Fast and Pray | A Letter From Pastor Michael
Dearest Christ Church,
Our elders have set Good Friday apart for our church to practice the spiritual disciplines of fasting and prayer. While prayer is familiar to us all, fasting is far less common in Presbyterian churches. Before spending Friday in prayer and fasting we must remind ourselves about the importance of fasting as a spiritual discipline.
Fasting and prayer go hand in hand, and in the New Testament they are often mentioned together—after Christ teaches his followers the Lord’s Prayer, he tells them what to do when fasting (Matt. 6:5–18); while the Apostles fasted and prayed, the Holy Spirit revealed that Saul and Barnabas would be missionaries (Acts 13:2–3); and when Paul and Barnabas appointed elders in the churches they planted, they did so “with prayer and fasting” (Acts 14:23).
Fasting is not a way for Christians to show their spiritual fortitude or perform spiritual acts for personal gain (Matt. 6:16–18). Rather, fasting “[reminds us] that our normal state of life in this world is not fullness but hunger, and [appeals] for God to grant us what we so desperately need” (Iain M. Duguid, Esther & Ruth, Reformed Expository Commentary [Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2005], 55). We desperately need repentance, reformation, and revival in our churches and throughout the world. We fast because we need God to deliver us from this plague attacking our world. But even more than that our world desperately needs deliverance from the plague of sin through Jesus Christ’s victory on the cross.
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17), including the food we eat. When we fast we do not reject God’s gift of food, but remind ourselves that our salvation, safety, comfort, and security do not come from the gifts themselves but from the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent Gift Giver, our blessed Triune God. When fasting, we show our finitude before our infinite God—we humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord (James 4:10), remembering that God is not like us and does not need food to sustain his life. Rather, he is eternal life in and of himself (1 John 5:20). We fast and pray, depriving ourselves of God’s good gifts for a time so that we can focus on crying out to God, especially in times of heightened fear and anxiety.
Our world is in turmoil; all over the globe people are “social distancing,” working from home, and trying to protect themselves and their loved ones. This situation breeds fear and worry, and the evil one would like nothing more than to keep us focused on the coronavirus, to worry over its socioeconomic impact, and to cower in fear—what better time for the church to dedicate herself to the twin disciplines of prayer and fasting? What better way to spend our isolation than in seeking the face of God, crying out to the only one capable of healing our bodies and our souls? Fasting forces us to viscerally understand that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Deut. 8:3/Matt. 4:4).
Fasting shows our utter reliance on God to provide our sustenance. Therefore, when on Friday you feel the pangs of hunger and your stomach is roiling for something to eat, run to God in prayer! Let the hunger be a reminder of what God provides by his grace and cause you to approach the throne of grace boldly in the name of Christ.
Our day of prayer and fasting will look different for each person in the congregation. Some may decide, for health or other reasons, to fast only for a meal or two instead of all day. However you decide to participate is up to you, but dedicate what would be your normal mealtimes throughout the day to fervent prayer. And make sure your family tunes into Pastor Jon’s Good Friday message at 6PM on Facebook Live.
Christ Church, spend Friday praying and fasting, reminding yourself that you, like David in Psalm 40, are “poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!”
Blessings in Christ Jesus our Lord,