Below is a transcript of the announcement made in the church service today about a call to prayer and fasting…
Our world right now is full of tension, stress, fear, and doubt. Many, if not all, of these feelings, have come into the church. There is division, disunity, and striving. The enemy has cultivated a society of distraction. Our attention is turned toward the next report, the next analysis, the next political commentary, the next “click bait” article. The focus of many believers is being driven away from the greatness of Jesus and toward the frustration, our current world is providing.
In times like these, the people we read about in Scripture would often be called to a concentrated time of prayer and fasting. Why did people fast? There are three main reasons: preparation, repentance, and mourning. In preparation for the Day of Atonement sacrifice, the people would fast. In preparation for His public ministry, Jesus fasted. In His fast, He separated Himself from worldly distractions for 40 days. People in the Scripture also fasted in times of intense repentance. The call of the Christian is a call of faith and repentance. Perhaps a time of self-evaluation and self-reflection would do us a great deal of good. Third, people in the Scripture committed themselves to fast during times of mourning. David did over the loss of his child; the nation would mourn over the loss of God’s blessing. Fasting was never intended to earn or gain God’s favor. Rather, fasting was a measure taken to open the believer to the work of God’s Word and prayer in their life in a concentrated way.
In times of extreme stress, such as we are in now, there should be an expectation of God’s people to see Him work in a mighty and unique way. It is always under the pressure and strain of darkness that the light of Christ is able to shine the brightest. As such, I want to call the people of Sylvania to a 40 day fast to refocus. Historically, people would fast from food. However, food is not the only way to have a fast. I am calling us to collectively fast from social media for 40 days. There is a constant barrage of information, much of it intentionally divisive and some of it generally unhelpful, that is promoting a national spirit of angst, hostility, and disunity. These things have bled into the church. I know it has affected me; many of you have expressed to me that it has affected you as well. As such, a call to lay down, at least for a short season, a source of division and distress would be a wise and prudent action on the part of believers. I know the thoughts already gathering in some of your minds. “But I run my business through social media platforms.” I understand that. I would say continue with your business. Access your page for business purposes, and then disconnect. Many of you may be thinking, “But there are people I have no contact with other than social media.” Reach out to them. Get a phone number, an email address, or maybe a place to write a letter. If you use social media to connect to the service each week, please continue with that. A call to disconnect from social media is so profound to us because it so pervasive. There will be a strong draw to work through the prayer list and the reading, but not disconnect from the distraction of social media. Each of us must pray through this struggle. We must ask the hard question of letting go for a short season. If you are like me, you receive a notification on your phone each week about daily usage. I won’t share mine and won’t ask about yours, but it is very telling – and usually not in a good way.
What would this look like in practice? To perform a fast isn’t just the giving up of something. It is also replacing it with something spiritually edifying and uplifting. A comprehensive 40-day plan has been put into place. It includes bible passages to read for each day, reflective questions to ask, and things to pray about. Each day has been mapped out for two reasons. First, it takes the guesswork out. If you take this call to fast from social media, you would replace that time and energy by following that day’s prayer and scripture reading guide. It would be that simple. Second, by having the same plan for everyone at Sylvania, we create a sense of unified community around prayer and the Word. You would know that others in this body are reading the same thing, praying the same thing, asking the same hard questions as you. It would give you avenues of instant connection, things to talk about, ways to be held accountable.
We are about to begin a study through the book of Hebrews together. The primary theme of this book is the idea that “Jesus is better than…” The readings for the fast will carry us through the Book of Hebrews together, covering our hearts and minds with the glory of Jesus and His greatness in our world. The questions we will ask ourselves and the things will pray for will be to the end of understanding how Jesus truly is “better than” everything else. If you are willing to participate in this effort, you could readily use this as a time of family reading and devotion, as well.
For some, you really aren’t on social media. A fast from it would not be sensible. You will likely want to choose something else. Maybe it is television or some other distraction of technology. For those of us who are regularly engaged in social media, this will feel uncomfortable, strange, and maybe a little off-putting. I suspect it is the same feeling people have when they go without food for several days.
Please note – this is a voluntary call to participate in this fast. I plan to do this. As such, I won’t know if you are or are not. I won’t be there to see it. For those of you willing to consider this, you have a week to pray about it. The fast will begin next Sunday, August 16, and have its last day on Thursday, September 24. If you want to review the spiritual component, sheets are available at the entrance and exits of the sanctuary. We will also have them available online. My hope and prayer for the people of Sylvania are that we will seek the Lord and unity with one another by making a small sacrifice of time to the greater end of prayer and the Word.
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