A poignant memory from our Church of the Resurrection mission trip to Malawi was at an elementary school in a remote village. Our team packed up the van in the morning with peanut butter sandwiches and bottles of Fanta for lunch before setting out to the school. We received a joy filled welcome from the 600 school children and the head master before starting our health screenings. When it was time to break for lunch, our team went to the van to eat our sandwich. It was at that very moment when the concept of true hunger became disturbingly real for me. There was neither a morsel of food nor a drop of water anywhere in sight for the school children or teachers. Then I learned that the children most likely did not eat breakfast in the morning and might or might not get a bowl of boiled maize for their evening meal. The van driver took us further away from the school, but large groups of children followed us, peering into the windows to watch us eat. Needless to say I not only lost my appetite, but also became deeply troubled by the injustice of it all. I was frustrated that that these beautiful faces were suffering with hunger and malnourishment and I couldn’t fix it. Turning to Christian tradition for help, I found that fasting could be an appropriate response to this injustice.
Fasting is a spiritual discipline in which Christians sacrifice their natural desire for food in order to spend time seeking God regarding a specific issue. The intention is that all the time that would be spent acquiring, preparing and consuming food will, instead, be spent in the presence of God through prayer, worship or meditation on the Word. Fasting allows us to see how little we absolutely need in a consumer world. Also, the heightened sense of awareness obtained through hunger serves as a reminder of the purpose of the fast, which is to replace the feeding of the needs of physical hunger with the feeding of one’s spiritual hunger by drawing closer to God. In addition, we become sympathetic with those who are genuinely hungry through fasting.
I believe that our vision to touch 10,000 inner-city children by our school partnerships over the next twenty years actively addresses hunger and other consequences of poverty. This week I invite you to consider fasting one day this week as you pray about making your sacrificial commitment to this vision. If you are healthy, a traditional fast is to abstain from food upon waking up, and then to break the fast with a light dinner that evening. If that is not a possibility, then skipping one meal or fasting from electronics all day is another option. We would to hear about your experience with the discipline of fasting. You can join the conversation by leaving a comment on our prayer blog.
–Nancy Pauls, Pastor of Prayer
Click here at www.cor.org/prayervigil to sign up to pray at the 49 hour prayer vigil preceding Commitment Sunday.