Fasting and Praying

Fasting and Praying

In continuing the series on observing a holy Lent, today we will look at fasting and praying. Biblical fasting is going without food. Both the Greek and Hebrew words for fast mean a voluntary absence from food. There are many people in both the Old and New Testaments who fasted. Fasting is always associated with praying, the two are interconnected.

Ezra 8:21

Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods.

Nehemiah 1:4

As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

Matthew 4:1-2

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

“Fast and pray in order to humble yourself and purify your worship. In fasting we are not trying to get something from God, but seeking to realign our hearts’ affections with His. In fasting we can more readily say, “We love you, Lord, more than anything in the world.” Lust of any kind is perverted worship, but fasting enables us to cleanse the sanctuary of our hearts from every other rival.” (International House of Prayer – Fasting)

Lent is the perfect time for us to seek the Lord through fasting and praying so we can better align our hearts with the Lord and seek His will for our lives. There are many ways to fast but one of the easiest ways to start is to fast from after dinner on one night through the start of dinner the following night. It requires you to skip breakfast, lunch and snacks. It is a very doable fast and when it is accompanied with prayer can really help us seek the Lord in a powerful way.

Look at your calendar this week, what day can you set aside for fasting and praying? Mark it on your calendar, begin praying to the Lord about your fast today and then follow through with it. May the Lord bless your time of fasting and praying and may it help you draw even closer to Him.

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Self-examination and Repentance

Spotlight

We are 18 days into Lent. How has your Lent been going so far? Have you done anything different in the last 18 days? Do you feel closer to the Lord today than you did 18 days ago? Last week I talked about how to observe a holy Lent. The invitation in the Book of Common Prayer that is said before ashes are imposed during an Ash Wednesday service invites us to observe a holy Lent. This invitation goes on to tell us how to do just that.

It starts by self-examination and repentance. So what does self-examination look like and how do you do it? It starts by taking a close look at your life and seeing where your life is in line with God’s will and where it isn’t. It is looking at your life and and the sinfulness in it. Often we realize we have done something wrong and we ask the Lord for forgiveness. Seeking His forgiveness is just the beginning. We are to follow it with repentance which is a turning away from our sin.

Self-examination is more than us looking at what we feel is the sinfulness in our lives, it requires us to seek the Lord and ask Him to reveal to us areas where we are sinning. Often we are sinning in areas that we aren’t even recognizing as sin. We tend to rationalize, justify and minimize our sinfulness. During Lent, the Lord calls us to shine a bright light on our sinfulness and allow Him to highlight areas we may not even recognize ourselves.

Once the Lord shows us an area of sinfulness, we need to repent. Repenting is difficult because it is completely turning away from that sin. It is not ‘trying’ to do it but actually doing it. When the Lord shows us our sin and we look at it from His perspective, we realize how wretched it is in comparison with His holiness. When we understand how truly ugly and hurtful our sin is, we are inspired to turn from it.

If you have not taken the time for self-examination, there is no better time than the present. If we are to observe a holy Lent and be transformed this Lenten season, we must start by taking a hard look at our sinfulness. If you have not had to repent of an area of sinfulness yet this Lent, it isn’t too late. This is one of those situation that we try to avoid and put off when all we need to do is just do it.

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Join me on a Lenten Journey

Keeping a Holy Lent

We are in the season of Lent. It is the 40 days, not including Sundays, from Ash Wednesday until Easter. It is a time of self-reflection, recognizing our sinfulness and repentance, or at least it is supposed to be. We are currently 12 days in, how is your Lent going?

Some may have started off with the right attitude and a desire to use Lent as a time to preparation to really be able to celebrate Easter. However, many of us get distracted and busy with our lives and get off track. Some may have the desire to keep a holy Lent but don’t really understand how to do that.

The Book of Common Prayer’s Ash Wednesday service has a beautiful invitation that is said prior to the imposition of ashes. It not only invites us to observe a holy Lent, but tells us exactly how to do that.

“I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.” (BCP 1979)

First of all, it is an invitation and like all other invitations, we can accept or reject it. If you chose to accept this invitation then you need to do what is necessary to observe a holy Lent. A holy Lent includes self-examination, repentance, prayer, fasting, self denial and reading and meditation on God’s Word.

