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Pray, Fast, Engage

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On Praying, Fasting, and Engaging — June 1, 2020

The events of the past week have left many people hurting, confused, angry, & sad. And these are all legitimate reactions to sin as it spills out in its many forms.

As I’ve reflected how to navigate all of this I’ve identified a few actions that I can take to respond well to this and thus fulfill my calling as a disciple of Jesus and Ambassador of the Gospel with hope and faith over hostility and fear. 

I can Pray…

I can Fast… 

I can Engage… 

First, I can PRAY.

The Apostle Paul tells young pastor Timothy in First Timothy chapter two that prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people… and in verse 8 says,

“I desire then that in every place men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling…” (1)

And in 1 Thessalonians 5 Paul says,
“See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (2)

And there is absolutely a place for crying out to God! Sometimes the best prayer is just, “Help!” And as the Spirit continues to work in us, He helps us pray. Often times we don’t know what to pray or how to pray. And as simple as it might sound I’ve found this a helpful guide to direct my distracted mind and heart Godward in my prayers: A.C.T.S.

A — Adoration (3) — Starting my prayers praising God for who He is… for His faithfulness… and for the immeasurable riches of His grace poured out on us in Christ Jesus!

C — Confession (4) — Honestly dealing with the sin in our lives. Confession is the first step in Biblical repentance… or turning from our sin. If you need help outlining confession you can use this guide we’ve talked about often at River City: C.A.R. Confess, Affirm, Request.

C — Confess your sin
A — Affirm the truth of your identity in Christ
R — Request the help of the Holy Spirit to continue the work of sanctification and transformation in your heart and life 

T — Thanksgiving (5)— Speak out loud your gratitude for God for His mercy and grace in your life in all things big and small. This establishes a humble posture before the Lord. 

S — Supplication (6)— These are the needs… the asks. This is where we lay our burdens and requests before the Lord and plead with Him for His hand and His mercy. It’s not that our Father doesn’t know our needs… in fact He knows our needs before we do, but it enables us to actively practice our faith in Him to seek Him and ask Him to act believing that HE is able.

Or perhaps you can listen to Jesus’ instructions when his disciples ask Him to teach them to 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 this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." (7)

 

Second, I can FAST.

Pastor John Piper says that, “Fasting is a physical exclamation point at the end of our pleas to God.” (8)

There are many ways to think about fasting… for health and wellness, as a larger spiritual discipline, or for specific seasons of burden or care that are tied to our prayers. 

But at its most basic… Christian fasting is refraining from something physically, in order to diligently focus on something spiritually. So, it could be a whole day or a series of days of intentional fasting from food in order to spend that time in prayer… or it could be a specifically chosen meal just once a week dedicated to seeking the face of God in prayer and spending time in God’s Word above and beyond your normal rhythm. 

But it doesn’t have to be only food (although that is the original practice) but due to health reasons or because perhaps other things are huge distractions for you, it might mean fasting from social media or the TV or something else that draws you attention. Like food, these aren’t inherently evil things… but the goal of fasting is to intentionally produce a physical hunger or void that we might fill that void with prayer and God’s Word… so that every time we feel the twinge of a stomach growl or the ping of a notification, we’re driven back to the Lord to ask Him again to make His glory known in our hurts and needs. 

I can pray and I can fast. And both of these are good for my own soul… (9)

 

Third, I can ENGAGE. (10)

This one is hard because it isn't as easy as a list we can check off... but that doesn't mean we can't lean into the places God has called us?

So, what does it look like to engage the places that burden us from where we are? 

  • If we’re see someone in need...a family member, or friend, or a neighbor — it may mean reaching out to encourage them or maybe even work to ease their suffering. These are practical expressions of care for one another. (11)
  • If we’re burdened by and praying for an evil we see in our community or the world around us it may mean putting our “money where our mouth is” and sacrificially giving our time and treasure to support the work on the ground in those places attempting to meet those needs in tangible ways. This might be seeking out and supporting a ministry that provides care for orphans or rescues young women from trafficking, or helps to fund church-based community development programs in poor and under-resourced areas.
  • If we’re praying about things that we know are significant but we are or feel we are disconnected to those cares… the first step might be listening and learning. We too often have little to no tangible understanding of the burden others might be carrying… and that’s ok in that we’re not expected to know every unique story. But, as the Spirit of God burdens our hearts for the things that burden the hearts and lives of others around us, we are called to humbly respond with compassion and a desire to bear those burdens with them (Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:13). And the first step might be seeking to understand those cares and burdens. It also might mean lending not just our time and treasure toward meeting a need, but also our voice. There are others like you who might lack knowledge of a situation or understanding… and God might use YOU as an advocate on behalf of that need.

You and I were once hostile and enemies of God (12)… but the Father has reconciled us to Himself and to one another in Christ Jesus… and NOW we are ambassadors of this message of reconciliation. (13)

So the GOSPEL message of Jesus IS our motivation and our framework for our engagement. We don’t focus only on the practical needs or burdens we see as isolated things. Instead, we are driven by our now-transformed identity… as redeemed Sons and Daughters of God, co-heirs to the promise in Christ Jesus, and indwelled by the Holy Spirit in order to carry the light of the Gospel to dark places. 

So we pray… we fast… and we engage… not merely to meet needs (although we do) but out of a desire to make known what has been made known to us… that Jesus alone heals, restores, and makes new… and we can do that WHEREVER God has placed us… and we all need that.

- Pastor Jake

 

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Footnotes: 

(1) 1 Timothy 2:1-8

(2) 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18

(3) Psalm 138; Isaiah 25

(4) James 5:26; 1 John 1:9

(5) Psalm 95:2; Psalm 100:4; Ephesians 5:4; Philippians 4:6

(6) Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6; 1 Timothy 2:1

(7) Matthew 6:5-14

(8) "What is the Purpose of Fasting" - Desiring God

(9) "Fasting for Beginners" - Desiring God

(10) Jeremiah 29:7; Psalm 37:3; Isaiah 1:17; Micah 6:8

(11) Galatians 6:2; Ephesians 4:2; Colossians 3:13

(12) Romans 5:10

(13) Romans 5:11; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19