Prayer, Fasting, Lent and one more thing...

Monday, 19 February 2007

Having just come back from an amazing weekend at Jessie's, thanks to her and all the Hebron guys and gal (minus Ellie who couldn't make it) I've got back home and realised that 1) it's pancake day on Tuesday, aka Shrove Tuesday and Lent starts on Wednesday.  Normally I wouldn't do a thing for Lent, however this week I've been particularly fired up about God, life and stuff, I have been on a spiritual high, and I really needed it to be honest!

This whole thing started at the service at Jessie's church on Sunday when the guy speaking, I can't remember his name at all, was talking about Mathew 6:5-18 which is all about prayer and fasting.  He started by taking the subjects starting at fasting, joking that fasting was the lack of eating pancakes!  What he said afterwards was very good though, the passage about fasting starts with Jesus saying "When you fast..." not 'If you fast.'  Fasting was expected of people in Jesus' time, it wasn't something that the odd Pharisee (religious teacher) did, no everybody did it!

The guy preaching said that by fasting it brings us closer to God, it doesn't do anything for us, such as make us more popular or to show others how amazing we are, instead Jesus tells us we should fast in private, out of the public view.  The true purpose of fasting should be to come closer to God by denying the physical state and focusing of the spiritual side of us and on God.

Then he went on to talk about the prayer side of things, the first and main point he made was that we can pray to God anywhere and anytime, we don't have to wait in a line or pray at a specific time, God is there 24/7 and that in itself it very cool.  Prayer is when we get on the same wavelength as God, we talk to God and He talks back and guides us.  Through the power of prayer we have direct access to all of God, not just the customer information desk.

Jesus knew that there would be some people who wouldn't know how to pray so He even gave us a guideline to follow within what we now call the Lord's Prayer.  First we look to God being amazing! Next we look to others, and pray for their needs. Finally we pray for our needs.

We must pray regularly, as through prayer God changes us and moves us away from our point of view to his point of view and equips us with the fruits of the spirit, these fruits are found in Galatians: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

The action of fasting and prayer are linked and cannot be unlinked, prayer can happen without fasting, however it cannot happen the other way around; fasting without fasting is pointless and both must go together in the life of a Christian.

So what has this got to do with lent?  Well! The idea of lent originates from Jesus' time of 40 days being tempted by the devil in the wilderness.  There He spent 40 days without food or water, and as a result many Christian's have used the same period of 40 days to fast and pray.  Some people go without certain types of food, etc.  My plan is to spend 40 days without going on any instant messaging clients such as MSN or Google Talk as that is where much of my time goes into in the evenings. Instead I want to try to use this time that I will gain to develop my relationship with God through pray and reading the Bible.

Mathew 6:5-18

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.This, then, is how you should pray:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

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.

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

 On a completely unrelated note... I've just watched Donnie Darko and I have to say that it is an incredible film and has made it in to my top films alongside Lord of the Rings and the Shawshank Redemption!

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