Looking at this list may seem overwhelming but it is very doable. For the remainder of Lent I will be describing what each of these things are and giving practical examples of what they look like in your life. It is not too late to start. Will you accept the invitation for a holy Lent?

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What Does Your Love Look Like?

Love

February 14th is Valentine’s Day. Everywhere you go you see hearts and candy and all kinds of things that encourage us to buy something special for those we love on Valentine’s Day. It made me stop and think about love and what my love looks like. The love that is talked about in Scripture is not a mushy, gushy feeling, it is something that is put into action.

We are only able to love others because we were first loved by the Lord.

1 John 4:19

We love because he first loved us.

Scripture also tells us God is love.

1 John 4:8

 Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

It is easy for us to see what God’s love looks like in His Word.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

There is nothing we did or can do to earn God’s love for us. We don’t have to wait until we are good enough for Him to love us.

Romans 5:8

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Scripture even gives us a beautiful description of what our love is supposed to look like in the book of 1 Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Read over those verses and see if that description of what our love is supposed to look like. How does your love compare? Which areas are you struggling with in your relationships? Do you find yourself being rude or arrogant? Do you become irritable or are you resentful of others?

Perhaps the best gift we can give our loved ones this Valentine’s Day is to simply seek the Lord and ask Him to empower us to love the way that He loves. Ask the Lord to reveal to you people you are having a difficult time loving this way. What could loving those in your life in this way do to improve, repair or restore relationships?

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Recognizing God’s Blessings

DSC_0986 IMG_1929IMG_2239

Last May my family and I went to Colorado for a vacation. We were really excited to do some hiking and enjoy the cooler weather. What we didn’t expect was to get 12 inches of snow on the first night. We woke up the first morning and it had started to snow and just kept on snowing. As we watched the weather report and realized that it was going to snow all day and all night, we realized our plans for hiking were slipping away. We were feeling pretty bummed about our plans not going as expected.

However, as we looked out the window at the snow falling, which is something we never see in Houston, we realized it was an unexpected blessing from the Lord. The beauty of watching the snow fall on the mountain scenery was impossible to miss. It was a great reminder of the beauty of God’s creation and a wonderful reminder that His blessings come in unexpected ways sometimes.

When it was snowing, we could have been really bummed and upset that all of the things we had planned to do were now ruined and we weren’t able to do them. Instead, we enjoyed the beauty of the falling snow and made new plans. We enjoyed a day of staying inside, drinking hot chocolate, playing board games and then going outside to build a snowman together. The next day we were driving and saw a nice hill for sledding but had no sleds. So we improvised. We stopped at a grocery store and picked up some metal pizza pans and used them as sleds.

Out trip didn’t turn out the way we had planned, but we were able to see the beauty of God’s creation in a different way than we expected and we realize He blessed us with different adventures. How often do we recognize His blessings when our plans are changed and things don’t work out the way we had planned?

It is easy to become negative, frustrated and angry when things don’t work as we have planned. But, what we need to remember is that God’s plan for our day, vacation or our life is always greater than our own, even when we can’t see it in the moment. His blessings don’t always come in the ways we expect.

It is easy for us to remain negative, frustrated and angry when things don’t go our way. However, God is always at work in our lives and sometimes we just need to adjust our perspective or our vision to see where He is working. Some of the biggest blessings in my life have come from situations that were less than perfect, often they come from the most difficult of times.

Last year I went to take care of my sister-in-law after a foot surgery and was able to spend a lot of fun time with my niece. Because we have always lived 800 miles away and for 4 years we lived more than 7500 miles away. While I was there my sister-in-laws mother who was battling cancer took a turn for the worse. Instead of being able to spend Christmas with my husband and daughters, I went with my sister-in-law to help take care of my niece while she cared for her mom. It was very tough to be away from my family for the holidays, but God is good, all the time.

My relationship with my sister-in-law and her family grew by leaps and bounds and my relationship with my precious niece is stronger and closer than ever. The Lord used this difficult situation to draw my extended family closer together. I never would have had as  much time with my niece without her grandmother becoming very ill and ultimately passing away. But, the blessing was being able to support her, her mom and her mom’s family during this difficult time.

Look at your own circumstances. Are you feeling negative, frustrated or angry? Perhaps you need to look at where God is working and recognize the hidden blessings in even the most difficult of situations. God is good, all the time; all the time, God is good!

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