Like many churches across the nation we will be marking the beginning of 2016 by holding a week of prayer. Talking and listening to God in prayer helps prepare the way for him to use us. I know of 15 people who prayed the 'sinners' prayer during 2015, most of these during the autumn term. This is the great mission that we are on - to see more and more people coming to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour. Our desire is that in 2016 we will see even more people taking that life changing step.
We each have a part to play in talking about Jesus, however the bottom line is that it is the Holy Spirit who waters the seed and brings people to faith in Christ. The work begins with prayer. Jesus commanded us to pray for workers to go out into the harvest field.
How did Jesus prepare himself for his ministry? The answer, as many of you will know, is that he went out into the wilderness for 40 days and nights to fast. It is clear from the New Testament that fasting was a part of the spiritual life of the church, especially around times of decision making and strategising. Jesus himself seemed to assume that it was something that his followers would do after he ascended to heaven.
What then is the benefit of fasting? Many people seem to have the idea that fasting is a way to make prayer more powerful, if you like to twist God's arm. I am not sure where this idea comes from. However it seems to me that fasting is more about us drawing closer to God in intimacy. By resisting a natural appetite for food we are declaring that we have a greater hunger, a hunger for God. The discomfort of an empty belly reminds us to choose to push deeper into Christ. It also frees up time in a busy schedule that we can use to spend in prayer.
I would encourage you to fast during our week of prayer and use this opportunity to press into God. There are many different levels of fasting, from missing one or two meals during the week through to fasting for the whole week. You could choose to miss the same meal each day for the week, you could miss all meals on one or more days.
Whatever you choose to do I pray that God will richly bless you as you join in our prayer times together during the week.