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14 Consecrate a fast;
call a solemn assembly.
Gather the elders
and all the inhabitants of the land
to the house of the Lord your God,
and cry out to the Lord. (Joel 1:14)
16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matt. 6:16-17)
In the face of current events, and in the biblical tradition of both the Old and New Testaments, I am calling everyone associated with Grace Church to a day of fasting and prayer, tomorrow, April 4, 2020. The purpose is to seek the face of our God, for His favor, upon the physical health of our country – and its spiritual health – and ours too.
I’ve written a simple guide below. These are suggested ways to pray, at certain times throughout the day. As you consider how you might fast, please read my notes on the following page, and please take part as your physician might have you. There’s no rule or law to this. As we hear Jesus say above, the important thing is to do it towards God.
Lastly, as you pray, pray with confidence. Our God is a merciful God, and one who loves to relent. Perhaps the most striking example is recorded in the book of Jonah 3:
“. . . Let them not feed or drink water, 8 but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
10 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.
In the Grace of Our Relenting, Merciful God,
Fasting is primarily about food, because without food, we’ll die. If you fast from Facebook for six months, you won’t die. But from food? Yes, death is certain.
Fasting humbles us. Fasting reminds us that we’re mortal, dependent creatures.
Fasting reminds us of the awfulness of sin. When we fast for sin, we are calling upon God and ourselves to not heal our wounds lightly.
Fasting reminds us to pray. We feel, in the hunger pains, our need for outside help to endure. We get reoriented towards God.
Fasting develops deeper prayer. As you go through the day, you’ll feel your prayers for the same things changing, deepening, as new facets of the issue come to mind. You’ll think more clearly, more dependently on God.
Fasting creates gratitude for God’s provision. We so easily forget that something had to die for us to eat, and how richly we are blessed in His provision. Fasting eventually points us to the center of all history – that Someone did die, so that we could live.
Fasting is an act of obedience. Jesus commands it in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:6), to be done towards God alone. It may be done with others, as we will be doing. But the point is that it is for God, and God alone.
Exceptions. Make as many exceptions as you like for health. Skip just a meal if you need to, rather than fasting all day. Or don’t skip anything, but still devote yourself to prayer. There is no law here. We are gathering to seek the Lord’s face, and to seek His favor, His grace.
But if you can, skip meals for the entire day, and devote yourself to prayer. We invite you to follow the schedule that will be posted here later this week.
We will be praying for such topics as:
- The COVID-19 outbreak; that many would be spared.
- For health workers’ safety.
- For our land, world and church, that God would grant us widespread, deep repentance.
- For God to continue to lead us in our property decision process.
- For God to use this time to further the fame of His name in the world.
Please join us this Saturday!
*Article adapted from “The Gift of Fasting”, by The Christian Pundit, accessed Thursday, October 31, 2013.