“Yeah, but how?”
This is the oft asked (and appropriate) question that comes on the heels of many important commands. How much more should we ask this in response to such an important spiritual command as: “Pursue God.”? Yeah, ok, but how?!?
Many of us want to pursue God, but don’t really know where to begin or how to keep going. What does it mean and what does it look like to pursue God? Allow me to give you an answer (not the only answer, but a necessary and practical answer) to the how question of pursuing God.
Through Prayer & Fasting
Since the season of Lent has just begun, it is fitting to mention prayer and fasting as part of the answer for how we pursue God. Lent has a connection to Jesus’ experience of 40 days in the wilderness where He fasted and prayed (Matthew 4:1-2). Jesus wasn’t seeking to escape from people as much as He was seeking to spend time with His Father. Pursuing God is a relational thing. I don’t mean that it is impractical or merely emotional. No, the pursuit of God should be a pursuit of actually obeying, honoring, loving, and glorifying Him more and more. But this is always in concert with knowing Him more and more. And this happens as we spend time with Him. Prayer and Fasting help us do this.
Fasting is the spiritual practice of denying yourself something (i.e., food, TV, social media, etc) in order to enhance your spiritual appetite, focus your heart, and remind you that God is most important and valuable. When you fast, you are declaring that God is better than what you are giving up. This is a way of seeking to put the reality of our need and desire for God front and center. We are made to feel our need and desire more intensely. As such, fasting is a means of pursuing God. It isn’t magical. It doesn’t earn you favor with God. We must fast in humility, trusting only in God’s grace through Christ to work good in us through our fasting.
Prayer is the spiritual practice of communicating with God out of humble faith. Prayer and fasting go hand in hand as they both help us to pursue God. Prayer, just like fasting, must be done in humility, trusting in God to be gracious to us only because of Jesus. Prayer is expressing our limitations as we pursue our limitless God. In prayer we praise God with joy, thank God with gratitude, confess to God in brokenness, and call out to in pain, fear, and sadness, as well as in faith, boldness, and expectation.
Fasting needs prayer, for without it, we may become overly focused on what we’re giving up instead of on God. Prayer helps focus our fasting on intentionally pursing God. And yet prayer needs fasting. We can pray without fasting, but fasting has a way of intensifying our praying. We are desperately dependent upon God, but we don’t always feel that way. Fasting helps reminds us of this fact so that our praying is more sincere and heart-connected.
Our pursuit of God requires both times of prayer and times of prayerful fasting. If you are struggling with a sin, if you are feeling your passion for pursuing God waning, or if God has laid some heavy burden upon you, then I promise you that one of God’s purposes for you is that you would pursue Him through this time. And prayer and fasting are among the sweetest and best means that the Lord has given us to pursue Him.
By praying and fasting in humble faith.
(And as a helpful connection and instruction for you in this, here is Bobby Petit’s sermon from last Sunday about prayer. I encourage you to listen to it, especially if you couldn’t make last week due to the weather.)