30 May, 2011

Questions and Answers Before the Day of Fasting

Here are some guidelines and helps to prepare us for our Day of Fasting and Solemn Assembly which is scheduled for Friday, June 3, 5:30PM until Saturday, June 4, 5:30PM. If you have any other questions before this weekend, do not hesitate to call or email.

Could you define fasting again for me?
Our Standards say, “Religious fasting is an ordinance of God in which the believer voluntarily abstains from food for a season for the purpose of seeking the will of God, strength for service or deeper spirituality. It should be accompanied by meditation, self-examination, humiliation before God, confession of sin, repentance and renewed dedication to a life of obedience (Reformed Presbyterian Testimony, 21.7).”

How are we supposed to do this?
For the 24 hours that the Pacific Coast Presbytery has called us to fast we should avoid food and caloric intake for the sake of afflicting ourselves (remember this is one of the biblical terms for fasting) and drawing us closer to Christ in prayer and meditation. It is a practice of self denial as well as a way to give us more time for prayer and meditation.

What if I have medical problems?
If you are not able to fast for the entire 24 hours due to a medical condition, do what your body is able to handle (and maybe a tiny bit more). The fast should be one where you practice self-denial, but it also is not designed to harm you. Jesus desires obedience, not sacrifice. You will have to decide what you are able to handle. Please make that decision prayerfully.

Should my children fast?
If your children are at an age where they understand what is being asked of them, they should most definitely fast. If they are too young to understand the nature and purpose, do not have them fast. Young children may be able to participate in an abbreviated way. Broth and juices are good substitutes for younger children who wish to participate. Nursing mothers should do what they are able to do, but be wise about it!

What if I have never fasted before?
If you have never fasted you will want to prepare yourself this week by eating less, and attempting to focus on prayer at times when you may have hunger pains. You may also want to ask someone in the congregation to be a prayer and accountability partner in this time. Do not eat too much before you begin. You will do better if you eat less in preparation than if you gorge yourself. Also, be well hydrated before the fast. Drink plenty of water. You may also need to drink water during the fast. This is okay.

Is there more to this than just not eating?
Fasting is only a means to an end. There is nothing spiritual about not eating food. In order for it to be a biblical fast, we need to “accompany it with meditation, self-examination, humiliation before God, confession of sin, repentance, and renewed dedication to a life of obedience (RPT 21.7)” Fasting should lead us to changed hearts, not just empty bellies.

Should I just go about my day as usual?
No. You should try to treat this time as a season where you focus on God in Christ in a more intense way. Some things come up, but try to free your schedule as best as possible so that you can have time for spiritual exercises. It is also a good day for fellowship around the Word of God. Since it is a public fast, you may want to spend some of your times with others from the congregation.

What if I have young children?
If you have young children that you are caring for, fasting will prove to be more difficult. Plan your day well. Schedule one or two times during the day when others can be with your children. Also use their nap times for prayer and meditation. You may also incorporate them into the spiritual exercises of the day.

How do you want us to pray?
You can use the prayer guide to help you along. Also, feel free to reflect on your own spiritual life as well. The purpose is for the presbytery, but each one of us make up the presbytery.

Should I pray alone or with others?
It is appropriate to pray as an individual, as families, and in groups. If people would like to organize small gatherings here at the church, feel free. That is why we want to have the church open. We would love to see the building used for prayer, psalm singing, Scripture reading, and meditation during this 24 hours.

How do I get others to pray with me?
Ask them. There may be some in the congregation who are interested in praying in groups. Feel free to gather a small group and meet in the chapel or one of the rooms of the church building. You can sing psalms of penitence, meditate, read Scripture, and even listen to sermons together. This is very appropriate for this day.

What should I meditate on during this time?
There are many things that are appropriate to meditate on during a fast. The Bible is the primary source for meditation. Some like to use the Shorter Catechism as a way to think about spiritual truth. Your Psalter is another valuable resource. If you are unsure what meditation looks like, ask the pastor for resources. You could also use some of your time to listen to or read sermons on various Biblical passages.

What's in store for Saturday?
On Saturday at 5:30PM we will gather in the chapel for a worship service. There will be singing, public prayers (like a prayer meeting), and a homily (short sermon) from the pastor. We will also renew our covenant of communicant membership. Please consider this a called worship service. You may come as early as you want to so that you can use the chapel to pray. Again, the church is going to be open. After worship, we will have a light meal to break the fast together.

Should I bring anything for Saturday's meal?
No. Dottiann Pino is arranging the post-fast meal. There is no need to bring anything.

What if I still have questions through-out the week?
You are free to contact the elders with any further questions. Many in the congregation are new to this as well. Feel free to ask!

1 comment:

Pin said...

Thanks for those directions, Nathan!