true heart condition. This same faith walks with me, broken and contrite, toward God.
In this journey toward God, I discover my fears are completely unwarranted.
“The quickest way for anyone to reach the sun and the light of day is not to run west, chasing after the setting sun, but to head east, plunging into the darkness until one comes to the sunrise.” Gerald L. Sittser, A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows through Loss
Jesus invites me into poverty of spirit and reveals an almost immeasurable urgency by saying, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).”
The Living Word connects my entrance into the kingdom of heaven with being poor in spirit.
Why then do we exert so much energy, effort, and time to propping up our imagined spiritual assets? Why build a sense of righteousness on a non-existent foundation of self capacity? Why pretend before the All Knowing God?
This 21 Days of Fasting and Prayer I am inviting you into the place of contemplation pictured in the song, “Shut in with God in a Secret Place.”
The sweet Spirit of God begins to open our eyes to various props with which we avoid our total inability to effect salvation or right standing with God.
From my perspective, the largest and most significant prop we hold and that prohibits us from “taking hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us,” is “I.”
The western world has deified personal opinion. “I think” has become this generation’s “infallible and authoritative word of god.” The God of the Ten Commandments, 1 Corinthians 13, and the Beatitudes has been replaced by the false god of “my opinion.”
The “My Opinion Idol” is worshiped, even to the point of human sacrifice, by millions of folks who have been tricked into the myth of personal opinion transcendence.
However, this idolization of personal opinion is not a new practice.
The children of Israel did the same thing as recorded in Judges 21:25, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” It didn’t end well for Israel and it won’t end well for us.
Total surrender to the Word of God, the will of God, and the ways of God is the only antidote to this diabolical idol. I must be crucified with Christ! All the way on the cross. Dead to self entirely.
In your fasting and prayer closet, will you ask God to “tear down my idols of personal opinion so I stand totally dependent upon God and His grace?”
Day eight of our Twenty-One Days of Fasting and Prayer is being marked by an intensity of prayer and pursuit of God. Glory to God!
Our noon prayer meeting, last week, featured Dick Eastman’s “Hour that Changes the World” model of prayer. Starting today, for the rest of this week, we will be praying each noontime according to a prayer guide I have prepared called, RENEW. The renewal of God’s work within me is one of my great needs.
In our RENEW prayer time we will be considering these five components of renewal, 1. Return, 2. Enter, 3. Notice, 4. Engage, 5. Wonder.
Return Renewal begins with a returning of the whole heart to the Father.
- Luke 15:20 – The prodigal returns to Father
Enter Returning to the Father, we see that He has much for us to enter.
- Ezra 3:11-13 – Upon returning to Israel, they built the foundation of the Temple
Notice As we enter, we notice much about ourselves that must change.
- James 1:22-24 – Forgetting one’s own mirror image
Engage As changed persons, we fully engage ourselves in further renewal.
- Ezra 7:10 – Ezra had set his heart to study, do, and teach the word
Wonder Renewed and fully engaged, we see God’s wondrous graces
- Acts 13:41 – God is doing a work that scoffers won’t believe
- Acts 15:12 – People fall silent upon hearing the wonders of God
May God grant significant renewal to you and me as we humble ourselves in fasting and prayer.
Being “shut in with God in the secret place” often creates a life-shaking crisis of macro magnitude. For this reason I tend to run AWAY from long seasons of intense time with God, separated from my normal routines. What kind of crazy person would intentionally move toward a life-shaking crisis?
God, it seems, gets a big kick out of showing me all of the ways I prop my fragile self up with inferior goods and false beliefs. Knowing that my soul is susceptible to the wind and waves, I intuitively pursue the unmovable, permanent, and unshakeable.
My friend, Rick Enloe, told the story of a new resident of the USA Gulf Coast. Hearing that a hurricane was fast approaching, he immediately went to the beach to save his boat from the approaching storm. The best way (he figured) to secure his prized yacht was to tie it off to a large variety of unmovable, permanent, and unshakeable things.
He tied his prized possession to a towering tree, a boat house, and the dock. About this time an old experienced storm survivor was walking down the beach and said, “Howdy, friend. You are new around here, aren’t you?” Taken back, the guy says, “Yes. How can you tell?”
“Oh, that is easy. You have just tied your boat to everything the hurricane is about to destroy.”
Like the new boat owner, I have tied my life off to many a thing that I mistakenly believe has the power and groundedness to give me a sense of stability.
The scripture says, “My soul finds rest in God alone.” All the props I gather around myself are totally inadequate to provide even a hint of solidity.
It is so easy for me to falsely believe, “My soul finds rest in God and career or God and a retirement plan or God and good health.”
Listening to my life in a season of fasting and prayer allows me to hear God’s tender voice saying, “Son, career, retirement plans, and health are all very fragile gifts. Don’t cling to the gift. Hold strong and long to the Gift Giver.”
One by one God removes my inadequate props and I fear that my self can not survive. In that moment I learn again that my weakly gathered props are not supporting me, but I am supporting them with false hopes and beliefs.
God Himself and God alone is the unmovable, unshakeable, and permanent foundation for life.
As you fast and pray, I invite you to allow God to challenge your props. Tell yourself the truth. Only God is adequate.
I trust that you and I can live honestly before the Lord, prop free.
“It’s not until God is all you have that you understand that God is all you need.” When Pastor Gary Cox said these words many years ago I knew they had depth beyond my comprehension.
When one says, “All I need is God and ________ (job, spouse, busyness, friends, money, car, etc),” the “and” is truly saying,”God isn’t enough.” Whatever my “and” might be, it is an idol and a false god.
Being “shut in with God in a secret place” invites me to confront personal idolatry. As I fast, I notice my brain and body saying, “All I need is God and food.”
However, my spirit knows that if I never eat another calorie, but have God, I genuinely have more than enough.
Today, I confront the idolatry of food.
All I need is God.
Picture from http://www.lucyannmoll.com/say-no-flee-idolatry/
Quiet. Motionless. Focused. Solitude. Meditation. Listening.
To these, against the grain and pressures of life, you are invited by our Lord. Gently, Jesus calls you to seasons of significantly reduced internal and external stimuli so that you can hear, deep in your soul, the voice of the Father.
A song from my childhood begs for reflection on this first day of our fasting and prayer.
The disciples were praying for the power to fall
Ten days they did tarry, on God they did call
Then God sent His spirit to baptize them all
For they had been shut in with God
Shut in with God in a secret place
There in the spirit, beholding His face
Gaining new power to run in this race
Oh, I love to be shut in with God
Of all pleasant places on land or on sea
There’s no place on earth that is sweeter to me
Than to kneel at the feet of my Master and Lord
For there, I’ll be shut in with God
The pathway to Heaven, though rugged it may be
I’ll travel ’til my precious Saviour I’ll see
Then the gates of that city will open for me
And there I’ll be shut in with God
Listen to an old school version here.