Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Power Of Fasting

Gabriele Sedda explains how God has taught him afresh the integral part fasting plays in the spiritual life

As I was exercising on the "cross-trainer" in the gym for 30 minutes, I heard God asking me "How much time are you putting aside for me?" As I reflected on this I was convicted of my lack of daily prayer since the feast of Pentecost. During Lent last year I felt called to respond to Our Lady's message in Medjugorje to fast on Wednesdays as well as Fridays. Thus when Lent came round this year, I wasn't quite sure what to do as I was already fasting. I wanted God to inspire me. As I was going to sleep one day I decided to read a chapter of the bible. I opened it at random and a passage from Micah just jumped out of the page at me. It said, 'No, 0 people, the Lord has already told you what is good and this is what he requires: to do what is just, to show constant love, and to live in humble fellowship with your God." (Micah 6:8).

Through this I felt that the Lord was calling me to lay aside my spiritual discipline of fasting and instead show more love and understanding to my wife, Sonia and others. Thus during Lent I stopped fasting and concentrated instead on loving more. One of the consequences of this was that I was now free to have a cup of tea and chat with people before the Friday prayer group started. Everything more or less continued as normal and my relationship with God seemed to be good. But gradually I got used to not fasting, so when a friend suggested that I stop fasting until Pentecost I was only too happy to agree. But I noticed that my prayer life was suffering. Before this I had always enjoyed prayer and now I could barely pray in the chapel for a couple of minutes. I felt something was missing in my spiritual life which I couldn't put a finger on. It felt as if the "connection" with God wasn't there any more!

I also found it much more difficult to hear the Lord in ministry situations. Around this time I had also started going to the gym several times a week. I think this too, focussing on myself and my body, also somehow affected my spiritual life in a way I hadn't expected. I became aware of the lack of prayer in my life. As I meditated on God's question "How much time are you putting aside for me?" I felt I should be returning to my old regime of prayer and fasting but I was enjoying eating whenever I wanted and I could feel something holding me back from starting again.

"Something holding me back"

Although through prayer and fasting I had experienced the supernatural power of the risen Lord in my life, and seen him do miracles, including restoring my marriage, somehow I couldn't make the decision to start praying again! I desired to draw closer to God but I had become lethargic and lazy. I knew I was far from God but I found it hard to stop the rebel in me! Many days had passed since I heard "that still small voice" asking me to go back to prayer and fasting but my flesh had become too strong and I didn't have the strength to listen and make changes in my spiritual life! Fasting to us Christians I believe is what physical and mental exercise is to an athlete who aspires to win the game and the trophy. By giving it up I realised God had become second in my life and this had made me spiritually vulnerable. By neglecting fasting my prayer life had been affected too. I joined a gym to lose weight but found I had replaced God with worldly desires too!
How could I have allowed all this to happen? I believe it was because

I forgot to imprint into my heart the second part of the Bible passage from Micah: I stopped before " live in humble fellowship with your God." So I decided that as soon as Trinity Sunday came, I would return to my former prayer and fasting regime.

A month has passed since and I have to say I still struggle with the decision. In the past because I had become so used to the discipline of fasting, I had perhaps taken for granted its blessings and the grace God had given me to do it. Through experiencing the negative repercussions of not fasting over these last months, I feel God has demonstrated to me how integral it is to my Christian life, and underlined for me its importance.

But thanks be to God He has given me fresh grace to start again.

Source: Good News Magazine

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