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Fasting and Prayer Vigil on December 31st

November 28, 2007

Fasting Vigil on Dec. 31st

We have a Prayer Vigil and Fast on the Calendar!

Fasting is something that the people of God have done at all times, in all places. It is a part of what we would call “spiritual life.” Fasting has long been a part of worship and an exercise of drawing nearer to God. God’s people have fasted in times of trouble, to show repentance and to beg a blessing from God.

Real quickly, let’s talk about what fasting is not…

  • Fasting is not a weight loss or management program
  • Fasting is not correct change for the big God-vending-Machine in the sky
  • Fasting is not life-threatening

So, what is it? Well, fasting is…

  • Fasting is a privilege
  • Fasting is not compulsory, but voluntary
  • Fasting is self-training/focus/replacing appetites

So, what are we doing on December 31st? Well, for the 24-hour period known to our calendar as December 31st, I’m asking that we abstain from solid food. I’m asking that from Midnight on Dec. 30th to Midnight on December 31st, we have nothing to eat. We lift our hearts and minds from just feeding the desires of our bodies, the wants of our stomachs and palates.

We are abstaining from solid food, but…

  • Drink your fluids!
  • Take in the caffeine!
  • Fill the time with a prayer focus!

We’re praying for the new year of 2008…

  • Personal Prayers
  • Congregational Prayers
  • National and Global Prayers

During the worship time we read several really good passages. We read the story of Anna from Luke 2:36-38. She was at the Temple one day when the infant Jesus was ritually presented.

“There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

How cool is it to see these amazing examples from widows, both as we talked about our financial giving (the widow in the Temple) and now Anna at the Temple! They give, they fast… they’re amazing!

We read the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 6:16-18.

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, 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 men 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.”

We talked about the honesty and focus of fasting being on what you are doing with God, not the character you are advertising or promoting with theatrics. Jesus wants us to fast with a genuine authenticity, not an exaggerated suffering.

Finally, we read Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6:12-14.

“’Everything is permissible for me’ — but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’— but I will not be mastered by anything. ‘Food for the stomach and the stomach for food’ — but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.”

Now, Paul is talking about sexual immorality in this passage, but we took the principles and applied them to our broader lives, and specifically the idea of fasting. You see, we don’t have to fast to be Christians. We don’t have to fast to pray and we don’t have to fast to prove anything to anybody. Remember how we said that fasting is a “privilege?”

Take the idea that Paul is putting forth in 1 Corinthians 6, I’ll paraphrase it this way and hope that he won’t get too mad… “There are a lot of things in life that you can do, but shouldn’t. Legalistic rules just won’t answer every question for you.” That paraphrase is backed up in my opinion by a little discussion he has in Colossians 2:16-19. For our current discussion, I could say that if you continue eating everyday, just like you normally do, hopefully within healthy parameters, you’re just fine. No one has a right to look down on you for it. But, is it the most beneficial path to take? Are you missing something, a blessing or blessedness that comes from fasting with God?

I think there is. So, I don’t call for this fast out of a legal necessity or a need for anyone to prove anything to anybody… we will fast because our connection to God as individuals and as a church family is paramount and worthy of every effort to grow it and honor it.

And the idea that no thing will master me resonates with me. I don’t want any appetite to take control of my life and start to dictate the rules to me. I think that Paul would agree that giving that mastery of my life over to God is greatly aided by my fasting.

We talked Sunday about more of the mechanics of our fast which I won’t repeat here. I confessed that when I fast from solid foods I will still drink some fruit juice in the morning and definitely take in the caffeine I need for my daily addiction. Sure, I’ve always caught some jovial flack for that, but like I said, I’m not out to prove anything here.

The main things are deciding from what you will be fasting… I’m asking for solid food to be on that list, but you know if you need to do something a little different. And then, know what you doing instead of eating. Don’t just not eat, take the time to pray; let the call of your appetite remind you to stop and spend some quality time with God.

All for God’s Glory,
Todd

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