What are my motives for fasting and praying?

Posted by Randy | Labels: , , , , , | Posted On Wednesday, September 30, 2009 at 6:58 AM

I'm always amazed at how God works, though I shouldn't be. This morning, as I was reading my Life Journal passages, the Old Testament reading was from Zechariah, chapters 7-9. Right away, a passage in chapter 7 jumped out at me, speaking to me as I and Gateway prepare to enter into October and a month of prayer and fasting and reading our Bibles as the foundation for Greater Things...

Scholars tells us this passage takes place in December 518 B.C., as many of the Jews have returned from their exile in Babylonia to Jerusalem and are beginning to rebuild the Temple, which was destroyed in August 586 B.C. by the Babylonians, when they conquered the nation of Judah. Apparently, some Jews had been fasting and mourning the anniversary of the destruction of the Temple, and they came to Zechariah to seek God's answer as to whether they should continue these practices, now that the Temple was being rebuilt.

God gives this response to Zechariah in chapter 7, verses 5-6: "'Say to all your people and your priests, "During these seventy years of exile, when you fasted and mourned in the summer and early autumn, was it really for me that you were fasting? And even now in your holy festivals, aren't you eating and drinking just to please yourselves?"'"

Over twenty-five hundred years ago Zechariah recorded God's response to the Jews that speaks to me today, on the eve of our own period of fasting and prayer. What are my motives? Am I doing this to show how spiritual I am? Am I doing this because it's the "spiritual thing to do"? Am I trying to manipulate God to give me what I want? All these questions come back to a root issue for me - the battle of selfishness within me.

Jesus addressed this directly in his Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus said, "'And when you fast, don't make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.'"

The issue of prayer and fasting comes down to our motives. This October, as I pray and fast, I'm going to work hard to keep folks from being able to tell what day I'm doing this. I'm going to work hard to avoid the temptation of letting folks know how "spiritual" I am because I'm fasting. I'm going to be honest about what I'm doing (when I'm asked), but I'm not going to try to draw attention to myself. Instead, I'm going to focus on honoring God and listening to God. When I feel hunger pangs, I'm going to use those as reminders to pray. Those times when I would ordinarily eat will be intentional times for me to pray.

Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father." (John 14:12 NIV - italics added) I'm going to pray this scripture, that God works in me, that He transforms me more and more into the image and likeness of His Son Jesus Christ. I'm going to pray the items on my prayer card. I'm going to ask God to do greater things in me and in the people of our church, so He can do even greater things through us. I don't want this period of prayer and fasting to be about me and my motives and my rewards. I don't want God to question my motives, as he did the people in the time of Zechariah. I want to do this for God, so that my fasting and my prayers bring honor and glory to Him - and not me!

Starting tomorrow I'll be sharing with you my thoughts daily about the New Testament Life Journal readings. You don't have to read the Life Journal readings - just read your Bible daily, using any plan that works for you. It's all a part of our month-long journey of prayer and fasting for Greater Things...

By the way, this Sunday at 5:30 is our First Sunday New Life Service, followed at 6 p.m. by our regular Gateway Academy classes. In addition, Marianne Gignac will be teaching a class on prayer and fasting, and this will be the perfect opportunity to learn more about prayer and fasting.

I won't tell you prayer and fasting is always easy for me. And though you may not have the same struggles I do, I hope and pray that all of us, together, will examine our motives and ask God to do all this for His glory. I'm convinced God is calling us to this, and so if we strive to do our part, He will do even greater things through us for Him and His world. And that gets me excited! I hope October goes well for you - I'm looking forward to what God's going to do!

Posted by Randy | Labels: , , , , | Posted On Thursday, September 24, 2009 at 1:13 PM

Join Gateway in October Prayer & Fasting

Welcome to my blog - I don't have a snappy name for it (and I don't know if I want that or not), but if you've got a suggestion, email me at rhageman@gateway-community.org.

Our capital campaign theme for adding much needed educational space is Greater Things… Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12 NIV – emphasis added).

In order for God to do greater things through us, in our community and beyond, we have to first allow God to do greater things in us. We have to allow Him to grow our faith in Jesus. I shared with our congregation this past Sunday that I believe God is calling one hundred of us to fast and pray each day of the week (for a total of seven hundred of us), plus at least one thousand of us to read our Bibles daily.

This is a huge challenge for us, and already several hundred of you have said, “Yes!” But, we haven’t reached seven hundred, and there’s no reason we can’t go beyond that. I know this will stretch some of us beyond anything we’ve ever done before, but it is precisely in these kinds of experiences that God grows us most – and uses us most! If you’re not sure about what fasting is, or for medical reasons you shouldn’t miss meals, I’ve attached a brochure that gives more information about fasting and other options that also work.

I’ll be preaching in October about faith from Hebrews 11. In addition, our Life Groups will be using a study by Pastor Andy Stanley called Simple that lays out the simple basics of faith. I’ll also be sending you weekly email updates that may also include additional prayer needs. I am starting this new blog, where I’ll be sharing my thoughts about the New Testament scripture readings from the Life Journal each day, and I invite you to check it out, beginning October 1st. (Actually, I set it up earlier in the year, but I never really got started - this is the official beginning).

I believe October will be a great month of renewal and revival in our church. I’m convinced God wants to do greater things through us, so I hope you will join me in letting God do greater things in us!