With each new year comes new possibilities of fresh encounters with God, deeper relationships with one another, and meaningful ministry to our neighbors. On the one hand, this never happens on accident, without intentionality. On the other hand, we cannot force such relational growth. It is God’s Spirit using God’s word that opens our hearts to new experiences of worship, that builds one another up in love, and that makes spiritually dead hearts alive. So if eternally durable change is going to happen in 2012, we must look to God to do it.
For this reason we continue our practice of setting January aside as Prayer and Fasting Month. The purpose of fasting is to create particular space for encountering God. The biblical precedent for fasting is abstinence from food, so it could be that you use one or more lunch breaks or dinner hours each week to seek God rather than eating. Or God may lead you to abstain one day a week or altogether from television, movies, social media, leisure reading, casual time with friends, or whatever typically takes time out of your day.
Whatever the particulars of your fasting, the aim is to make January a month about seeking God himself and being open to what he wants to do in and through each of us this year. The template we are using for this is Isaiah’s encounter in Isaiah 6, in which there is a flow in the prophet’s experience from worship (“I saw the Lord”) to confession (“woe is me; I am lost!”) to cleansing (“your sin is atoned for”) to mission (“Here am I! Send me.”). This movement is not unique to Isaiah’s experience but can be seen throughout the scriptures.
On Sunday you will receive a booklet that uses these categories as a guide for meditating on God’s word and encountering God through prayer. You may find it helpful to spend your entire lunch break in worship or you may need to move quickly to confession or rest in Christ’s death for your sins. The booklet is a guide, not a rigid mandate, so move as God’s Spirit takes you. The hope is that God would draw each of us deeper into an awareness of his glory and holiness, our own unholiness before him, the sacrifice of his Son Jesus to atone for our guilt, and the resulting call to share this gospel experience with others.
In the booklet there is blank space for you to write out prayers, record God’s work, draw, or whatever best captures your experience. In particular, we should anticipate the people God may call us to serve this year as we say to God, “Here am I! Send me.” He may highlight others in the church who need support and encouragement, unbelieving family, neighbors, and coworkers, or a particular cause for which he wants us to invest ourselves. We should anticipate that God will deploy us to share his gospel love as we make ourselves available to him.
May God meet us in extraordinary ways and set the tone for a year in which his glory is displayed, worshiped, and spread!