Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Spiritual Disciplines Beat #3: Prayer and Fasting

    We're halfway through this measure of 4/4 time in relating it to the rhythm of our spirits, and so far we have talked about the role that the Word and the role that silence and solitude play in the process. As I wrote yesterday and as Daron originally pointed out, the basis, what makes everything go, is the Word. Silence and solitude are the follow-up. It is a place where we can contemplate on the Word, or we can use the Word to send us into a state of silent contemplation and closeness that God wants with our hearts. It is in these moments where it is just us and God, and even thinking about that can be overwhelming, even scary for some.

    The third part of the measure, prayer and fasting, presents its own interesting explanation. Personally, I think prayer is the greatest gift, short of our own salvation, that God has given us. I may be somewhat hokey in my thinking of this, but I really view it as a direct line to God. It is a line that we can exercise at any time, anywhere, and it will always be heard. Unlike customer service, you are never put on hold, nor do you get trapped in the maze of voice prompts.

    Once again, it goes in conjunction with the previous two beats, and does not stand up well when it is used on its own. I am reminded of my favorite band, LIVE, and their song Operation Spirit:

    "Heard a lot of talk about this Jesus, a man and a man of strength. But when a man walks 2,000 years ago, that means nothing at all to me today. He could have been telling me about my higher self, but he only lives inside my prayer. So what he was may have been beautiful, but the pain is right now and right here."


    What an illustration of one's view when they don't have the Word to back up prayer. As we know from the Word, Jesus is alive and well in this world. When the Word works in conjunction with prayer, suddenly it doesn't become such an empty property.

This also ties in with silence and solitude because we need a time to listen for a response in our hearts. If we spend all of our time talking and talking in prayer, we never get a chance to listen. Have you ever had a time when you have prayed and prayed and prayed without ceasing for something, yet have seen no results? There eventually comes a time where you get frustrated and just want to say, "You know what needs to be done, You do it!"

"Rejoice and exult in hope; be steadfast and patient in suffering and tribulation; be constant in prayer." – Romans 12:12

    I am the first to look at that verse and say that it is easier said than done. Sometime prayer itself can feel like suffering. I have often wondered if something is not getting done because I am not praying right. Then I feel like my prayers become forced as I try to work in the right flowery language and explain something in too much detail to someone who is omnipotent. To me, that is the thing we must remember here. In prayer, it's not about language, what you say, or even how you say it. The person you're talking to already knows. It's okay to be frustrated, even angry with Him. He can take it all and still love you. I don't know how many times I have felt like a prayer has been a private venting session, where I am more lashing out than anything.

    And that is okay, because God already knows. He already knows, and He just wants the time with us to set this right. It is when we add the silence to the prayer that we give Him that time.

    Prayer is a gift that can effect the greatest change in this world, and I feel it is ample proof that our Creator knows us and loves us. What is man's instinctual reaction in times of crisis? Prayer. It is something that links Christian and non-Christian alike, and can be found anywhere. Of the four beats that Daron mentioned, it is probably the easiest and most widely exercised.

    Fasting, however is much more difficult, because it asks us to sacrifice something in return. Prayer costs us nothing. Prayer can be done freely. Fasting requires us to give up something that is essential and ingrained in our daily lives. If you happen to skip a meal, what is it that occupies your thoughts once you realized you skipped that meal? Food, that's what. If you skip two meals becomes an obsession, even if we aren't taking the time to use it as a sacrifice. Our instinctual nature of self-preservation takes over and the animal inside us wants to eat in order to survive. Even our bodies begin to change their chemistry in order to make up for the missing nutrients. This sacrifice is evident in Acts 14:22-23:

"We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God," they said. 23Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust." – Acts 14:22-23

    Here Paul and Barnabas are asked for a small sacrifice, and as we know, they accomplished great things through their commission.


  1. What are some times in your life when you have had heartfelt prayer? By that I mean real communication with God.
  2. What were your feelings in those moments? I challenge you to write these thoughts down and think about how they have affected your life, and what came out of them.
  3. How do the other disciplines lift you up when prayer feels empty?

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