• Matt Beaney

#361 - WHEN YOU FAST (31/5/21)


On Sunday we continued with our series on discipleship from The Sermon on the Mount. This week we are looking at the power of fasting as it is combined with prayer.


Fasting, for many, is a mysterious or even a scary subject. The devil wants to discourage us from true prayer and fasting because of the power that it releases.


In this Sermon on the Mount, Jesus includes fasting alongside giving and prayer and so we must assume that, like these, fasting is an essential part of the Christian life.
“When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-18)
‘Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.’ (Joel 1:14)
‘While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.’ (Acts 13:2-3)

When you fast

Jesus expects his disciples to fast. Jesus makes it clear that there is a reward if we do it as He directs.

Jesus teaches us how not to fast - for a show. This perversion can easily infect any spiritual practice. I’m told that the Pharisees often had a practice of fasting on Mondays and Thursdays. These were market days and so their spiritual devotion would receive greater attention.

Jesus teaches that our fasting is for God alone. We fast so as to focus on Him rather than in order for people to focus on us!


What is fasting?

Fasting is going without food for a set about of time in order to pray.

If you go without food for any time you will quickly realise your weakness and dependence upon God. Fasting also frees up the time spent in preparing and eating, for prayer.


There are a number of reasons - ill health, pregnancy… - as to why it would not be wise to fast from food. However, we can fast from entertainment, social media etc. In fact, when you are fasting food, I encourage you to remove these distractions also.


The average person spends around 1 hour 50 minutes on social media and 4 hours watching video on demand each day! That’s a lot of potential prayer time!


RESPONSE

It’s time to fast. Jesus said about the church in this age,

‘…The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.’ (Matthew 9:15)

Deitrich Bonhoeffer wrote,

‘Where are the people today who will respond to the call of Christ? Have we become so accustomed to ‘cheap grace’ that we instinctively shy away from more demanding calls to obedience? ‘Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross.’

John Wesley wrote,

‘Bear up the hands that hang down, by faith and prayer; support the tottering knees. Have you any days of fasting and prayer? Storm the throne of grace and persevere therein, and mercy will come down.’

I can’t help but be convinced that the weak state of the Church is because she is not devoted to prayer and fasting as Jesus teaches us.


As we have seen with prayer, we need to make a plan regarding fasting. When, for how long, and what will you fast from? Many have found it helpful to make it a regular practice each week or month.


COMMUNITY GROUP STUDY - WHEN YOU FAST

Notices

It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.


Suggested opener/Ice-breaker

Do you have any funny stories regarding food?


Recap of Sunday's message - please share in your group

On Sunday we continued with our series on discipleship from The Sermon on the Mount. This week we are looking at the power of fasting as it is combined with prayer.

On Sunday we continued with our series on discipleship from The Sermon on the Mount. This week we are looking at the power of fasting when accompanied by prayer.


Fasting, for many, is a mysterious or even a scary subject. The devil wants to discourage us from true prayer and fasting because of the power that it releases.


Please read Matthew 6:5-18


i) When you fast

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus includes fasting alongside giving and prayer. We are to must assume that, like these, fasting is an essential part of the Christian life.

Jesus expects his disciples to fast. Jesus makes it clear that there is a reward if we do it as He directs.

Jesus teaches us how not to fast - for a show. This perversion can easily infect any spiritual practice. I’m told that the Pharisees often had a practice of fasting on Mondays and Thursdays. These were market days and so their spiritual devotion would receive greater attention.

Jesus teaches that our fasting is for God alone. We fast so as to focus on Him rather than in order for people to focus on us!


ii) What is fasting?

Fasting, strictly, is going without food for a set about of time in order to pray. Other kinds of fasts from delicacies or distractions can also be also be implemented.


Fasting helps us in two main ways:

Firstly, If you go without food for any time you will quickly realise your weakness and dependence upon God.

Secondly, fasting also frees up the time spent in preparing and eating, for prayer.


There are a number of reasons - ill health, pregnancy… - as to why it would not be wise to fast from food. However, we can fast from entertainment, social media etc. In fact, when you are fasting food, I encourage you to remove these distractions also.


The average person spends around 1 hour 50 minutes on social media and 4 hours watching video on demand each day! That’s a lot of potential prayer time!


iii) It’s time to fast.

Jesus said about the church in this age,

‘…The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.’ (Matthew 9:15)

Discussion questions

1. Did God Speak to you, or what do you plan to do in response to Sunday's message?

2. What are the two main things that fasting does?

3. Read Acts 13:2-3. What does prayer and fasting achieve?

4. What is your current practice in regard to fasting?

5. Nev encouraged us to make a plan as to when you could fast. He suggested that we start in a small way such as praying instead of eating your lunch one day each week. What is your plan?


Serving, Investing and inviting

1) Have you got any encouraging stories of serving, investing and inviting that you'd like to share?

2) Who has God put into your life that we could pray for together?

2) How are you planning to serve invest and invite?




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