In order to shape you into the person that you are made to be; to shape the relationship with God that you were made for; to form the character and lifestyle that you were created for; it's not all fun and games.
You have got to do some hard work. Grrrrrr.
You have to go through the labour pains if you are going to birth flourishing relationship, character and lifestyle.
Its like everyday of your life is your labour, the agony of producing the person who will wake up in your body tomorrow. It’s actually questionable whether you can ever be the same person for two days on the trot. What today throws at you and how you react and respond to that will force you to become either better or worse for tomorrow, it will push you towards breakdown or breakthrough, it could nudge you a step closer to the Kingdom version of you or a step further away.
Think of your whole self like a garden, if untended you will become a messy field with thorns, weeds, broken bottles littered around.
Well tended though...and your being could become a vibrant garden, filled with colour and texture and depth, a place of laughter and joy to run around in.
This is why countless people throughout the ages have tried to find ways to tend to themselves, to do for their heart mind, soul and body, what exercise does for your muscles.
These spiritual practices or spiritual disciplines lead us through the growing pains, they tend to your soul; in order to bring to birth a character that is fully flourishing. There are no short cuts, it takes hard work and discipline.
Today let me shortly introduce you to the spiritual practice of Fasting. Yep fasting. Fasting is one of these spiritual practices and lent is a great time to start practicing it.
Fasting, is a massive topic and far to big for me to cover here, but the most helpful phrase I've ever heard for understanding fasting is...
Try and think of Fasting as praying with your body, in fact your whole self, body and soul together. When some of you are worshiping God in song and you throw your hands in the air. Whats happening there? My whole self wants to worship God, my insides want to sing but it cant just be limited to my insides, so my body needs to respond some how. So I throw my arms in the air, or kneel down in prayer or place my hands together, or clap and dance. My body is joined with my mind and soul in prayer and worship.
There are times when we dont just want to pray with our hearts and minds but we want to pray with our wholeselves. Body and mind and soul together. The whole of me praying and crying out to God!! We are beings that are made to love God and worship God in our bodies and with our bodies. Often our bodies are forgotten instruments in worship and prayer.
Fasting is body prayer, throwing every bit of your physical body into the act of worship and prayer and living with your soul and mind at the same time.
In the bible we see fasting is something that was regularly practiced. David fasting in prayers of lament, when sadness overwhelms him he can’t help but say it with both his whole body as well as his spirit. When Israel sinned they needed to respond with their whole body’s and souls, the moment was so sacred that to eat would have been inappropriate. When Israel cried out to God for protection they called for fasts and prayed with their whole bodies. When Israel grieved over deaths, a natural thing to do was to fast and involves their beings in the grief.
So you can see that in the bible there is a whole bunch of different reasons to fast, grief, prayer, pleading, responding, connecting, disciplining. Fasting is you, the whole of you, Body and soul getting involved with what ever has caused you to fast.
We are here in lent and in lockdown and I believe this gives us a sacred moment, an opportunity to respond in a way that involves all of us. We have an moment now to seek the face of God more, to invite more of him into our lives, to hunger after more intimacy with him. To cry out for provision and protection with more than just our words. And if we are going to do this, and do it properly, then we have got to use everything at our disposal. Mind, soul and body.
Let me challenge you this lent, why not have a go with whole body prayer. Experiment with a practice that will tend to your being, tend your relationship with God, tend to your soul.
This week, I challenge you to two things..
1. Kneel down somewhere, once a day for 5mins. Get on you knees and pray to God, bring your lives before him, tell him straight that I don’t want luke warmness any more, I don’t want half heartedness, I believe in this stuff and so I am going to respond with my all. So get on your knees for 5mins every day this week.
2. Fast from 3 meals this week. Some of you may want to do that all in one go and not eat for a day. Others may want to choose to miss one meal a day over 3 weeks. Give it a go. And when you feel the hunger remind yourself that you a praying with your whole self.
God I will respond to the opportunity I have this lent, I will call out to you, I will cry out to you, with my whole self body and soul. I am going to kneel, I am going to put my hands out, I am going to fast. My body is going to join my mind and soul in prayer
Lord here my prayer, witness my passion and respond in power, respond in closeness.