We have spent three weeks as a church, hearing the vision of the Kingdom of God.

From the beginning, we were made in the image of a creative God. We were created to be both joyful worshippers of the creator and co-creators with God. That image has been broken and marred by sin as we sought to create in our own image, and thus became separated from the ultimate source of all creativity. Now in Christ, God’s masterpiece is restored, we can again begin to be co-creators with God. We have a renewed creative mission to work with Him to restore a sin-marred creation. As we worship and serve God in creative and innovate ways, we rediscover our potential to grow and be fruitful. We multiply justice, peace and worship across our world. We fill the earth with God’s praise and bring glory to Him. We co-create a new heaven and a new earth.

 2 Corinthians 5:17 - “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.”

That, we as New Creations, would join God at work in seeing heaven come to earth. We now enter a time of prayer and fasting so we can align our hearts with God and with one another in church community.

U-turn Prayer and Fasting: 
As we come to a season of prayer and fasting as a church, we are creating a space to learn, revisit and practice our rhythms of prayer and fasting, and posturing ourselves towards hearing from God for the new year. We can create moments of reflection in areas where we may need to repent, restore our relationship with God and others, and renew our rhythms of meetings with Him and encourage this as a regular rhythm throughout our lives. Prayer and fasting is an opportunity to ask what God wants.

Prayer and fasting are life-changing practices that we see time and time again throughout the Bible.  Whether you participate by total abstinence, partial abstinence or fast another medium, the Bible has many illustrations, ranging in length from a day or a night up to 40 days and nights.

Fasting is an intentional choice to abstain from food or something that we enjoy. Denying ourselves these pleasures, creates space to awaken our spiritual hunger for God. Hunger in my stomach, can be a reflection of hunger in my heart for God.

Matthew 4:2; Isaiah 58; Deuteronomy 9:18; Acts 9:9; Daniel 10:3; Ezra 10:6; Daniel 6:18; 1 Samuel 7:6; 2 Samuel 1:12; Esther 4:16; and many more besides. There are examples of fasting both individually and corporately throughout the Bible. Consider asking a trusted friend to fast with you, that will keep you both accountable, vulnerable and builds a connection in community.

In Matthew 4:2, Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights where He faced many temptations, and He valued obedience and intimacy with God the Father above all else.

Jesus sets us an example to create space in our busy lives to reflect on the areas where we need to dethrone parts of our lives that we have elevated too high and come back under the authority of God and His word, in submission to Him. Isaiah 58 seems to answer all my concerns – there are many devotions on the subject of fasting via Bible apps – you can always find one that will be very appropriate to your circumstances.

Myths about fasting
Fasting is a great way to lose weight.
What is quickly lost, can be quickly regained as we return to regular rhythms.

God will listen to my prayers if I fast.
Fasting doesn’t earn God’s favour or make you ‘more holy’ – his love for us is unconditional and doesn’t depend on our performance.

Fasting makes me more spiritual.
Scripture encourages us not to call attention to ourselves; self-righteousness is a sign we are doing it wrong (Matt 6:1-6). Phil 2:3-Do nothing out of vain conceit; NLT – don’t try to impress others…”
  
Fasting will make God answer my prayers quickly.
It’s not a form of bribery to make God act. “I fast by my means of my relationship with God, not for a relationship with God.” (Charisma Magazine)

“Fasting confirms our utter dependence upon God by finding in Him a source of sustenance beyond food. Through it, we learn by experience that God’s word to us is a life substance; that it is not food (bread) alone that gives life, but also the words that proceed from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4). We can learn that we too have ‘food to eat’ that the world does not know about. (John 4:32-34) Fasting ‘unto the Lord’ is therefore feasting on Him and doing His will.” Dallas Willard, ‘The Spirit of the Disciplines’ © 2002.

Practical Responses: 
Every culture in every country has practised fasting for thousands of years. Fasting is for repentance, restoration and renewal, not to bring forth shame or fear, but to challenge us to draw close and allow God to create something new in us.

Partner with God in fasting – let Him know you are joining Him on behalf of yourself, others (our church) or a situation (intercession). Prayer and fasting moves you into your rightful place, as a joint heir, and you’ll begin to hear the heartbeat of God.

Consider fasting a meal and spending that time in prayer. Prayer and fasting is an opportunity to ask what God wants.

If fasting food is not practical for your lifestyle or health, consider fasting from social media, or television, or a habit that you want to break. Isaiah suggests that we use words that don’t criticise, that don’t add oppression to the hungry. In truth, we can fast by being silent - to fast from our sometimes hurtful, harsh words. Spend the time you would have spent in these activities in prayer.

Pope Francis encourages his church to fast from using hurtful words and using kind words instead; fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude; fast from anger and be filled with patience, from pessimism and be filled with hope; from worry to trust in God, even from words and be silent and listen.

A season of prayer and fasting in an opportunity to make time to read His word and reflect in prayer, declaring His truth over your life and over the prayer need.

Journaling what you read, decisions you make, changes you see and feel in this period of time is another practical response that can bring future encouragement when you recall and re-read your responses.

Fasting involves laying down your life, your desires and taking a risk – God’s will and desires for us ARE greater, God DOES sustain us and gives us strength. It’s not about ‘giving up food’, but getting closer to God’s heart where food is not so important. I don’t have to fast; I get to fast with Him.

Fasting is a powerful gift and not a religious burden. Let’s challenge ourselves to go beyond our comfort zone and grow closer to His heart.

Discussion Questions
1. What thoughts did you had in the past, regarding fasting? 
2. What practical ways have you fasted and prayed in the past?
3. Can you share any insight that has come about from a period of fasting in your life?
4. How would you encourage another person to fast?

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