Last Sunday Zack talked about an ancient Christian practice: take a deep breath and meditate: “God, you are here with me.” It is a simple prayer, a way of learning what it means to cast our cares and anxieties to Jesus, and “everything in prayer and supplication” (Phil 4:6). Another ancient Christian practice is fasting. Many religious people and Christians have used fasting as a way of showing or proving that they are the “super religious”.
But Jesus invites us to see that fasting and prayer is a time to make your troubles, anxieties, needs and desires known to God, to the Father in heaven. To make known that there is something not right in this world and asking that the Father would restore those things.
Churches and Christians across the nation are getting together to spend a day in Prayer and Fasting on Good Friday. It will be a time where we can be united together in Christ Jesus and cry out to him. During a time of social distancing, we can feel isolated from one another. Yet, the amazing thing is in Jesus, we are together and with one voice we can make known to our Father in heaven the things that trouble our hearts.
Below are a couple of links and prayer requests to consider as we pray about the current events and troubling times.
At Riverside, we believe that we are community that is learning together with Jesus. Fasting may be something that you may have never done or you struggled do or understand its purpose. Below are some thoughts and guide on fasting.
What is fasting? Fasting is a time where you voluntarily go without food. (Or anything else you regularly enjoyed, things that are a good gift from God.) It is a time where you not only stop eating or something else, but you replace that moment by spending time with God, in his Word and in prayer. Jesus tells us that it is a time where we make our requests known to the Father in heaven and that he sees us. (Mt 6:18) God’s people have fasted throughout the years for lots of different reasons, but one is during difficult and tumultuous times. It is a time where we can cry out to God about what is going on in our lives and in the world around us. It is a practice, a spiritual tool, a gift of God to take our physical hunger of food or longings and point us to Jesus, to hunger and long for him and ask that His kingdom would come.
- If fasting is new or difficult for you, start small. Take a small step of grace towards Jesus. That is ok. Jesus welcomes us as we learn what it looks like to come to him. So that may mean, just fast one meal. Of if you want to fast all day, agree to drink water and juice to take on some nutrients. If not eating would be harmful for your health, you can fast something else like social media, TV time, sweets, etc…
- Another helpful thought is have a plan. During those moments where you’re used to eating or watching TV or spending time on your phone on social media or games, it can be difficult not doing the “normal” things. So tell yourself that during those times you will spend 5 to 10 minutes reading a passage in the Bible (read and reflect on the Lord’s Prayer – Mt 6:9-13, listen to last week's sermon), reflect on a Psalm (Psalm 23, 46). Then spend 10 minutes in prayer and reflection. You can look at the list of prayer requests and highlight some of the ones that are meaningful to you and pray on those things. During this social distancing time, you may be responsible for kids. Have a plan for your kids and family during this time. That can mean you will have something planned for your kids so you can spend some time alone with God. Or you can invite your kids to a time in the Word and in prayer. Or you can trade with a family member or spouse so that the kids will be taken care of during that time.
- When we fast, it can be easy for our minds to wander to the hunger in our stomach or be distracted by our anxiety and longings. Ashley F, last Sunday so wonderfully shared with us that she has had lots of quiet moments during this time, but not necessarily being quiet with God. We can use these physical and/or mental signals to trigger us to take a quiet minute, just 30 to 60 seconds and practice that ancient gift, take a deep breath and pray: “God, you are here with me, you are with us.”
- This is an invitation for all who feel comfortable and called to pray and fast together. Yet Jesus cautions us that we are not to fast for all to see. This is not a moment of showing others how spiritual we are or boast of our faith. But this is a moment to come before our Father in heaven and when we pray and fast in secret, he will see us, he will hear us. (Mt 6:16-18)
Friends during this time, I am comforted by the fact that I do not do this alone. You and I are learning together what it means to hear and learn from Jesus. As we learn from him, we can be equipped and strengthened to love our neighbors, to live for the sake of our community and be a beacon of hope in this world. The irony of this, it doesn’t start with an action plan or fixing things, but it starts with us stopping and sitting with Jesus and casting our cares upon him. I am thankful for all of you and that I get to go on this journey with you.
Learning together with Jesus