Friday, March 4, 2011

Lenten Prayer & Fasting and Faith-Sharing

The season of Lent is almost here, and with it many Christians engage in specific efforts at prayer and fasting and various forms of abstinence.  Sometimes these special efforts are viewed as a kind of legalism imposed by certain denominations.  (Some Roman Catholics view it this way, though that is not the intent of the Roman Catholic Church.)  Others see this as a way of simply "proving they can do it."  And there are those who see Lent as a time to jump-start their diets.  (Though the loss of weight may be a favorable side effect, that is not the purpose of fasting!)

There are others, however, who recognize that fasting and the various forms of abstinence are truly spiritual disciplines with the intent of opening us up to God's presence and grace in preparation for the great celebration of Easter. 

Coming from a branch of Methodism that has thoroughly embraced the Camp Meeting and Revivalism, I have always told our people that Lent is revival preparation!  -  When we would schedule a revival with an evangelist, we would do more than schedule the revival.  We would set aside specific times for prayer and fasting, seeking God's face for the revival services, the evangelist, the lost in our community, the Church, and ourselves.  "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.  See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psalm 139:23-24)  -  That, very much, is what happens during Lent.

Additionally, in the congregations where I have served, I have made it a practice of distributing to everyone a "World Methodist Call to Prayer and Fasting and to Faith-Sharing" bookmark on the Sunday prior to Ash Wednesday.  This book mark, produced by World Methodist Evangelism, calls our people to participate in the "Wesley fast."

The WME website says this about the bookmarks:

The 2001 World Methodist Conference in England called upon Methodists around the world to "follow the Wesleyan Pattern of Prayer and Fasting, focusing on spreading the gospel of Christ Jesus through word, deed and sign" by participating in the same weekly fast which John Wesley observed most of his life. Because of this commitment, Methodists in 130 countries go without solid food after their evening meal each Thursday until mid-afternoon each Friday.

This time of fasting is focused in prayer for the vision of World Evangelism -- to see the Methodist movement alive, vibrant, growing and yearning to spread the good news of Christ Jesus in a world that so desperately needs healing, hope and salvation. Methodist churches and groups are encouraged to participate in the Wesleyan Pattern of Prayer and Fasting during Lent and/or during the period between Easter and Pentecost.

These ENGLISH PRAYER AND FASTING CARDS are available free of charge, in reasonable quantities, for congregations or groups wishing to participate in this worldwide commitment. The 2 3/4 x 8 1/2 inch laminated cards contain an explanation of the Prayer and Fasting Commitment plus special prayers for Thursday Evening, Friday Morning, Friday Noon, and Friday at the time of breaking the fast.

I would encourage all pastors in denominations that are members of the World Methodist Council to order these free bookmarks by going to the WME website, here.  Further, anyone who may pastor in a Wesleyan/Methodist denomination that is not a member of the WMC is still encouraged to join in this fast, during the season of Lent (and beyond!).

In the United States, the denominations that hold membership in the World Methodist Council are:

African Methodist Episcopal Church

African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

Church of the Nazarene

Free Methodist Church

The United Methodist Church


The Wesleyan Church

Indeed, may we "see the Methodist movement alive, vibrant, growing and yearning to spread the good news of Christ Jesus in a world that so desperately needs healing, hope and salvation."  And may we see lives marvelously transformed by the great grace of God!  In the name of and for the glory of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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