It took me awhile, but I finally thought of how the disciplines of FASTING and PRAYER are connected without using a food analogy (I just didn’t think using peanut butter and jelly was appropriate). Fasting and prayer go together like a baseball and a catcher’s mitt. The “fast” ball would not have a target when it is thrown and would just go anywhere without the catcher’s mitt to show it target to aim for. The catcher’s mitt (Prayer) would not have a defined focus and purpose, if there wasn’t a “fast” ball to catch. Fasting helps us focus on prayer. And prayer is more defined and Christ-centered when we fast. When we fast to make more time to pray, our hunger reminds us of our need for the God we are praying to. We become more focused on Him when we are passionate about getting to know God better. (It’s the best I can do without using food.)
In another writing, my wise brother in Christ reminded me of another definition of “passion” which I did not consider in one of my previous blog posts. He writes, “Many of us think ‘passion’ as something that we should desire. If we are ‘passionate’ about something, it means that we are driven with desire to fulfill a task. The meaning of the word ‘passion’ in the early Church meant ‘to suffer’ When we speak of Christ’s passion, we speak of His suffering during the events of His crucifixion.”
What am I “passionate” about? What am I willing to “suffer” for? Am I willing to “suffer” for the pleasures of my sinful nature: gluttony, pride, lust, anger, greed? These sinful pleasures come so naturally. My brother in Christ writes, “But in reality, these things cause us to suffer and are pulling us away from God. We cannot serve two masters Christ teaches us. (Matt. 6:24)” He also adds, “…to be healed from them, we have to fight. We don’t fight in our own strength, but in the Grace of Jesus Christ. It is still a fight, however, because healing from these [sinful] passions feels very unnatural to us. But in fact, the effects of these passions in our life are quite unnatural. We were never created for this.”
“What a man loves, that he certainly desires; and what he desires, that he strives to obtain” (Abba Evagrius, “Directions on Spiritual Training).
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
My brother in the Lord concludes, “In this life, we either strive to obtain God, or we strive to obtain the things that are opposed to God and are controlling us.”
What am I “passionate” about? What am I willing to “suffer” for? I want to be passionate for God. I want to be willing to suffer to know Him better, to love Him more, to do His will for my life, to love others as He loves me. To grow closer to God and do His will and to love others as He loves me, I must fight with the Grace of God. One of the ways to fight is to PRAY AND FAST.
PRAY AND FAST: During the times we usually eat a meal, we can instead use that time to pray. Jesus teaches us how to pray in Matthew 6:5-13:
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, Who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. This, then, is how you should pray:
‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be Your Name,
Your kingdom come,
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’”
In what is known as “The Lord’s Prayer”, we learn that we need to see God as our Father Who loves us. At the same time we must honor Him Who is above all, with reverence and respect. We also need to pray for His Kingdom to come and that His will would be accomplished in the world. We also pray for our physical needs to be met one day at a time, as well as pray for our spiritual need to be forgiven and be given the grave to forgive others. We finally pray not to be led into temptation and for our Father to protect us from the evil one. Adoration and praise for our Heavenly Father, praying for our spiritual and physical needs and for protection are all in The Lord’s Prayer. These are the needs we all need to pray for.
Prayer is a hard concept to grasp. God know our every need, even before we know them at times, yet He wants us to talk to Him and tell Him what He already knows. It is so strange, but not if we THINK about it outside our human “box” called the “brain”. Prayer is really for our benefit and not for God’s. Prayer is not only talking TO God. Prayer is talking WITH God. It is a two-way conversation. Prayer involves us talking to God, and it also involves us LISTENING to God. Before we say anything, we sit and wait, try to clear our minds of everything that is around us [That’s why closing our eyes is helpful] and be still before God. After a time, God will call to your mind what we need to pray about.
