What is Prayer?
Simply put, prayer is talking with God. Through Jesus, we have a relationship with God: he is our Father and we are his beloved children. When we pray, we enter his presence and are received like a child with their adoring Father. When we go to God in prayer, we can bring him our joys and sorrows, our needs and desires, and trust that he hears us. Even when we don’t know what to pray, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, wordlessly conveying our needs to God on our behalf (Romans 8:26-28). We can trust that God will provide, even if his provision looks different than what we would’ve chosen ourselves. He is sovereign and his wisdom is beyond our understanding.
“Prayer is the way and means God has appointed for the communication of the blessings of His goodness to His people.” Arthur W. Pink
“When you want to work for God start a committee. When you want to work with God start a prayer group.” Corrie Ten Boom
“To pray is to enter the treasure-house of God and to gather riches out of an inexhaustible storehouse.” Charles Spurgeon
Why Should We Pray?
One of GBC’s core values—one of our GBC Distinctives—is our conviction that prayer is indispensable:
We are a church that prays because we depend on God. Prayer is our shameless admission that we can do nothing without Him. Therefore, prayer is not merely a transition point in our lives and activities, nor is it the cherry on top; prayer is the beginning, middle, and end of our work. If we desire for God to work in ways that cannot be merely attributed to our efforts, then we must be a people on our knees (Ephesians 6:18, James 5:13, 1 John 5:14).
We pray because we are dependent on God in all things and because God works through our prayers to accomplish his Kingdom purposes in our hearts and in the world.
How Should We Pray?
Let God’s Word shape your prayers. We want to pray God’s Word back to Him. This helps our prayers be God-focused even as we seek him in our current circumstances and beyond.
“Our prayers should arise out of the immersion in the Scripture. We speak only to the degree we are spoken to . . . The wedding of the Bible and prayer anchors your life down in the real God.” Tim Keller
Use the acronym PRAY.
First, we praise God in prayer. Adore God for who he is and what he has done! Praise him for his attributes, his steadfast love and faithfulness, his holiness, and his sovereignty. Praise him for the gospel and the truth that he is good, gracious, and great.
Next, repent of sin. Repent you are prone to wander, sinning in the wrong things you do and in the godly things you don’t do. Confess that you don’t always love Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Repent of your tendency to seek things other than God for your identity, security, significance, and satisfaction. Repent of the ways that you indulge the desires of your flesh and eyes, and your pride of life (I John 2:16). Confess that too often you live more for your own kingdom than for God’s eternal kingdom. Lord, I believe, help my unbelief!
Next, earnestly ask God for what you or others need or want. Come to God, pleading with humility. Pray for yourself, your family, your friends, your city, and your country. Pray for GBC, for other churches in and around Gresham, and for the global church (especially those suffering persecution). Pray specifically and expectantly, knowing that God loves to give good gifts to his children (Matthew 7:11). Pray truth from God’s Word concerning particular needs or situations.
Finally, remember God’s provision in your life and yield yourself to him afresh. God is sovereign and faithful. He provides your daily bread and has also provided for your truest need and highest good in Christ. You can trust him to answer your prayers, even if his answer isn’t what you would have chosen yourself. Thank God for his daily supply in your life and submit yourself to his good and perfect will.
What is Fasting?
Fasting is abstaining from something you need (usually food) to seek God in prayer. Though fasting traditionally means going without food, believers may also abstain from other good things to devote themselves to prayer. Some will fast only from sunup to sundown each day, while others may choose to go without food completely for several days at a time. A fast might be as short as one day or as long as several weeks.
Why Should We Fast?
The Old and New Testaments are filled with examples of God’s people fasting for a variety of reasons: to express grief or repentance, to draw closer to God, to seek wisdom and guidance, and to ask God for healing or deliverance in times of difficulty. But fasting isn’t only a last resort reserved for desperate circumstances. Fasting should also be a regular rhythm in the life of a believer. Here’s why:
Jesus expected his followers to fast.
Right after the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6, Jesus said to his followers “when you fast.” He didn’t say “if you fast.” Although he didn’t provide specific instructions on how long or how often, Jesus expected his followers to fast with some regularity after he ascended to heaven. That’s exactly what believers in the early church did, and we should too.
Fasting reminds us of our need for God.
