Tag Archives: prayer

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.

Growing through Prayer: ACTS and prayer journalling

prayer journal

Last time we discovered that we grow well when we learn really to trust God as our Father. A special way to grow that trust is in speaking with him every day – in prayer. Prayer can be a discipline (that you grow in) but even simple prayers involve talking with God – in an honest way. These prayers are precious! God knows our hearts, and also what we are trying to say when we have trouble giving words to our thoughts and feelings.  Prayer often involves a form of liturgy.  Our green prayer book (Book of Alternative Services) is obviously very helpful for this, as is the Lord’s Prayer. Another helpful model follows ‘A.C.T.S.’: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication.

Adoration is a form of worship that acknowledges who God really is.  Sometimes thanking God for his wonderful qualities helps you focus on Him – such as his holiness, love, compassion, faithfulness, and amazing mercy. It is very easy sing your prayers since many worship songs are indeed musical prayers.

Confession is the act of acknowledging your own sins to the Lord and asking for his forgiveness. These can be sins that are actively committed as well as those of omission: by not doing what He asks us to do. Allow the Holy Spirit to convict you of specific sin – it may be exactly the right time to deal with it.  Note that conviction is NOT condemnation, or that general feeling of worthlessness.  That’s not a message from God at all.

Thanksgiving is important. You don’t have to have very much to be thankful for.  Remember to thank Him for what you do have and for what He has done for you.  Remember daily what God has done in your life. This keeps you more content in times of transition.  God has a way of giving you what you need while you wait on Him.  Joyce Meyer reminds us in her Healthy Living series that thankfulness is an important key to emotional health.  Remember seven things that God has done for you. Write them down – every day.  Then look back at all that God has done for you. That old cliché of counting your blessings is actually true!  It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul encourages us to be ‘thankful in all things’ (Ephesians 5:20).  Remember, you reap what you sow.  Thankfulness deepens a grateful heart and opens your eyes to the many ways God will bless you.

Finally, supplication is the form of asking God for the needs of others.    It is often called intercessions or prayers for the people.  However, true intercession is when the Holy Spirit puts someone on your mind and heart and gives you an intense prayer burden for that person.  Intercession is prayer with a prophetic edge.

It is very helpful keep track of what you’ve been praying.  We need to do this because it is easy to forget all the wonderful little blessings that God gives us when He answers prayers.  So you write down your prayer concerns on paper or on your computer.  Keeping a prayer journal is beneficial – because if you struggle with praying aloud (even in private), this way helps you organize your thoughts.

I write my prayers like a love letter to God. I was taught this method of prayer-journalling by Buffalo-based speaker Mark Virkler. Mark leads a course called Communion with God that teaches you how to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit.  He encouraged me to listen to God by writing out my prayer to Him and to wait for the Holy Spirit’s response.  He told me that many people don’t try to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. They don’t want to be still and to give their God-given imaginations to Jesus.  Our imagination is exactly where the Holy Spirit speaks. He inspires us and often reminds of important things. He is that gentle whisper that leads us to Jesus.

Once your imagination is cleansed and blessed, you can hear God’s voice more effectively in your “inner eyes or inner ears.”  This way,  the still small voice of the Holy Spirit doesn’t just come as a whisper of general love and encouragement. He can remind you of a specific scripture, give you a picture from your memory, show you a picture of something to pray about or give you songs and poems…  God is very creative!   Some people are more open to this naturally because they are creative to begin with, yet all of us have this creative side.  When someone says to you: “Oh, you hear the voice of God; are you sure it’s not just your imagination?”  Well, I have to say, wake up, because God uses your imagination! God speaks to you through your conscience, imagination, and the deepest part of you – your spirit.  It’s a matter of being attuned to Him; like a radio receiver on the right frequency. Too often we are listening to static, but God is speaking to us.

When Mark taught us how to hear the Holy Spirit, he emphasized that you have to focus on Jesus. It is also the same with journaling.  Both journaling and soaking prayer work best when you are focused on Jesus. When you focus on Jesus, (and are still before Him) it is definitely God who speaks to you.  Keep focused on Him.

I encourage you my dear friends to try this form of prayer. You will find it deeply satisfying and find that God has been speaking to you all along.  You just didn’t realize that He has been speaking to you!.  Next time I will continue with growing in God through intercessory prayer and fasting.

Yours in Christ

Laurie-Ann Copple

prayer girl

Laurie-Ann works in radio broadcasting and attends St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Kanata, Ontario