Many people my age, also younger and older than I am, like to use mnemonics to help them remember things. For example, a sister in the Lord uses General Electric Power Company to help her remember the order of Paul’s first four Epistles: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians. Another helpful way to remember things is using anachronismns. For example, the word ACTS is used by some Christians to order their prayers: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. Personally, I have this thing about first praying in adoration, then confession. It sounds, to me at least, like I’m buttering up God, so that He’ll forgive me. I know….it’s just my thing. Anyway, I am more comfortable with praying in CAST: Confession, Adoration, Supplication and Thanksgiving. The reason I like to start praying with confession is I believe unconfessed sins get in the way of my relationship and my communication with the Lord. If I have sin in my heart, I want God to reveal it to me, so I can confess it and God will get it out of the way, so I can hear what He wants me to hear from Him and be able to pray for others (See James 5:16).
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses [saints of old], let us THROW off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the Author and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him Who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
PRAYER OF CONFESSION: Sometimes, it is good to learn from others as to how to pray. It also helps me to be able to use my own words in prayer after I have read the prayers of others:
“Most merciful God, we confess that we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word and deed. By what we have done and what we have left undone. We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. For the sake of Your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us, forgive us, and lead us, so that we may delight in Your will and walk in Your ways, to the glory of Your Holy Name. Amen” (Prayer before Communion, in the Lutheran Church).
“Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your unfailing love; according to Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin…Surely You desire truth in the inner parts; You teach me Your wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:1-2, 6-7).
“O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth [spiritual malaise, faithlessness] faint-heartedness, lust of power and idle talk. But give me chastity [integrity, wholeness], humility, patience, and love to Your servant. Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own errors and not to judge my brothers. For You are blessed unto ages of ages. Amen” (St. Ephrem the Syrian – 306-373 A.D.).
“Abba Father, I offer myself to You as a living sacrifice. I ask that your Holy Spirit’s light of truth might shine upon my heart and reveal to me all that is not of You. Give me eyes to see it, a mind that might comprehend it, and above all give me open hands to release those things up to You, that Your Spirit might be free to manifest Himself in and through me without impediment and without measure. It is my desire to be transformed and conformed to the likeness of Your Son Jesus in accordance with Your will” (John Burnett).
“God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13b)
After reading one or more of these prayers, we may want to wait quietly, as the Lord reveals specific sins to confess and ask for His forgiveness knowing, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). During the Prayer of Confession, the Holy Spirit may bring to our minds sins of omission or a person who we need to ask his/her forgiveness or someone we need to forgive. When the Holy Spirit tells us to do something, we need to DO IT.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God…Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother; then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:9, 23-24).
“Do not repay evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:17-18).
“’In your anger do not sin’ [Psalm 4:4]: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (Ephesians 4:26-27).
With regard to confessing to one another, I want to make a suggestion: If someone has no idea that you have sinned against him/her in some way (had a bad attitude about the person or were uncomfortable being around him/her, etc.), and God has changed your attitude about him/her, I believe it’s best to keep it between you and God. For example, some people I know have told me, when they first met me they were very uncomfortable around me and had a very hard time understanding my cerebral-palsied speech. But they don’t feel that way anymore and can understand my speech. I had no idea they felt that way. It was sort of discouraging to hear that and it made me wonder how many other people feel this way. If you want to confess something to someone, I suggest you first ask yourself, “Why do I want to confess this? How will the person feel after I say this? Is it just to get it off my shoulders and make ME feel better?” I can give examples of the many times when my first impressions of someone were very judgmental (thinking he/she was a know-it-all or someone who just talks too much or is judgmental of others, etc.) I asked the Lord to forgive me and to change my heart towards that person, and He did and that’s where it stopped. It would be counter-productive to tell my friend I once had a bad attitude about him/her. God want us to THINK before we speak.
“All a man’s ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD. Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed…Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones” (Proverbs 16:2-3, 24).
“He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” (Proverbs 17:9)
“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 19:2).
It won’t be long before we hear the thump of the FASTball hitting the Catcher’s Mitt – 19 DAYS and counting!
“Life Begins When the Season Starts!”
In Christ’s Love,