Tag Archives: mature christians

Prayer and Fasting – another important way to grow in God

Growing in God doesn't have to be a race like this fast boat from Mackinac Island, Michigan

Growing in God doesn’t have to be a race like this fast boat from Mackinac Island, Michigan

Growing in Prayer and Fasting: Ways to Grow in God

Last time we discovered that we flourish as we express our prayers in journaling, as well as waiting for the Holy Spirit’s voice in reply. This reply often comes by remembered scriptures, words of encouragement and being drawn closer to Jesus). We also learned the popular model of ‘A.C.T.S.’: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.  Supplication includes praying for others; sometimes in the form of lists. The ‘Prayers of the People’ that we share at church would be in this category. I believe that God listens to these prayers. Yet, have you had times when you were interrupted by an urgent thought, a picture of someone you know in your memory and an intense desire to pray for them?  This is intercessory prayer – prayer requests from the Holy Spirit himself. So you’ve obey that call and pray for that person. You feel that burden on your heart grow lighter. Sometimes you may weep while praying.  Then soon after, you learn the person you prayed for had urgently needed help at that exact moment. Your prayers were used by God to get them out of some danger.   The Apostle Paul encourages us in 1 Thess. 5:17 to pray without ceasing (or to pray continually).  This doesn’t necessarily mean for us to literally be on our knees 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but it does encourage us to have a prayerful attitude where you can offer up quick ‘arrow prayers’ to the Lord throughout the day.  This attitude keeps us thankful.  It also helps remind us that Jesus really is there with us all the time.  This is “practicing the presence of God” (or abiding as mentioned in John 15: 1-17). This posture keeps you peaceful and centered on Him.

Remember to take your time in all forms of prayer. Don’t just pray quickly to get it over with. Slow down and listen – and be quiet before God.  It can be difficult to hear God in the midst of an adrenaline rush. When you take that time, He may say something to you. He may lead you to specific scripture verses, or pour His love and peace into you as you wait on Him.  You will find that time refreshing and a welcome break to a hectic day. Then you will be more energized and focused. Think of it as a divine refreshment break.

Fasting is often combined with prayer.  My former priest Fr. John reminds us that we need to give something up and take something on during the Lenten season. This kind of fast is specific to Lent, since it is giving up one thing for a specific period of time.  However, you can also set other times for specific fasts if you are called to do so by the Holy Spirit. Usually that item or activity that you surrender would be important to you. The activity you pick up could be extra time with God, or doing a ministry for him (This practice is meant to be a gift of devotion to God and bring you closer to Him).

Many people chose to give up chocolate. Your Lenten fast doesn’t have to be chocolate, although many people choose it as the thing to fast from because it’s their favourite thing.  There are many things we can give up for a season.  I remember going off coffee one year, and it wasn’t easy. Another year I gave up television, which was difficult at the time, but later on I didn’t watch much of it when I was in school nearly full time.  A few years ago, I gave up credit cards, which was a good thing, though I have since relapsed.

You don’t have to limit your fasting to Lent.  Tony and I went on weeklong vegetarian fast before a mission trip. It is also called a ‘Daniel fast’, since the Old Testament prophet Daniel fasted from meat and wine for 3 weeks while he prayed (Dan 10:2-3). We did this as a time of praying and waiting on God’s confirmation of our 2005 Kenya Alpha mission. During this week my mind cleared and my heart began to change concerning Tony’s role in the mission. While I did not yet get the guidance I needed, God was preparing Tony’s heart for that mission; even though he wasn’t yet willing to join me. I simply asked the Lord to speak to Tony about going to Kenya during my own devotional prayer time.

During that week Tony shared with me that he could sense God very strongly several times when he was working on his computer, and he prayed in response to God’s call, but he did not get direction on going on the mission trip.  Eventually, Tony did hear the Holy Spirit speak to him about going with me on the mission, but this was in HIS time, not mine.  Fasting in the context of prayer is meant to change the heart of the person who prays. It also helps that person get more in tune with God’s heart.

Now did any of these Lenten fasts bring me closer to God?  I would have to say that in and of themselves, they did NOT bring me closer to God – but that is where the taking on something extra comes in.  When one gives the Lord what you have given to him as a GIFT, not as an obligation, and in the time you would spend watching television, or eating dessert, etc, you would be spending that time with Him in a specific way, then it can become a blessing to you. One Lenten season I taught the Ways to Grow series at St. Paul’s and all of us were deeply blessed. I especially received as I poured out love, teaching and prayer to those who attended. This was the something extra that I took on that year.

Other fasts can be more intense than Lent.  This includes fasting from one meal for prayer, to forty days fasting from food, but not liquids.  Jesus spent this kind of fast in the Judean desert.   Do we need to do this in our own walk with God?  Perhaps – but I would advise taking small steps as you learn.  I am still learning this discipline myself, and I know the Lord honours our efforts to grow in Him.  He will guide you closer as you dare to walk closer to him.  You won’t be sorry.  Note:  I also shared a longer talk on prayer and fasting that will be posted online separately for readers who need more than this bite-sized story.

Yours in Christ, Laurie-Ann Copple

Laurie-Ann recently moved to Nelson BC, and works for Vista Radio.  She attends Kootenay Christian Fellowship and has roots at St Paul’s in Kanata ON.

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Growing through relationships: Communion of Saints

communion saints

I’ve been on a journey and learned that we grow when we allow God’s grace to work in our lives.

