Prayer AND Fasting?

I started my day on Sunday in much despair. I must have been watching the news on Saturday night. You know, wars, refugees, corruption in government, kids killing kids, the usual stuff but it was weighing on me. I went to a local church and heard a children’s sermon about trusting in God versus worry. The preacher used an illustration of oil and water. The two didn’t mix. Trusting in God and worry don’t mix. Great story for kids but as an adult there has to be more to it for me to buy in.

Then I read a devotion this week by Justin Coleman, a United Methodist minister. You know the Methodists. They have methods for everything.

Reverend Coleman talked about the forces of evil in the world and how Jesus dealt with them.“ Jesus answered them, ‘Throwing this kind of spirit out requires prayer.” (Mark 9:29)

Prayer, yes but fasting too? This is Lent after all and fasting is traditionally a Lenten practice. (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13). Yes, Jesus prayed but he also fasted for 40 days. (I can’t believe I am writing this. I am the guy who never met a doughnut he didn’t like.) In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus assumes fasting from those who follow him. He says “When you fast…” (Matthew 6:16). I love Eugene Peterson’s translation “When you practice some appetite-denying discipline to better concentrate on God, don’t make a production out of it. It might turn you into a small-time celebrity but it won’t make you a saint. If you ‘go into training’ inwardly, act normal outwardly. Shampoo and comb your hair, brush your teeth, wash your face.”

Also note that the purpose of fasting is not to give our prayers more clout but to better concentrate on God; to help focus the conversation we are having with God.

Reverend Coleman closes with his thought ”I absolutely believe in Holy Spirit driven calls to action. I also believe in the powerful activity of prayer that moves in ways that I don’t always see. Resistance is political and spiritual. If prayer is the method that Jesus uses to cast out the darkest forces that invade and misdirect our physical world, let us also choose prayer as a form of resistance to the powers and principalities of this world.”

Lord God, thank you for sending Jesus to show us the way to you. Amen.

Mark Autterson

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