For many of us, the word fasting conjures up images of going without food, depriving ourselves of needed nourishment so that we can spend more time in prayer. It is not always a positive image, the idea of giving up something that is so important to life and we wonder what difference it makes when we pray? Jesus assumed his disciples would fast. In Matthew 6:16-18, he uses the word, “when”, before he gives his followers instructions about fasting.
I propose that our experience with fasting could become much more positive if we begin to view it in a different light. Jesus actually taught his disciples to anticipate it with joy by washing their faces and putting oil on their heads, an act reserved for joyous occasions. Is it possible that fasting is a way of entering into God’s presence unlike any other? Does giving to God the time and attention that we usually reserve for food or another activity change us in such a way that we can “hear” God better?
Fasting is usually associated with giving up of food, but there may be other fasts that are helpful as well. When Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days, he went away by himself, thereby eliminating distractions of the world in which he lived. I wonder if fasting from some of the many activities in our world today, namely the media, might be a valuable fast for us living in 2008.
Rather than seeing fasting just as a denial of ones physical needs, we might begin to see it as an opportunity to enter into a closer relationship with God, an invitation to experience the graciousness of our God. Joel 2:12 helps us to see fasting in the light of our relationship with God,
“Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”
Franconia Mennonite Conference is inviting all churches to join with the regional southeastern PA church in 40 Days of prayer and fasting during Lent, February 6 – March 21, 2008.
The purpose of this fast is threefold:
- Deepen our love for God
- Deepen our love for our neighbors
- Seek reform in the Church and revival in our communities
For more information about the 40 Days of prayer and fasting, contact Sandy Landes, Prayer Ministry Coordinator, firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-723-5513, ext. 121.
God is always inviting us, the church, the bride of Christ, into a closer relationship. Fasting is one of the ways we can eliminate the distractions that keep us from being close to God. You are invited to come close!