Pastoral letter 146

JOHN GILLESPIE

“WHEN YOU FAST…..”

(The Lord Jesus, Matt 6:16)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Pastors of Grace Community Church Cornwall are calling the entire family to a week of prayer and fasting in the first week of the New Year.

The Lord is taking this wonderful family of Churches into new pastures in 2012, and we need to be actively seeking His face, guidance, and wisdom.

Each Core Team will structure any corporate times of prayer in a manner suitable for their respective church.

What I want to offer here is simply some encouragement and guidelines for fasting.#

First, fasting is not a lever that we use against a stubborn God.  It is not us saying to the Lord:  “Here Jesus, I am offering this fast to you in order that I might gain some power or position with you.”  Such a view is thoroughly pagan.  We do not fast in order to gain leverage with God.

Likewise, fasting is not a law.  We do not fast because we have been told to, or because we think we have to.  We are not condemned if we fail, and we do not earn righteousness should we fast well.

Fasting is a grace.  We ask the Lord:  “Lord Jesus, please give me grace to leave off [say] food for a season, that I might seek You with all my heart, that I might treasure you more than anything else, and that I might fight and win the spiritual battles before me.”  Most certainly it involves a disciplining of the appetites, which can only do us good.  But the whole thing demands of us an opening of our hearts to the Lord in ever-deepening ways, that He may grace us with the power to say “no” to ourselves and “yes” to Him in new surrenders.

So, fasting is not so much an offering as a receiving (as is the whole of the Christian life).  The humbled soul realizes that it cannot even last a mealtime without food unless God graces it to do it, and is moved into a fresh field of new discovery of God’s provision and goodness.  There comes a strange, but clearly perceived, new awareness of the Lord, and new earnestness in prayer and seeking the Lord.  There is without question a sense of gaining ground against the enemy.

I would recommend that one begins by fasting an evening meal.  Take that same time and go away and pray.  Get before God and ask Him for grace to fast.  There is no point in fasting if you do not get still before God and learn to pour out your heart to Him.  He will teach you, and you will grow in the grace.  Another pattern, one which John Wesley used, is to fast the evening meal, and then breakfast and lunch the next day.  I think that was the standard pattern of the Jewish fast.

Still others may fast for an extended period…three days or more….seeking God at what would otherwise be mealtimes.  Real spiritual breakthroughs can happen during such a fast (although usually the first three days are pretty hard).  You aren’t going to die (!) but I caution that there is no point in any form of fasting, let alone an extended fast, if you do not set apart time to be still before the Lord.  I would recommend that a busy mom or workman does not fast for more than the “Wesley” model above, as it simply is not possible or valuable to fast and go about a normal routine.

There are of course other ways to fast.  Perhaps you will want to fast the internet for a season, taking that saved time to seek the Lord.  T.V., a hobby, social conversation, can all be put aside, and grace given in their place to seek the Lord.

Our Lord Jesus fasted, and he did say to His disciples “when (not if) you fast”.  That should be all the justification for the discipline of fasting that we need.

So I commend to us the first week of 2012 that we may fast and seek the Lord.  I am not going to tell you the details of how you should do it, as that would simply be putting a law on your shoulders.  I hope that the above is helpful, freeing, and encouraging.

Believe with me that there are breakthroughs awaiting us as we fast and pray together.

Yours,

John Gillespie

 # A very thorough and helpful book for those who want to learn more about fasting is John Piper’s A Hunger for God