It is only 2 days away from the beginning of Lent. I had not really considered doing anything in particular this year for Lent. At least not until yesterday.
At church they called for a congregation-wide time of fasting & prayer over Lent. Fasting is something I've never really done before. It's a spiritual discipline that wasn't really discussed in the church I grew up in. But, yesterday one of our pastors laid out some very practical tools for fasting, gave reasons for fasting, & encouragement to consider it.
As we sat there I felt led to consider a fast over Lent. But, more about that in a bit.
First I need to back up to the previous Sunday. I felt God's presence move very strongly in my heart & in my mind. As we were singing during worship, we sang songs about Christ's sacrifice on the cross and the redemptive power of his blood. The following thoughts came to me & I sat down and wrote them out as quickly as I could.
" As we were singing I felt this impressed on my heart. I believe & accept whole-heartedly the redemption Jesus has given me from my past - from the darkness and sin that threatened to destroy me there. But He didn't just take those sins to the cross. When He went to the cross He took all our sins. All of them!
He wants us to experience complete redemption. Just as I would never dream of returning to the life I lived then - it is completely behind me- my life restored- Jesus wants the same for me in other areas where I struggle. Areas like apathy, discontentment, feelings of being overwhelmed & frustrated, anger, depression, & fear. He has redeemed it all!
Why would I continue to wallow in these when they were also nailed to the cross?"
This really spoke to me. I even momentarily thought about sharing it with the congregation. But I didn't. (During our worship time, if people feel they have a word from God to share, they can approach one of the ministry leaders. They give them a brief synopsis of what they would like to say so the ministry leader can assess if it is something biblical & not completely off the wall. Then they signal the worship leader that someone wants to share. They pause the music while that person shares with the congregation).
As I wrote those words and for a while afterward is was a physical experience too. I could feel such a powerful sense of peace & relaxation. I told John I even felt a little tingly. That experience really had me thinking this past week. As a matter of fact, as I was writing just now I thought, "Why have I only been thinking about this over the week? Why haven't I claimed it? So, just now I prayed and claimed this word as a promise from God. And, I accepted it as a gift of redemption from all that holds me back from Him and the life that He would have me live.
So in many ways that previous Sunday had prepared me for the message this Sunday about fasting. Here's what the pastor had to say about fasting...
-Fasting deals with our distractions and helps us focus on God. Faith increases.
-Fasting often brings about breakthroughs and helps us to find freedom & clarity in situations we have struggled with a long time.
-Just as we fast before a medical surgery, so we should fast before a 'surgery' on our spirit. He shared these verses from Hebrews 4:12 & 13
"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword; it penetrates even to dividing soul & spirit, joints & marrow; it judges the thoughts & attitudes of the heart.
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered & laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."
And as I prepare for a season of fasting, I plan to do that - to lay myself bare.
Here are some steps that he suggested we take during a season of fasting...
1. Hold struggles & burdens out to God in prayer. Ask God what to focus on during the fast.
2. Seek the Lord about the fast (what type of fasting should I do?). Ask what He will give me the grace to do.
3. Agree with God about the fast.
4. Write a fasting plan for each day of the week. Include what you will focus on in prayer that day, verses to read, etc.
5. Consciously surrender yourself to the Lord.
6. Declare why you are fasting.
7. Keep a journal.
8. Know that you will be tempted to break your fast. Jesus was & so will you.
9. Read your Bible while you are fasting. Isaiah 58 is a great passage to read.
10, Set apart times too pray when fasting.
Tomorrow I will share what type of fast I feel called to. It's not a 'complete fast'...in that I will not be giving up food entirely. More to come!