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Sunday word: Insight into fasting and prayer

BY PROSPER TINGINI

Fasting is a form of committed worship which is accompanied by an act of deprivation of a specific human daily need of one kind or other. It is like a self-sacrifice in-lieu of something of substance in the sense that instead of giving to the Lord our God a tangible offering you then substitute that by denying yourself a basic necessity as a sacrifice. That portion which you then withhold from consuming or its use is the offering to the Lord. In the same process there a test of temptation and dedication to prayer so that your sacrifice may be acceptable to the Lord. This form of sacrificial worship allows all those with nothing at all to give to the Lord and to learn to defeat temptations.

We Christians have our own form of fasting which is not restricted to any particular period, although it is mostly promoted during the commemorations of Jesus Christ’s death, the Easter period. Anyone can decide to go on a fasting of some kind at any time one feels like. People tend to fast when faced with a challenging problem or requiring the intervention of the Lord. However, fasting to induce God to come to your rescue only during trying times is not the proper thing to do, as you will be expecting something in return. Temptations and sacrifices are regular and not restricted to when you want the Lord to do you a favour. To fast for a particular need is regrettably now the norm. While it can be beneficial for some, it is not the right approach. To refrain from eating food is the most common form of fasting, with a lot of significance being placed in Jesus Christ’s example he went into the wilderness.

Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted 40 days and 40 nights, and afterwards he was hungry. And the tempter came and to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread”. But Jesus answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4:1-4). Please note that the purpose of Jesus’ fasting for 40 days and nights without food was a test to see if he could overcome temptation and defeat the devil, which he succeeded in doing. By so doing he unshackled the devil’s hold on man. He showed humanity that indeed Satan can be defeated if we pass the test of endurance. His sacrifice was centred on hunger. He quoted from the scriptures that food alone and other human basic necessities are not the only cornerstones of human living, but also the spoken words of God the Father.

Jesus did not go to fast in the wilderness so that he could get something in return, nor did he wish any burden upon him to be removed. He fasted to see if he could overcome temptations and persevere in times of need. The real purpose of fasting is to show God that you can overcome the devil in times of deprivation. It is an endurance test and to separate ourselves from worldly needs to reflect, digest and consume the words God on what he requires us to do and not to do. It is a time of full dedication and focus to the Lord. If we pass the test, then he may reward us in whatever way He desires and not necessarily with what we want Him to do for us. Passing the test may however enhance the granting of our wishes.

Prayer is different from fasting in that in praying you are communicating with the Lord our God, as Christians, through Jesus Christ. Fasting is a silent act known to you, whereas praying is speaking out to the Lord. In prayer you tell the Lord what you think of Him, thanking him for what he has done for you, asking him what you would want him to do for you, begging him for forgiveness of sin etc. Prayer is our phone line to God whilst fasting is a periodic act. Praying should be a daily practice. Prayers are accompanied by some actions of faith to solidify your connection to the Lord.

You cannot also live by words of prayer alone but by some actions of faith towards the Lord. Can you abandon even the most urgent things you need to do in your life to pray to the Lord? Can you find the time to periodically separate yourself from others to go and pray to him either in seclusion or as a congregation in the designated places of worship? In your prayers, are you guided by the statutes of the Lord? Is repentance part of your prayers? Most importantly what do you pray for? We need to be specific in our prayers. Let’s be guided by our actions and by the will of God.

Most often we pray to the Lord for our wishes to be granted at the time we want them. At times we get depressed thinking the Creator is not answering our prayers. We work and want things at our own pace, but God works at His own pace. Sometimes delays are meant to give us better things than we were hoping for. So please don’t stop praying even if we don’t get that which we had prayed for. It could be a blessing in disguise. Maybe it wasn’t the right time to answer our prayers as there could have been some consequences if some of our prayers were answered at our specific time limits. God always has a plan which could be different from ours, so we should always maintain our prayer focus and keep the praying momentum going at all times. Our prayers bring God into the life equations which help in the fulfilment of our dreams even if they may come in a different way and at different times.

Sometimes we make conditional demands telling God to do certain things for us in return for worshipping Him or in return for going on a fasting period. That should not be the case. Fasting teaches us to overcome temptation and not to conditionally make demands to the Lord. Praying connects us with God and is the channel for speaking of all the things we need to communicate with him.

  • Prosper Tingini is the scribe of the Children of God Missionary Assembly — God’s messengers. Contact details:  0771 260 195. Email address: ptingini@gmail.com 

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