THE DISCIPLINES OF SABBATH, FASTING & PRAYING
Many people in the church today assume that Jesus easily lived the life He did because He was the Son of God. But when the Gospel accounts, this isn’t true. He faced struggles, criticisms and temptations on a daily basis. The scriptures also tell us that Jesus didn’t rely on His divinity while on earth, but rather was fully human and faced life in his humanity. Look at what it says: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Philippians 2:5-7
He faced life without sinning not because He depended upon His divinity, but because He relied on God while living in the flesh. Jesus lived a very disciplined life. He realized He would have never fulfilled His purpose and God’s will for Him without total reliance upon His Father. He spent forty days in the wilderness preparing (like a boot camp) for ministry by prayer and fasting; and He continued these practices throughout His ministry. He never assumed He outgrew these essential disciplines.
Likewise, the apostle Paul, never outgrew these disciplines either. He recognized after his conversion, that if he was going to live out the salvation and righteousness that God had gifted him with, he would need to practice living this type of life on a daily basis. Listen to what he tells us here: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
What is Paul telling us here? That he lived the crucified life everyday. In other words, he made sacrifices, he endured pain and he was totally sold out to live for Christ. In other words, he was willing to do whatever it took to die to himself, so that Christ could live his righteous life through him.
Here is my point, if both Jesus and Paul – Jesus the Son of God and Paul who wrote most of the New Testament – needed discipline in their lives to live a life of integrity and faithfulness, how much more do we need them?
There are few people who are really good at anything that haven’t disciplined themselves to master their craft. In other words, people who are really good at something have learned to say no to certain things, in order to say yes to the things that have allowed them to develop their craft.
Take for example someone who is preparing to become a lawyer. They have to discipline themselves to study, to attend classes, graduate from law school and prepare to take the Bar Exam. This will probably mean that they may have to say no to many things so they are able to carve out the time necessary to focus on studying and becoming an expert in law. This same principle occurs if we are going to live the righteous life Christ has called us to live. Here are three disciplines that are both biblically based and very practical. They will help us live for Christ and at the same time, help us live a more authentic, healthy and productive life.
When we think of observing the Sabbath, we think of taking Sunday off and going to church. There is nothing wrong with this thought, and this certainly could be part of observing the Sabbath. But just like we can observe Christmas and miss the real meaning we can do the same with the Sabbath. We don’t just want to observe it as a day, but rather we want to experience it. The book of Hebrews puts it this way: There remains, then, a Sabbath - rest for the people of God... Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest... Hebrews 4:9, 11
According to God’s word, the Sabbath is something to enter into. It is not a day, but more of an attitude and an experience. It is taking the time, taking a break from thinking about and living in the world, to focusing on God. It is relaxing in the comfort and peace of the Lord. It is remembering that God is good, that He is on our side and that in the midst of our busy world, we need to step away and get refreshed by focusing upon and meditating upon Him and His word. While this can be done by attending church; it usually is even more effective to do it by yourself.
What this probably looks like in our day means to unplug from the internet and all devices, get outside in the fresh air (or at least in a quiet room with no TV or radio), and just breath, think, relax and ask the Lord to give you a fresh word from heaven or a peace in your longing spirit.
In our culture, as tough as the above discipline is, this would be even tougher. When we think of fasting, what is the first thing to come to mind? Not eating! Most of us can’t go more than a few hours without eating. Most of us can’t stay on a diet or meal plan for very long, let alone fast for hours or days.
While I think fasting from food or doing a cleanse is a great and healthy idea, let’s not confine fasting to only food. Pick out one thing in your life that you like, and commit to not doing it for a period of time. Or pick something in your life that you know is keeping you from achieving your goals, and commit to fasting from it for a period of time. For example, if you know TV has become a distraction to you and is keeping you from studying or cleaning up a room you have been getting around to doing for months, then fast from the TV for a period of time. Watch how you become more disciplined and how your character as a person will grow!
Prayer is not about taking long prayer vigils on your knees until they are sore, but rather prayer is about talking with God. Sometimes it may be telling him about the problems in your life or praying for someone else. And then sometimes you may go deeper in your prayers by giving praise to the Lord or by meditating on His qualities and character. Sometimes prayer is just being quiet and allowing the Lord to put some thoughts or promptings into your spirit. Prayer is not about the length of time, your posture, the place or using the right words; but rather it is about allowing God to communicate with your heart so that He can change your heart to more one with His.
Jesus and Paul entered into all three of these disciplines. They grew in their love and knowledge of God because of them. They didn’t live the lives they did by accident. Their lives were different because they disciplined themselves to allow the Spirit of God to work through them. May you be challenged today to begin to at least integrate one of these disciplines into your life so that God can use you more effectively in partnering with you to reach this world for Christ.
By: Jack Guyler