We allow Him to take away the ‘speed bumps’ that get in the way (such as restlessness, unforgiveness and bitterness).  Speed bumps harm our relationships with other people as well as with God. We are created to be in relationship. We grow best through being blessed, encouraged and loved by others and when we share that love with others.

Some people call that fellowship, but what exactly is fellowship?  It is more than small talk and asking a polite ‘how are you?’ during coffee time on Sunday.  Fellowship is time spent in caring friendship and journeying in your faith with each other.  It includes sharing daily struggles and encouraging each other in love.  The Bible has many examples of how we can minister to each other – the phrase ‘one another’ is repeated the New Testament many times.  I found this statement in the Snodgrass Ephesians commentary: “we cannot be mature Christians by ourselves, for we cannot give ourselves everything we need for a life of faith.  Christ has chosen to grace others so they contribute to us and us to them.  Grace comes from God but it is conveyed through horizontal channels” [Snodgrass, Ephesians commentary, p. 221] My priest, Father John Bridges has said many times that his faith is not entirely his own.  He is validated in his faith partly by us, the community that loves Jesus with him.

One of my former pastors, Dale, had a lot of practical sayings about church.  Dale shared his hopes and dreams for our congregation in a way that I’ll always remember.  He said that the church is meant to be a prayer army, a family and a hospital. This triple role was also confirmed to me in seminary counseling class. I learned there that the church is seen as ecclesia (a place to worship), therapia (a place of healing) and koinonia, (communion of saints).  When we greet each other during Sunday services with the peace of the Lord, we aren’t just giving hugs and handshakes, although I love these.  We are extending love to each other in the Lord’s name. Each time we do this, I feel incredibly blessed.  We do this because we have just been forgiven by God for whatever sins we’re given to Him. This is also a time to extend that same love and forgiveness to each other, even if it is just for a minute.  It’s worship, healing and family at the same time.

Perhaps a good way to understand Christian fellowship is to ponder the term “communion of saints” – a term that I’ve come to love.  I studied at the University of Toronto. While I was in my first year, I took “Basic Christian Beliefs” at St Michael’s College.  I became fascinated in New Testament word studies.  One of the Greek terms I studied was parousia, (the return of Jesus), another metanoia, (which means changing your mind/attitude). However, the most interesting one to me was koinonia, which means communion of saints, or fellowship

Although there are many different aspects to church, the one that means the most to me is communion of saints.

It’s more than a line in the Nicean and Apostle’s Creeds!  It’s that special bond between Christians that is more than friendship, and deeper than family ties.  It’s the sense of deep connection that you have with someone that you have shared and prayed with.  When the Holy Spirit fills you both while in prayer together, he knits your spirits and hearts together.  This often happens during the healing prayer time that we have in the Sunday services and it is an intimate bond. This is a safe place to be when this bond is strengthened by friendship and inspired compassion.  It’s this aspect of church that can make it a hospital and place of healing, because healing happens within relationships.

Of course, we should all know by now that there is no such thing as the “Perfect Church.” We’re all at different stages of spiritual growth and emotional maturity. However, we do see glimpses of how the church should be, for example: during the Alpha Holy Spirit weekend, or the Cursillo weekend, and in small group sharing and prayer time. I love getting to know the guests as an Alpha Course leader. Through Alpha, I have gained really amazing friends. One gentle participant said that he was able to share deep things with us that he never could have with his long-time secular friends.  This isn’t because it’s a secret – sharing thing, but rather the sense of trust in each other that is very intimate.

Years ago, “May” was part of one of our Alpha courses.  She loved the course, but she didn’t like going to church, except the occasional evensong, (an afternoon service).  She didn’t have any fire of course, although she appreciated the company of other people at Alpha.  I wondered how she could even survive in her faith completely on her own.  Nicky Gumbel tells a story of a young man who used to be very much on fire in his faith. However after he decided to not go to church anymore, he lost his enthusiasm.  So he went to see an older, wise man to ask him why he lost his joy.  The older man didn’t say a word, but instead spoke through action.  Since they were in the UK, and it gets cold and damp in the winter – so the old man had a coal fireplace. All the coals were hot and glowing red.  The man took a coal from the fireplace with a pair of tongs and set it down on the hearth.  At first the coal was red, but very soon it faded and became grey and then black.  The older man then looked at the younger one, and then took the lonely piece of coal and put it back into the fire, where very soon it grew red-hot again.  He showed the young man without a single word- why he lost his enthusiasm.

The author of Hebrews encourages us to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Heb. 10:24-25)  The Apostle Paul encourages us as well that we are a body (in 1 Corinthians 12:12-20).  We NEED each other.  “Communion of Saints” is also mentioned in the Nicene Creed that we recite each week, so this again confirms how central Christian relationships are to our growing faith.

And so my friends, I want you to have the same blessing that Father John often gives us – that you may see the face of Jesus in those you meet, and may you know his love in the friendships you have.  I would also like to add that I’m grateful for the prayers of all my Christian friends during my time in radio broadcasting school.  Since I was the only Christian, I have come to value the communion of saints even more.  We have something special in God and each other.

Yours in Christ, Laurie-Ann Copple

Laurie-Ann Copple is an Ottawa based media person.  She graduated from radio broadcasting at Algonquin College and attends St. Paul’s in Kanata, ON.