Fasting is simply a spiritual discipline of going without something that we usually depend on - like food - for a period of time. Fasting can facilitate prayer and increase awareness of our need for God, helping us to depend more on him.
It is not intended to be a way of bargaining with God! Instead it is a gesture that willingly submits to God, forgoing that which normally gives pleasure, comfort and sustenance. In the temporary absence of food, we are reminded of our spiritual needs. We recognise our human tendency to fill our lives with food and activity to fill us up, tempting us to believe we are self-sufficient. By forgoing these things, even for a short time, we confront our dependency on them and move that dependency to God. The self-denial feels uncomfortable, but being in the discomfort of being without what normally fills us up, if we turn to God in prayer, a fresh understanding of his sufficiency, and a new depth of relationship with him can be found.
WHAT TO DO:
On the day of March 8th, do two things:
1. Choose to miss one or more meals. Or choose something else that you rely on to give you comfort - your daily walk, your iPhone, your morning coffee, your glass of wine. Choose to forgo this for the day (or longer). Don't choose something you won't miss!
2. Find an extended time that you can spend alone in prayer.
If Tuesday March 8th will not work for you, choose another day that does close to this date.
WHAT TO PRAY:
PLEASE NOTE: These are just suggestions: there are no rules!! Do whatever works for you. The goal is simply to meet with God in prayer in a deeper way than usual, to linger in his presence and to listen to him. This is for our own benefit, not because we have to earn God's favour. Christian believers already have God's favour, because of Jesus.
You might find it helpful to begin your prayers by reading and reflecting on scripture. Some suggestions are:
- John 4.1-42
- Matthew 16.13-28
- Philippians 2. 1-11
- Hebrews 12.1-12
- Isaiah 40
- Isaiah 55
- Isaiah 58
Spend some time in silence. Listen to what God is saying to you through the passages you have read.
Be aware of what it feels like to go without food (or whatever it is you have forsaken for the day). Feel the discomfort of this. Reflect on your ability to be content in God's presence when deprived.
Confess sin to God. Ask him to show you what you need to confess.
Praise God, and thank him!
Pray as you wish, but in regards to Fixing Her Eyes, give thanks that we are free to fix our eyes on Jesus. Focus on Jesus - on his life, death and resurrection and for his magnificent gift of salvation for those who follow him. Give thanks for his gift to us of his life giving and empowering Spirit.
Give thanks for Christian women who have gone before us - for their lives and work. Give thanks for Christian women everywhere today and ask God to raise up a new generation of women who know and love Jesus and who will fix their eyes on him no matter what.
Pray for revival. Pray for your friends, family, neighbours, associates and colleagues. Pray for the women in your local church. Pray for the refugees seeking asylum in our country. Pray for Christian women internationally, especially for those who face persecution for their faith. Pray for Indigenous women.
Finally, remember Jesus' words in Matthew 6.5-18
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standingin the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, 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 on 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. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard
Prayer - Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller
A Praying Life by Paul E Miller
Too busy not to pray by Bill Hybels