Practical Tips on Prayer and Fasting Gleaned from Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster Prayer 1. Real prayer is something we learn. Realize prayer is a learning process. Do not be afraid to question, experiment, even to fail. 2. Never wait until you FEEL like praying before you pray. Prayer is like other work. We often do not feel like doing it. A person may not feel like practicing the piano, but once she plays for a while and gains experience and skill she will value the experience and have more desire to do it. Once you begin the practice of praying for a while, you will drawn to it. 3. Study the prayers of the Gospels. Notice that Jesus did not pray long “wishy washy” prayers. Jesus’ prayers often took the form of a direct authoritative command: “Walk,” “Be well,” “Stand up.” If you are praying according to God’s will, there is no need to be indecisive, tentative, half hoping. 4. One of the most critical aspects of learning to pray for others is to get in contact with God so that His life and power can be channeled through you into others. LISTENING to the Lord is the first thing, the second thing, and the third thing necessary for successful intercession. Before you pray the prayer of faith for others, listen for guidance. If you are still, you will learn not only who God is but how His power operates. 5. Often you may feel you do not have enough faith to pray for certain “impossible” situations. Remember the Bible tells us that great miracles are possible through faith the size of a mustard seed. 6. Do not make prayer too complicated. Just as a child comes to a parent and asks for breakfast in complete confidence that it will be provided, we can be confident that God will answer when we pray according to His will. 7. Don’t feel that you always have to be spontaneous. There are many prayer books and resources available that give daily prayers and scriptures to pray at various points of the day (the daily office). If the Holy Spirit inspired other people in other times to write prayers that are still very meaningful, why not start by praying those prayers. If you start with a framework for prayer, you will find that there is plenty of room to be spontaneous as you go along. For more information on the daily office visit, http://www.marinachristian.org/default2.aspx?pid=137. Fasting What Spiritual Fasting Is Not 1. It is not a hunger strike. Hunger strikes are for the purpose of attracting attention for a cause and gaining political power. 2. It is not a type of dieting which stresses abstinence from food for a period for health and not for spiritual reasons. 3. It is not done because of a desire for power or for selfish reasons. What is Biblical Fasting? 1. Biblical fasting always centers on spiritual purposes. 2. Normal Biblical fasting is abstinence from all food, solid or liquid, but not from water. 3. A partial fast is abstinence from certain foods (Daniel 10:3) 4. An absolute fast is abstinence from both food and water. We see this in the Bible only in dire emergencies and only for short lengths of time (Esther 4:16) 5. It is usually a private matter between a person and God, but there are instances in the Bible of periods of public/corporate fasts. Similar to fasts, there is scriptural mention of abstinences from certain activities (sleep, sexual activity) for spiritual purposes. 6. There is NO biblical command to fast. Therefore fasting is not an obligation, but an opportunity. The Purpose of Fasting 1. Fasting should never be used for our own ends. Often people fast in order to gain favor with God so that He will do what they want. 2. Fasting must always be centered on God. Those who fast need to be worshipping with their fasting. 3. Fasting has secondary benefits. The most important is that fasting, like no other spiritual discipline will reveal what controls us. We easily cover up what is inside us with food and other good things. David said, “I humbled my soul with fasting” (Ps 69:10). Fear, pride, anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife – if they are within us, they will surface during fasting. 4. Fasting helps us keep our balance in life. It is a discipline that brings freedom - freedom from controlling feelings and desires. How to Fast 1. Start slowly. Learn to walk before you learn to run. 2. Begin with a partial fast of only 24 hours. Fruit juices are excellent for a partial fast. Do this for once a week for two weeks. 3. Try a 24 hour normal fast (no food, only water) from lunch to lunch. In this way you only miss two meals (dinner and breakfast). Try this once a week for several weeks. 4. At first you will be tuned into the physical aspects of fasting. However, monitor the inner attitude of prayer and worship. Outwardly you will be going about your business, but inwardly you will be in prayer and adoration, song, and worship. 5. Break your fast with a light meal of fruits and vegetables and a good deal of rejoicing. 6. Once you have mastered this, you may feel led to longer periods of 7. normal or partial fasting. If so, drink generous amounts of water. At first you will feel hunger pains. This is not real hunger, your stomach has been trained to give signals of hunger at certain hours. Remember you are the master of your stomach, not its slave. 8. DO NOT CALL ATTENTION TO THE FACT THAT YOU ARE FASTING! Jesus warned about making a religious show of prayer and fasting (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21). 9. However it is okay to notify people who must know and even to gather the prayers and support of others when you undertake a fast. 10. Do not fast if there are health conditions which would be aggravated by doing so. Instead consider partial fasts or abstinence from other activities in order to devote time to prayer and worship. It is also wise to consult your physician if you have special health issues or if you intend to undertake an extended fast. For more information about prayer, fasting, and other spiritual disciplines read the classic: Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster Harper and Row: San Francisco, 1978.
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