Everyone wants to know the secret to something. Dieters want to know the secret to losing weight. Parents want to know the secret to raising responsible, loving children who will grow into productive members of society. And Christians want to know the secret to effective prayer. So, what’s the secret to real intimacy with our heavenly Father?
Let me start by saying, there is no magic formula for a productive prayer life. Having said that, the Bible gives us all the information we need to become prayer warriors—most of them we are familiar with. However, there are a few that don’t get the lip service they rightly deserve.
It’s no secret that Americans are busy. One Gallup poll indicates nearly half of us feel we don’t have enough time to do what we want to do. Books on time management find their way on the New York Times Best Sellers List on a regular basis. And yet, If Jesus is our example of proper time management, His bestseller—the Bible (the world’s best seller of all time) —will be ours.
A SECRET PLACE
The Bible tells us that Jesus often retreated to lonely places and prayed (Luke 5:16).
Jesus made sure to: pray often, alone, and in a quiet and uninterrupted place. We ought to do the same.
But too often we bulldoze into our day without talking to God. Sure, we may take a moment to pray in the shower, or on our morning commute. There’s nothing wrong with praying during these times, but this is not the quality time necessary to deepen any relationship. We need to have a place where we can drown out the static of the world. A place where there is no motivation but to know our heavenly Father.
In the popular movie War Room, the lead actress (Priscilla Shirer) turned her closet into a place of prayer.
Do you have a place where you can go on a daily basis to be alone and uninterrupted with God?
Unfortunately, the word meditation has been associated with the New Age movement, or even carries a certain mystical connotation. But there is no hocus pocus involved in Christian meditation—it is rooted in the Bible. In fact, we are commanded to meditate.
“Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.” Joshua 1:8
What is mediation?
“Biblical meditation is not about emptying your mind but filling it with truth. It simply means to read a passage of Scripture, think about it, and repeat it to yourself. It’s the first and most important step to memorizing Bible verses.” Rick Warren
Meditation should be solely on the Bible, characteristics of God, and what is revealed about Him.
It takes serious effort and concentration. But the payoff is priceless. “No other habit can do more to transform your life and make you more like Jesus than daily reflection on Scripture…” Rick Warren
We have many thoughts raging within our minds, even in our sleep. And yet, we don’t like to sit alone with nothing but our thoughts. Researchers at the University of Virginia and Harvard University found that many people would rather inflict pain on themselves than spend 15 minutes with nothing to do but think. Two-thirds of the men and a quarter of the women in the study decided to shock themselves rather than just sit and think. (study)
Our heavenly Father knows the benefits of making the time to remove ourselves from the busyness and constant stimulation of the world. We need to be alone with our thoughts in order to ascertain what is influencing and driving us. Christian meditation is not about emptying the mind as in other forms of meditation. God calls us to bring our thoughts to Him and allow Him to transform our thinking (Romans 12:2)
Our thoughts are transformed through meditation when we: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” Philippians 4:8
In many Christian churches today, fasting has become a lost discipline, rarely discussed or practiced. Chances are you are among the majority of Christians who rarely or never fast.
WHAT FASTING IS: Fasting is defined as voluntarily going without food and/or drink for a period of time in order to focus on deeper prayer and fellowship with God.
We can look at fasting as an exchange of physical needs for spiritual needs. (tweet this)
WHAT FASTING IS NOT: Fasting is not a special tool or method in which we manipulate God to respond like a genie in a bottle and grant our every wish.
Fasting is not just denying yourself of food. As stated above, it’s an exchange of physical needs for spiritual ones. Fasting is not a diet.
Scripture does not command Christians to fast. However, the Bible mentions fasting numerous times as something that is good, beneficial and rewarding. I think it’s worth noting that although Jesus didn’t speak too much on fasting during His ministry, the one time that He gave specific instructions on fasting, in Matthew 6:5-18, He started by saying: “when you fast,” not “if you fast.”
THE BENEFITS OF FASTING
Fasting helps us draw closer to God. We acknowledge through fasting that we need God to live more than food. It should help us break away from the desire to satisfy our own lusts and materialism, thereby desiring God in a new, fresh way. Fasting can help us understand what the Psalmist meant when he wrote, “Like the deer that pants after water, my soul longs for You.” (Psalm 42:1)
Fasting fosters self-discipline in an undisciplined age. Have you noticed the age in which we live seem to despise discipline? We live in a very materialistic society where we are used to getting what we want rather quickly. It seems whether you live in an affluent country or poor one, the world today is becoming more and more interested in what their neighbor has. Even as far back as the 10 Commandments given to Moses, God talked about materialism and being satisfied with what you have.
Fasting provides a way to impose self-discipline in your life. Physical self-discipline “rubs off” into spiritual self-discipline.
Fasting provides guidance. “Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church. With prayer and fasting, they turned the elders over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.” (Acts 14:23)
The Israelites sought the Lord through fasting when they had been defeated in battle by the tribe of Benjamin in Judges 20:26-28.
Fasting shows humility and dependence upon God. King David was known as a man after God’s own heart. David shows us in Psalm 35:13 an example of humbling oneself before God. “Yet when they were ill, I grieved for them. I denied myself by fasting for them, but my prayers returned unanswered.”
Fasting Empowers. I look at prayer combined with fasting as the TNT of a Christian’s weaponry arsenal.
The apostle Paul, in Ephesians 6:10-18, tells us that WE ARE AT WAR, not with flesh-and-blood enemies, but evil spiritual forces. He then describes heavenly spiritual armor that God provides for believers. A powerful part of our arsenal includes prayer, as well as prayer coupled with fasting.
When Jesus faced the temptation of Satan, he fasted (Luke 4:1-11). In Mark 9:29, we read that the disciples needed a power from God that comes only through fasting. Matthew 17:20 21 say that prayer with fasting can work spiritual miracles.
While there isn’t a magic formula for prayer, three unlikely secrets to incorporate into our lives are: establishing a secret place for prayer, meditation, and fasting.
What are your thoughts on these unlikely secrets to prayer?
“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.” Hebrews 4:16