Prayer and fasting

1 Thessalonians 5:17 says: “pray continually.” It’s an easy verse to remember for all of us. But it’s a verse of such importance. To live as a Christian is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and that relationship needs to be cultivated and nourished. One way we can do that is through prayer.

Think of other relationships you have; maybe with a parent, a husband, wife, or child. Now begin to think of how difficult that relationship would be if you never communicated, never talked to them and, just as important, never listened to them. That is exactly the same with prayer and communication with Jesus. We all need to grow and cultivate our relationship with Him.

Communication with anyone is never one sided. Don’t let your prayer life be one sided either but spend time listening to God. He will speak to you if you take time to learn the sound of His distinct voice to you. Prayer has been described as our hotline to heaven. When we pray God listens and God always answers. As a Christian there is no greater privilege than to talk to Jesus directly.

Prayer is more than a list of requests and wish-lists; in fact that is precisely what prayer should not be. In Matthew 6:33 Jesus says: “seek first the Kingdom of heaven and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”

When you pray, aim to make kingdom things your first priority. God the Father will bless you and abundantly supply all you need because he loves to bless his children and your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:8) Let us be clear, there is nothing wrong with going to Jesus in prayer for specific things, but do not make those things the reason for praying. Pray because you want to spend time with Jesus and you want to hear what he has to say to you.

Fasting is a spiritual discipline found throughout the Bible.

Moses, Elijah, Esther, David, Anna, Jesus, Paul, even cities and whole nations are recorded as having fasted. But what exactly is fasting? Well, it is simply the deliberate abstention from food, and sometimes from fluids, for spiritual purposes. Fasting is not a hunger strike to twist God’s arm; neither is it dieting to cleanse the body (which is occasionally good to do). Nor is it a form of self-denial to show how spiritual we are. Simply put, we fast to find God. Jesus taught that we should fast (Matthew 6:16). He did not say ‘if you fast’ but ‘when you fast’. While there are no direct commands for us to fast, if we read the Bible correctly we will see that fasting is an important aspect of our relationship with God.

There are three kinds of fast in the Bible: the normal fast, which entails abstention from food but not from water (Luke 4:1-2); the partial fast, where the normal diet is restricted or modified (Daniel 1:8-15; 10:2-3); and the absolute fast in which no food or liquids are taken (Acts 9:9; Esther 4:16). We also have accounts of fasts in which no food or drink was taken for forty days (Exodus 34:28, Deuteronomy 9:9-18).

Roger Aubrey

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