Text: Acts 13:1-12
To let your spiritual habits be to God’s glory
To recognize the need of your spirit life as much as you do your physical life
WE READ THAT the leaders of the congregation in Antioch send Paul and Barnabas into the mission field after “fasting and prayer.”
Both of these are spiritual habits but fasting has a harder time of it in our thinking than does prayer. Every Christian should pray – and pray regularly! Fasting, however, is a different species, isn’t it?
When we look to the Scriptures, we see that there are ways to engage in these spiritual habits effectively or ineffectively. In his teaching ministry, Jesus admonishes his disciples not to pray for public approval or to show off, nor to pray with piled up phrases and babbled mumbo-jumbo as if prayer is some sort of magical incantation. Prayer is meant to be honest conversation, for the Lord God wants to talk with you and I, and the frank, trusting prayer of the heart, without worrying about how it looks, is the best way to go. After all, God wishes us to speak to him as we might speak to our friends, and what kind of friendship uses the friend to show to others?
Fasting is of the same kind. Again, Jesus cautions against fasting that is focused on the public approval or showing off, but it is important to note that Jesus assumes that his disciples fast (Matt. 6:17), and simply says, “when you fast, do so like this…” In his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, Luther notes that the three areas of instruction in Chapter 6 (almsgiving, prayer and fasting) each have a specific goal or purpose: almsgiving keeps us in touch with our neighbor and prayer keeps us in touch with God. Fasting, therefore, keeps us in touch with ourselves and grounded in reality. It helps us remember that we are not self-generating, self-sustaining beings, but that we hunger, we thirst, we have needs that require others’ care of us, especially God's care.
To take the idea of fasting to a slightly larger circle, the ability to say “no” to ourselves and not fill ourselves, our lives with stuff means that we are in less danger of drowning spiritually, or of becoming spiritual predators that bite and consume others. Being able to say “no” and turn off, turn away, and turn around means that we are better able to hear and understand our neighbors’ needs, and our Lord’s call when he sets us aside to go into the mission field.
May your day be grace-filled ~ Pr. Dave Brooks