Monday, March 28, 2011

The Most Common Spiritual Disciplines


Definition: Spiritual Disciplines - practices that promote spiritual growth, or devotional habits that aid and advance spiritual growth.

For Example: Two weeks ago we looked at spiritual disciplines associated with Lent.

Last week: the most basic/most important spiritual discipline - Bible reading. Can't know how to relate to God without this.

This week: Fasting and Prayer - with the focus on fasting.

Fasting is the most recognized spiritual discipline but the least practiced.

1. Fasting is NOT the most commonly practiced discipline --- but is the most commonly recognized!! Examples: monks, monasteries, etc.
2. Fasting is an ancient practice and found in all world religions!
3. Though prayer is often practiced without fasting, fasting is never found without prayer.
Bear in mind - we are talking about Biblical fasting - not fasting for a diet, etc.

DEFINITION: Common/primary sense - fasting is voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual reasons. It is not required.
In the broader sense - it is voluntary abstinence from any legitimate substance or activity for spiritual reasons. Dan. 10:2-3
Some examples could be: meats, sweets, coffee, pop, TV, Facebook, video games, etc.

The PURPOSE is NOT to appease God contrary to the pagan notion that the gods needed to be appeased, calmed, pacified, placated, soothed, softened, mollified. OR, to win the gods' favor - manipulate, negotiate, satisfy a requirement, pay a debt.

Fasting was never designed for God. It was designed for us!

Why do we fast??
1. to express sincerity (show outwardly what we claim is in us)
2. to enhance spiritual sensitivity
3. to gain insight, understanding of spiritual things, spiritual realization
4. to correct attitudes, adjust behavior
5. to develop Godly character
6. to develop my relationship with God.

NOTE: Fasting and prayer doe not guarantee any results. Can be fasting for the wrong reasons.

Scriptures about fasting:
Jonah 3:4-10 - show sincerity, express repentance
Esther 4:15-16 - seeking God's favor and serious about it.
Ezra 8:21-23 - earn His favor
2 Chron. 20:2-4 seeking guidance/wisdom
Joel 2:12-14 (a) "blessing" - not necessary, BUT where's the evidence

So..... they added fasting to prayer .... to express contrition, ask for protection, to seek guidance, to increase sensitivity, to honor God, to express devotion

In a nutshell, fasting complements prayer with intensity, focus, persistence.

"Fasting hoists the sails of the soul" so, if He moves........

Jesus ..... practiced, modeled, taught fasting.
On the one hand, he did not command it. However, He did expect it.
Matt. 6:1, 2, 5, 16-18
Matt. 9:14-15

POINT: Not do you fast? how often? how long? how extreme?
The point is: do you seek God? His will? His kingdom?

and IF so.... would you fast and pray???
for -
1. your own spiritual growth and development?
2. the lost?
3. our church, community, nation?

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