[CHURCH PRAYER SERVICE JUST ENDED] [FRIDAY NIGHT LENTEN DINNER]
Is it “PRAY and FAST” or is it “PRAY FAST!” As a child I was confused about what exactly PRAYING and FASTING meant, especially when these “spiritual disciplines” were talked about during the Lenten Season. I heard adults praying fast, as though they were going for a Guinness World Record for the fastest prayer ever recited. Also, I thought “fasting” was giving up eating meat on Fridays, and sometimes on Wednesdays and Fridays. It was said in church that not eating meat during Lent was an “obligation” and a “duty” and even a “sacrifice.” If it was suppose to be a “sacrifice,” why did the “faithful” replace eating meat with going restaurant-hopping in search of delicious fish, clam, scallop, lobster and other seafood dinners? As a child, I didn’t understand where the “sacrifice” came in.
I Corinthians 13:11-13 says, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became [an adult], I gave up childish ways…For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is LOVE.”
As a young adult, I began seeing PRAYER and FASTING in a new light when I saw Jesus in a new light. Jesus became my personal Lord and Savior. My way of thinking was no longer based on a “foggy” understanding of religious beliefs, with “dos” and “don’ts”; following rules I did not understand, in order to earn my own salvation. Instead, I saw Jesus as a real person and I wanted to know Him better, just as I would a new friend. As I grew in knowing Jesus better by reading the Bible and attending a church where the Bible and the Christian Faith was taught and explained, as much as they could be this side of heaven, I realized that Jesus was worthy of my FAITH and TRUST. I believed that Jesus died for my sins and paved the way to Heaven for me [See Ephesians 2:8-9]. I had HOPE that Jesus not only died for the forgiveness of my sins, but that He also rose from the dead and will come again in glory to take His people Home [John 11:25-26, John 14:1-3, Acts 1:10-11, I Thessalonians 4:13-17]. When I grow in my understanding of Who Jesus is and what He has already done for me, I could not help but also grow in my LOVE for Him and the Family of GOD. During Jesus’ ministry on earth, He was the perfect example, in word and deed, of the greatest LOVE ever freely given. Jesus’ LOVE was a perfect example of how I am to LOVE others.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” [John 13:34-35].
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you” [John 15:12-13].
As I matured in my personal relationship with Jesus, I found that prayer did not sound like a politician constantly repeating his/her talking points over and over and over again. Prayer is talking with the One who knows everything about me and loves me unconditionally and forever. Prayer is telling Jesus how awesome He is. Prayer is trusting Jesus enough to confess my failings and know His forgiveness. Prayer is talking to my Forever Friend and thanking Him for all the things He has done for me. Prayer is asking the Creator of everything to help me with my struggles, as well as the struggles of others, knowing He hears and understands and will help. Last, but not least, praying is LISTENING to God by reading Scripture, or after I have done all my talking, just sit in silence before Him. In silence, I wait to hear what my Everlasting Counselor has to
say to me. Also, I learned about the Prayer Safety Net. When I don’t know how or what to pray or don’t feel like praying, there is the Gift of the Holy Spirit: “Likewise the Spirit Himself helps us in our weakness. For we don’t know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And He who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” [Romans 8:26-27].
PRAYER AND FASTING is done out of LOVE. It is not done from a feeling of obligation or duty. There is no longer a need for sacrifice because of Jesus’ Perfect Sacrifice on the cross. More about how PRAYER and FASTING are linked together next time.
[YAY! ONE PAGE! I FINALLY DID IT!]