“If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” -- 2 Chronicles 7:14
The spiritual discipline of fasting has been a practice of many faith traditions for centuries. Fasting from food can serve as a physical reminder to pray, and perhaps to pray more fervently. It is often associated with Lent, but it has not been restricted to that holy season. Fasting and prayer are often present in the lives of the faithful during times of crisis and decision-making as evidenced in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. John Wesley was a proponent of fasting in the life of disciples, and for a time in his ministry fasted twice a week.
Our nation is in a time of great division and discord. We are also at the point of decision for who will lead our country for the next four years. Therefore, Bishop Easterling and the Extended Cabinet are calling the people of the Baltimore-Washington Conference to 40 days of prayer and weekly fasting that focuses on the Nov. 3 elections.
This prayer initiative begins Oct. 12. Each Tuesday, United Methodists are invited to fast from rising up until settling down. Every day, they are being asked to enter into the offices of prayer, beginning the day with Wesley’s Covenant Prayer, saying the Lord’s Prayer at mid-day, and ending the day with the Prayer of St. Francis.
The season of prayer will lead people into Thanksgiving and the beginning of Advent. On Tuesdays, including Election Day, people are being asked to abstain from food and, when they feel hunger, turn to God in prayer — viewing that yearning for food as a call to prayer. Those who are unable to fast for medical or other reasons are asked to abstain from other significant things, like using social media or some other habit or practice.
Among the greatest gifts United Methodists have to give to our nation is prayer and fasting to undergird our prayers.
The three daily prayers are found in The United Methodist Hymnal on pages 607 (Covenant Prayer), 270 (Lord’s Prayer), and 481 (Prayer of St. Francis) and are below.
The Daily Prayers:
A Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan Tradition (UMH #607)
I am no longer my own, but thine.
Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee,
Exalted for thee or brought low for thee.
Let me be full, let me be empty.
Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal.
And now, O Glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,
Thou art mine, and I am thine.
So be it.
And the covenant which I have made on earth,
Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
The Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Some guidelines for fasting
Fasting in a religious context involves abstaining from food, or certain foods, for a period of time as a spiritual discipline. Fasting is most effective when accompanied by prayer. Some Christians believe that denying physical hunger for a time can heighten or enhance spiritual sensitivity. Fasting is often said to help people hear God’s voice more clearly.
Fasting is a biblical practice. Jesus began his public ministry by fasting for 40 days and nights. The founder of Methodism, John Wesley, advocated for fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays as a spiritual practice and asked Methodist clergy to do the same.
Please note: Do not fast if you or your doctor feels it will have a negative impact on your health. When fasting, it is important to be flexible and listen to the Holy Spirit and to the cues your body gives you. There are no fixed rules to this fast, but it's always good to try to keep the fast you set out to do. Drink plenty of water.