I am frustrated by the ranting on Facebook since last week’s mass shooting—the 18th this year and we are only halfway through February! Arguments aren’t going to change anyone’s mind. So I am proposing an alternative: Let’s make Wednesday, February 21, the one-week anniversary of the latest killings, a day of fasting and prayer for a change of heart in this nation that we may be able to work together to find practical solutions that neither hinder the legitimate pursuits of honest people, nor endanger ourselves and our children. We aren't meeting in any meaningful way on Facebook; let's meet at Jesus' feet instead.
“I’ve never done that,” said one friend when I suggested fasting. “Will you tell me how?”
Fasting in the Bible was for coming away to seek the Lord. Jesus did it before beginning his ministry. The Pharisees did it twice a week and made sure everyone knew about it. The Lord discouraged showing off, but he assumed his disciples would be fasting. Many people ‘fast’ during Lent, the traditional time of preparation for Holy Week, as a sign of repentance. They don’t abstain from all food for the forty days, but they might abstain from desserts, or TV or meat—something that will be missed and whose absence will be a reminder that there are more important things to think about. (Is it co-incidence that this year Lent began the same day 17 students and teachers were killed?)
At L’Abri Fellowship, Francis Schaeffer’s retreat in Switzerland, every Monday was a day of fasting and prayer. Residents went off alone to spend time with the Lord. A pot of soup prepared ahead of time was available for any who felt faint, but cooks were free to spend their day in prayer as well.
But fasting doesn’t have to be an all-day thing. You can skip a meal and spend the time in prayer instead. You can fast until sundown (the end of the day in the old Jewish reckoning) and then eat a normal dinner with your family.
I am not an experienced faster. I have only done this a few times in my life when there was something that I felt deeply about and wanted to bring before the Lord. What I like about it is that every time my stomach growls is a reminder to pray. But you can set other triggers for prayer. In this day of cell phones, a timer that dings every hour can be a reminder.
You won’t want to say the same thing over and over to God. It might help to make a list ahead of time of people or aspects you want to pray about. If you are more disciplined than I am, you might try scrolling through your FB feed or news page and, instead of liking or commenting, pray over every relevant post. Better yet, type your prayer in the comments. Wouldn’t that shake things up?
Or pray over scripture. Over the years I have prepared a notebook of verses on God’s names and attributes. On Wednesday I will be sitting with that notebook, praying things like “God, you are all powerful; this problem is not too big for you.” “You are the God of all comfort. Wrap your arms around those who are hurting, both those who have lost loved ones this week and those whose pain could easily lead them to future violence.” If you would like a copy of my verses for your own use in prayer, contact me.
Every hour from 6 AM to 6 PM on Wednesday I plan to release a new post on my Facebook page Birch Island Books with a prayer based on who God is. I will make every effort not to push my personal point-of-view in my prayers, but to stay open to what God has for us as a nation. I challenge you to add your prayers in the comments. Any comments that are not addressed to God will be deleted. If your ideas don’t feel appropriate to voice to him, then maybe you need to rethink those ideas.
Make a plan that works for you and join me in prayer on February 21. We have an alternative to ranting, an alternative to doing nothing. Let's meet at Jesus's feet.
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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