Tag Archives: discipline

Spiritual Disciplines – Fasting

Matthew 6:17-18 But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face; so that you are not seen by men to be fasting, but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.

Many churches and individuals begin the new year by fasting and praying for spiritual renewal and awakening.  Fasting is a wonderful discipline and it’s sometimes misunderstood.  It’s important to understand what fasting is and what it’s not.

Spiritual fasting is not a diet, or at least that’s not the main purpose.  One may lose weight on a fast from all food or become healthier on something like a Daniel fast, but the purpose is connection with God.  Even if the reason behind your prayer and fasting is related to health and healing, make the spiritual communion with God the primary focus of your fast.

A fast is not something to be done in order to look spiritual or to get attention.  Jesus warned about pride in association with fasting and public prayer.  Don’t fast for the attention it may bring.  There is no reward for fasting with selfish motives.  If possible, don’t make an issue of the fact that you’re fasting.

A fast is sacrificial.  Not all fasts call you to give up all food.  Some don’t even deal with food, but rather abstinence from activities like TV watching or a break from any contact with sources of news.  All fasts require some sort of sacrifice.  Remember when it gets hard that it’s not meant to be comfortable.  In our hardship, we are drawn closer to God.

A fast is personal.  Even if you’re fasting as a group, you should be connecting with God personally during this time.  If someone else decides that they can’t go on with the fast, continue on.  Don’t judge them for their personal decision, but don’t allow their change of plans to excuse you from your connection with God.

A fast is planned.  It’s not recommended that you jump into a fast without laying out a purpose, and end date, preparing your body, and praying.  Give yourself some time to plan your fast. Some people even like to consult with their doctor before starting.

Fasting is effective.  Various passages in God’s Word point out the power that is in fasting and prayer.  However, it should be noted that fasting does not guarantee answered prayer. (2 Samuel 12)

Spiritual Disciplines – Prayer

Matthew 6:6,7  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 on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.

Simply defined, prayer is talking to God.  Even as Christ followers, our lives can sometimes get so busy that we simply don’t take the time to talk to our Lord.  This is a great mistake.  In order to grow spiritually, we must be conversing…mostly listening…to God.

In our fast food culture, things come quickly and we can’t stand the thought of actually waiting.  We have access to so much “on-demand” that it’s hard to just be still and listen to what the Lord has to say.  But we must if we are going to learn His will.  Prayer, coupled with Bible study, is one of the most important disciplines in the daily life of a Christ follower.  Without reading God’s Word and communicating with Him, how are we to know who He is and what He requires of us?

Some may say that they just don’t know how to pray.  Jesus gave us a great example in Matthew 6:9-13.  We call it The Lord’s Prayer, but really this is a format, a template, of how we are to pray.  This is not simply a prayer to be memorized and uttered.  No, this is a blueprint for how our prayers should be.  Does that mean that God does not hear us if we pray outside this format?  No, God knows all that we need before we even ask (Matthew 6:8).  He is not so strict on this format that we would never hear from Him if we prayed differently, but we should attempt to keep the principles of this prayer in place.  Thanksgiving, praise, petition, repentance, seeking guidance.  It’s not a magic formula, but a guideline.

The Lord is not interested in repetition and memorization.  He wants our hearts to turn towards Him.  He desires our attention and our praise.  We make a great decision when we choose to include prayer as part of our day.