Jesus expected believers to fast to remind us of our reliance on him. We are quick to forget how much we need God. That only he truly satisfies. Abstaining from food for a time helps us remember our utter dependence on him. Fasting awakens us from our spiritual slumber and should fuel God-centered worship as we’re reminded again of our creatureliness and our great need for God.
Fasting helps us hope for heaven.
Fasting renews our spiritual appetite and lifts our eyes to the eternal horizon of heaven. Fasting helps us live for eternity and whets our spiritual appetite for the eternal feast of heaven at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:6-10)!
How Should We Fast?
"While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting..." Acts 13:2
Use the acronym FAST.
Focus on God.
Don’t view fasting as something to conquer. The goal is to let God and His Word “conquer you.” When we fast, we intentionally open ourselves up to hearing from God and submitting ourselves to his work in our lives and the world.
Abstain from food.
At its core, fasting is abstaining from something you need (like food) to refresh your awareness of how much you need God. Even a half-day fast (sunup to sundown) may feel difficult because we are so accustomed to eating and snacking throughout the day. However, it is not an unsafe practice for most healthy people. Keep in mind:
- Whether you fast for a full week or a single day, it’s important to drink plenty of fluids (water or juice).
- Certain medical conditions may make fasting unsafe for you. If you aren’t sure, your doctor will be able to advise you on whether fasting from food is safe for you. If it isn’t, you may choose to abstain from something else for the week.
If you can’t abstain from food, fast from something else. If food is something you’re unable to fast from or if it just feels too daunting, feel the freedom to fast from something else that takes up your time in a significant way. This is especially true if you’ve had an unhealthy relationship with food. The point isn’t fasting for the sake of fasting. The point is to create space in your life to commune with God. Take the time you would normally engage in whatever you’re fasting from and spend that time praying and reading God’s Word. Be intentional this week to turn down the volume in your head and heart to be quiet with God.
- Other options for fasting include social media, screen time, going to the gym, or other comforts and pastimes.
Substitute time with prayer and the Word.
Substitute mealtimes with prayer and reading God’s Word. Fasting is most effective when mealtimes are replaced with seeking God more intentionally. If you choose to fast but aren’t intentional about spending time in prayer or in seeking to hear from God, it won’t be a useful practice. If anything, you’ll be trusting in yourself to “get through it.” We fast to be more in tune with our need for God’s grace and work in our lives. Fasting quiets our hearts and focuses our minds on God. It should grow us in God-dependence, not self-dependence.
- Replacing mealtime with prayer time will be more difficult for those who will still need to prepare food and supervise mealtimes and snacks for others (such as young children) during the week. Don’t let this discourage you from participating, even if your week of fasting looks a little different. You may choose to fast from something other than food, or in addition to food, to carve out that extra time in your day to pray and meditate on God’s Word.
- Use the Reading Plan and Prayer Guide. This will help guide your prayers and your reading throughout the week. Using this shared guide will help unify us as a church as we seek God together.
Taste and see that God is good.
Fast alongside other GBCers. The week of prayer and fasting is more than just an individual exercise, it is also something we do together as a church family. In light of that, consider how you could partner with other GBCers in fasting this week:
- Process your day with someone else. Consider calling someone each day during the week to pray together and share how your fast is going. Ask one another: what did God reveal to you during this week? What did you find yourself praying for the most? How did God move in your life this week?
- Involve your children in your fast. If you have children, use the week of fasting as a discipleship opportunity. Although young children should not fast from food, they can still learn about what fasting is and why we do it. If you have teenagers, invite them to join you in fasting in some form this week. Whatever age your children may be, you can share about what God is teaching you through the week of fasting.
- Use music to stir your affections. Engage your mind and fuel your heart with music during this week, “. . . singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Ephesians 5:19). Let music direct your heart to praise him. As you become keenly aware of your hunger, may that dependence drive you to worship with your affections. You’re going to feel joy when you break your fast and taste good food again. Pray for that same enjoyment as you worship him this week and really “taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34:8).
- Get outside. Take a walk and spend time praying. You could even invite a few other GBCers to join you! Breathe fresh air as you seek to breathe life into your soul during this week of prayer and fasting. Being out in God’s creation can help stir holy affections as we move our eyes off ourselves and our temporary problems and onto our Creator God who cares for all he has made.