Prayer

Fasting

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[This post is a revised version of one that was published last year for our March week of prayer]

Christians need to cultivate what might be called ‘godly dissatisfaction’. That is, as well as patiently persevering in the things God commands us to do and trusting his timing for fruit, we also need to press on, longing for growth and being willing for costly change to occur. Such ‘godly dissatisfaction’ and longing is related to the biblical practice of fasting. 

Fasting is a physical hunger to match the sense of spiritual hunger we feel, or want to grow to feel more, for the coming and growth of God’s kingdom. Jesus says his disciples don’t fast because he is with them, but they will when he is taken away (Mark 2v18-21). It is body language designed to match the prayer ‘your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ Fasting is an enacted prayer. 

Since some of us are fasting during Lent anyway, and others will be fasting during our week of prayer in March, we ought to look at what Jesus teaches us about this practice in Matthew 6v16-18. 

Jesus says we mustn’t fast like the hypocrites (v16). That is we don’t make a big song and a dance about it, showing off by looking especially dishevelled in order to impress others at our discipline or commitment. Rather we must do the opposite, and carry on basic personal care (v17). This is because we aren’t to fast for the reward of others but for the reward of our heavenly Father. Not that we are manipulating God or earning ‘God-points’ by our fasting, but because it is a God-given way of pressing on in the race of the christian life to take hold of all that God has given us in Christ. Our gracious Father promises to respond rewardingly to fasting. 

Please note, there are practical and sensible things to make sure you do too when fasting (such as drinking plenty, and being careful about how long you fast for). Also, if you have a medical or personal reason which makes fasting unwise (such as a historical or current struggle with an eating disorder), please don’t. There are other ways to apply the same principle, for example by fasting from something else. 

This summer why not... pray like an apostle?

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This is the third in our Summer Reads series. Find all the books in the series, including this one, here.

I wonder what you think the church should be doing? What is it that will drive CCW forward? The preaching? Our events and evangelism? The music? Small groups? Even our new building?

None of these things are bad, by any means, but Don Carson writes:

The one thing we most urgently need in Western Christendom is a deeper knowledge of God. We need to know God better.

That seems like quite an obvious thing to say, and most of us will nod our heads in agreement. But the question that drives us next, and which is the premise of the book, is how on earth do we go about doing that.

Well, in 'A Call to Spiritual Reformation', Carson helps us to do that. Using prayers from Paul's epistles in the New Testament he helps us to see the importance and delight we can have in prayer, of how exciting it is to be able to come to God in prayer, what prayer teaches us about God and how we can pray better. 

If you are anything like me, your prayer life will hit peaks and troughs. You'll have good days and bad days. Sometimes we find ourselves wanting to pray but not knowing what or how to do so.

It's a book to read with your bible open next to you, and I recommend a pencil in hand too (my copy has bits underlined and notes in the margin) and it's a book to read through prayerfully. This book is a joy to read and brings even greater joy as we get our heads around both the joy and privilege of prayer, but how through that, the Lord opens our eyes further to how great he is!

The greatest way I can endorse this book is to tell you to read the prayer at the back before AND after you've read it. A prayer that Carson prays not for our greater education, but for our greater compassion. Where we don't learn simply how to pray better but how our prayers would become more fruitful adoration. Where he prays for God's blessing upon us, as without it - we are nothing.

Enjoy reading - but enjoy God and praying to him more!

Fasting - what’s it all about?

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At the vision evening last November I said that we needed a ‘godly dissatisfaction’ during 2018. That is, as well as patiently persevering in the things God commands us to do and trusting his timing for fruit, we also need to press on, longing for growth and being willing for change to be costly. This ‘godly dissatisfaction’ and longing is related to the biblical practice of fasting.

Fasting is a physical hunger to match the sense of spiritual hunger we feel, or want to grow to feel more, for the coming and growth of God’s kingdom. Jesus says his disciples don’t fast because he is with them, but they will when he is taken away (Mark 2v18-21). It is body language designed to match the prayer ‘your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’ Fasting is an enacted prayer.

Since some of us are fasting during Lent anyway, and others will be fasting during our week of prayer in March, we ought to look at what Jesus teaches us about this practice in Matthew 6v16-18.

Jesus says we mustn’t fast like the hypocrites (v16). That is we don’t make a big song and a dance about it, showing off by looking especially dishevelled in order to impress others at our discipline or commitment. Rather we must do the opposite, and carry on basic personal care (v17). This is because we aren’t to fast for the reward of others but for the reward of our heavenly Father. Not that we are manipulating God or earning God-points by our fasting, but because it is a God-given way of pressing on in the race of the christian life to take hold of all that God has given us in Christ. Our gracious Father promises to respond rewardingly to fasting.

Please note, there are practical and sensible things to make sure you do when fasting (such as drinking plenty, and being careful about how long you fast for). Also, if you have medical or personal reason which makes fasting unwise (such as a historical or current struggle with an eating disorder), please don’t. There are other ways to apply the same principle, by fasting from something else, something other than food.

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