A call to fast and pray

From figueroa Mon Sep 1 22:18:48 2003
Subject: A call to fast and pray
To: philippians
Date: Mon, 1 Sep 2003 22:18:48 -0400 (EDT)

In a discussion with Anne Rowland immediately after General Convention, Anne asked if I thought the AAC chapter should consider fasting as a group in this time leading up to the Primates meeting in October. I asked her if she was willing to lead it. This message is the result of that conversation. In the meantime, the AAC and the Primates have called upon us to fast and pray. (Anne and her husband Richard convene the Alpha course at St. George's, Dayton, and lead the Dayton Alpha Conference's intercessory prayer team.) A copy of this message will be placed under "Archives" on the chapter web site http://philippians-1-20.us/

Prepared by: Anne Rowland, Annerow@aol.com

We ask that members of the Southern Ohio American Anglican Council Chapter fast as a group according to each person's ability and calling on Wednesdays and Fridays (traditional fast days) through the Primates meeting October 15-16. If you will join us in this fast, and if you are willing to let us know, please send an email to Annerow@aol.com indicating that you will keep the fast, and whether it is Wednesdays, Fridays, or both days.

Fasting, like the ability to fast safely, is highly personal. Some may fast for one meal on their fast days, others may fast for two or three meals. Those experienced with fasting may be able to do more. Some with special dietary needs (i.e. related to health, maternity, metabolism) may chose to do a partial fast, not giving up an entire meal, but possibly giving up meat or something else that wouldn't adversely effect their health. Some may find that adding liquids in addition to water may enable you fast more successfully.

The important thing is to fast, and to pray.

The following selections from Richard Foster's, Celebration of Discipline, have been chosen to help each person frame their response to this call.

Fasting In the Bible

"Throughout Scripture fasting refers to abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. It stands in distinction to the hunger strike, the purpose of which is to gain political power or attract attention to a good cause. It is also distinct from health dieting which stresses abstinence from food for physical, not spiritual purposes...In Scripture the normal means of fasting involves abstaining from all food, solid or liquid, but not from water....Sometimes what could be considered a partial fast is described; that is, there is a restriction of diet but not total abstention...

"In most cases fasting is a private matter between the individual and God. There are, however, occasional times of corporate or public fasts. The only annual public fast required in the Mosaic law was on the day of atonement.... Also, fasts were called in times of group or national emergency...

"The group fast can be a wonderful and powerful experience provided there is a prepared people who are of one mind in these matters. Serious problems in churches or other groups can be dealt with and relationships healed through unified group prayer and fasting...The Didache prescribed two fast days a week: Wednesday and Friday.

The Purpose of Fasting

"It is sobering to realize that the very first statement Jesus made about fasting dealt with the question of motive (Matt. 6:16-18). To use good things to our own ends is always the sign of false religion. How easy it is to take something like fasting and try to use it to get God to do what we want. At times there is such stress upon the blessings and benefits of fasting that we would be tempted to believe that with a little fast we could have the world, including God, eating out of our hands.

"Physical benefits, success in prayer, the enduing with power, spiritual insights--these must never replace God as the center of our fasting. John Wesley declares, 'First, let it [fasting] be done unto the Lord with our eye singly fixed on Him. Let our intention herein be this, and this alone, to glorify our Father which is in heaven....' That is the only way we will be saved from loving the blessing more than the Blesser.

"Once the primary purpose of fasting is firmly fixed in our hearts, we are at liberty to understand that there are also secondary purposes in fasting. More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately. David writes, 'I humbled my soul with fasting.' (Ps. 69:10). Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear--if they are within us, they will surface during fasting. At first we will rationalize that our anger is due to our hunger; then we will realize that we are angry because the spirit of anger is within us. We can rejoice in this knowledge because we know that healing is available through the power of Christ...

The Practice of Fasting

"It should go without saying that you should follow Jesus' counsel to refrain from calling attention to what you are doing. The only ones who should know you are fasting are those who have to know. If you call attention to your fasting, people will be impressed and, as Jesus said, that will be your reward. You, however, are fasting for far greater and deeper rewards."

Andy Figueroa

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