What about fasting?
"Our seasons of prayer and fasting at the tabernacle have been high days indeed; never has heaven's gate stood wider, never have our hearts been nearer the central glory." (Charles H Spurgeon)
1: Fast in order to humble yourself, purify your worship, and pray.
We do not fast in order to 'twist God's arm' or earn 'brownie points' in heaven. In fasting we are not trying to get something from God but we are seeking to give ourselves to him. Through fasting we subdue our bodily desires so we can concentrate more effectively on prayer.
2: Fasting is an act of self-discipline that helps us pray.
It's too easy to pray glibly and superficially. Serious prayer, however, requires concentration, and that is easily compromised by our fleshly desires.
3: The self-discipline of fasting subdues the flesh.
The self-discipline of fasting is a key to subduing our fleshly desires. Subduing our fleshly desires clears the way for us to be more open to God. It helps our concentration on God, our seeking his will, and praying a particular matter through to a conclusion. It enables us to be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit, hear his voice more clearly, and pray with all our heart and mind and strength and see breakthroughs.
4: Evidence in scripture.
In both the Old and New Testaments there is evidence of the need to fast. In the New Testament Jesus fasted, as did his disciples and the early church.
5: Fasting releases precious time for prayer.
At its simplest, fasting releases the time spent preparing and eating food for the purpose of prayer. The same could be said of fasting from TV etc.
6: Deliberately take time to pray and read scripture.
This can help amidst busyness and possible distraction. Use the time you would have spent eating to pray.
7 Have clear targets for your fast.
When we fast and pray as a church it will be for a particular purpose, so use the prayer guides supplied at the time so as be focussed and in tune with others in the church as you pray.
8: Be sensible about your fast.
If you fail don't give in to condemnation. Sometimes it's helpful to share with another person so you can encourage each other. If you find it difficult, remember, we are under grace not under law.
9: Make your commitment and decide how long you will fast.
Here are some practical suggestions: Different occasions require different responses. With a Week of Prayer, for instance, there is the opportunity to fast for that period. Some will fast without food for the week. Others will miss one or two meals a day for the week. Others will fast for the whole day they are coming to pray. Remember, we're not doing it for brownie points but to get closer to God.
10: Some practical points regarding the fast.
A water only fast can be difficult, especially in winter. A juice fast gives you more energy to continue your daily tasks.
11: Prepare beforehand.
If you are going to fast for a week or more, limit your food intake a couple of days before you start. You may need to stop drinking coffee or tea and other caffeine drinks, and eat fibre rich foods like fruit and salads.
12: Prepare for opposition.
Discouragement and temptation may come like a flood. Recognise the source and go to battle.
13: Expect to hear from God.
Get into the habit of writing things down. Keep a prayer note-book. Record anything God is saying to you.
14: Breakthroughs often come later.
Don't listen to lies that nothing is happening and that your fast is a waste of time. It can be the case that the spiritual benefits of a fast will be experienced after the fast is over, so don't go on spiritual holiday, use the continued sense of God's presence and prompting to respond to the Holy Spirit in prayer.
15: Understand the phases you may be going through.
A craving for food may last a couple of days. You may feel weak or even dizzy. Then you can feel great as your body acclimatises itself to being without food.
16: Break the fast gradually.
If you have fasted for more than a day break the fast gradually. Don't look forward to a big meal or your digestive system will go into shock.
17: Fasting can be extended to abstaining from anything that hinders our communion with God.
For some this can mean not watching TV for the week or abstaining from other activities. Children can abstain from sweets or biscuits, TV or computer games.
We fast so that we can get closer to God and be more effective in our prayers. It's running the race without the things that weigh us down (See Hebrews 12:1-2).
These notes are written from experience of fasting and carry no medical authority. Fasting is not advisable in certain medical conditions. If you are not sure consult your doctor. For a fuller account of fasting read 'God's Chosen Fast' by Arthur Wallis.
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