Sermon Recap: Prayer & Fasting

SERMON RECAP: PRAYER & FASTING
JUNE 26, 2022
PASTOR NATE LEVERING
What are your giants?
The more I look at this image of a giant, the cuter it gets, but try to look at it as big, tough and relentless. About a year or so ago, I noticed anxiety in one of my daughters. Her anxious feelings were mostly tempered until they weren't. Isn't this true of us all? We are well until we're not. We are confident until we're not. Life seems simple until it's not. And then what? What grounds us? Our family had walked through a few years of angst and shuffle while building a home, losing 2 grandparents, a dog and a horse, selling our house and moving, while also, like everyone, managing new school and work flows. I think of Ross Geller's FRIENDS character yelling out "PIVOT" and can't but help laugh at the relatability of seeing our lives much like trying to hoist a large couch up a narrow stairway.

So when the anxious feelings in my daughter bubbled and boiled over, I knew it was my duty as her mom to pray and walk with her in it. Thankfully we don't have to do this alone! Sissy Goff, author and counselor, wrote this book: Braver, Stronger, Smarter- A Girl's Guide to Overcoming Worry and Anxiety.  We began working through it together, myself and our three daughters at the dinner table most weeks. The first exercise is to draw your monster. Monsters come in a plethora of shapes and identities. Some monsters, or giants, are fear or insecurity, maybe even competition, depression and self-doubt. As we each drew our monsters, it was very telling to see how different they all looked, but monsters they all were. It's easy to worry about what we do or don't know and can often lose the grip of our anchor.

When God called David to stand before Goliath, we see the obvious differences in them. Goliath, in many commentaries, was said to be over nine feet tall while David stood at just above five feet. Goliath came with a spear and full-body gear, while David came with a sling and some rocks. I love this part of the story before David was encouraged by Saul to battle: "David asked the men standing near him, 'What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?'” (1 Samuel 17:26). The living God ... David knew who he was fighting with. Goliath's confidence was in defying God, which we have seen time and time again end in death and that's exactly what happened. At the hand of David, by the power and grace of God, Goliath was struck by a slung stone. David tells Saul, "The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine" (v. 37). Indeed, God did it.

What does it look like when God breaks through in our lives? Pastor Nate referred to 1 Chronicles 14:11, "'God did it!', David exclaimed. 'He used me to burst through my enemies like a raging flood'. So they named that place Baal-perazim". Baal, meaning God; perazim, meaning breaking through. In the bulletin, the outline reads:

If all he (David) saw was what he could see, he would have missed the most important thing. 

Do we rhythmically trust that which we cannot see? We've been walking through spiritual disciplines this month, culminating with prayer and fasting. If you're new to prayer and/ or fasting, have no fear. In Matthew 6, the continuum of Jesus' infamous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us how to pray and fast. He also warns against adultery, gives us an earful of the value of giving and commands us to love our enemies ... but that's for another day. I don't want to overwhelm us.

When you pray, pray humbly. When you fast, fast privately. The call to prayer and fasting doesn't require social media posts and affirmations. Jesus doesn't require a level of academic excellence or position of power from you. He simply asks you to come before Him and trust Him because He's got you. You might be asking why fasting is a spiritual discipline. Well, great question. Pastor Nate describes it like this: when we are hungry, we quickly realize that we cannot go that long without food. Our bodies require it. We function differently with proper nutrition. Similarly, we cannot go that long without depending on God. We function at our best when we are gripped well to our grounding anchor. In the same way, when we pray, we take the time to recognize that God is in control of our best days and our lowest moments, our utmost needs and our joys. So we pray. We pray thanksgiving, repentance and everything in between. If you think you don't need prayer as a part of your life, consider Jesus, who is one with God praying time and time again throughout Scripture and I'm guessing thousands of times not recorded. I love reading John 17, as Jesus prays for His disciples. If you haven't read it yet, or even if you have, read it again (below). If you're ever wondering what the heart of God looks like, this so wonderfully shows it, in my opinion.

"Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” Amen.

May you be encouraged in prayer this week, and as you sit with God or walk with God or dance with God in your prayer, consider what He wants you to trust Him with this week. Maybe it's just the simple act of fasting so you can learn dependence. Perhaps it's a job or possible move. Maybe it's the health of yourself or a loved one. We've had some wild health issues in our family, and some that are waiting diagnosis which can feel frustrating. Over and over, God reminds me that He knows. I have to trust that which I cannot see, that which I don't yet know, and it is hard. I wish I could say it's easy to give it over to Him and that's the end of it. But the human-ness in me has that pattern on repeat: trust Him, give it to Him, freak out, be disgruntled, worry, give it back ... over and over and over. So here we go, Church. Let us pray and seek Him as He settles near to us and pours His wisdom over our paths.

We love you, Church, and have just been so blessed by your presence on Sundays and throughout the week as you serve and connect! 

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