"Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house." Proverbs 24:27 (emphasis added)
I hunger for God to build our church into a house of prayer, and I also want to be a watchman waiting and ready for him to do what he will do. If I am going to be ready, then I must prepare and strengthen my weak knees and drooping hands.
"Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." Hebrews 12:12-13
All of Hebrews chapter 12 is worth a read in terms of preparation. Here are a few highlights:
- We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses that have run before us.
- Throw off sin so you can run with perseverance.
- Look to Jesus who is perfecting our faith.
- Consider Jesus so you do not grow faint or weary.
- Discipline produces endurance to pursue holiness.
- God's kingdom can't be shaken.
- Offer God acceptable worship with reverence and awe.
- He is a consuming fire.
Apart from reading Hebrews chapter 12, let me share a few more ways I'm preparing for the coming week of prayer and fasting with the hope of helping and challenging you. Sometimes I'm practical to a fault, so when leaders tell us to do this or that, I'm often left wanting someone to tell me how. Let this encourage you in the how.
Here is a list of ways I'm preparing my heart for the week of prayer and fasting:
~ I'm regularly reading Isaiah 58 to remind myself about the type of fast that God desires. If you aren't sure where to start, use this passage. It shouldn't surprise you much that I'm telling you to start with God's word. Why in the world would we ever begin with our own thoughts or someone else's thoughts?
~ Nate talked about spending time searching our hearts to "get rid of our junk" which is necessary. I know I'm only scratching the surface of my heart at this point. In the past, going without food inevitably makes me more hungry for God which makes me more open to hear from him which is when the inner scum really comes to the surface. I consider these next few days the tidying up of my heart so I can be ready for the deep cleaning I don't even know I need. I promise it's way better than it sounds. Even in a deep heart cleaning, his kindness leads us to repentance.
~ As a church we spent 41 weeks of the last year in 1 Corinthians. The prayer guide is being written with 1 Corinthians as a backbone, so I'm reading over my notes to remind myself of the richness of what we learned as a body and what I learned as an individual.
~ I'm reading Prayer by Timothy Keller, an excellent book. I highly recommend it. In the book he refers to many psalms of prayer. I'm trying to read them and take them in as I go.
~ This step is very practical. I've started to shrink my stomach. A friend of mine posted something about leaving "the eating season" which perfectly describes November and December for me. Instead of going cold turkey, I'm lessening portions and snacking which may not necessarily make it easier to not eat, but it is making me mindful of what it means to prepare.
~ I'm also asking God how long he wants me to fast. Have you ever considered asking God point blank how many days he wants you to fast? What if you've fasted the whole week in the past, but this year he would like you to add a day or two? Or what if you are hell bent on the rules and status quo of a literal week and he would like you to fast for only part of the week? If you ask and don't hear a specific number, have no fear. Trust the leadership of Second Mile and fast for the set aside time.
~ Finally, I'm asking God to prepare my heart. Simple as that. As I pray for preparation, I'm also asking him to fill me with hopeful expectation of his kingdom come and of eternity with him. Make no mistake, I'm not laying any demands in front of God. I'm simply asking him to come and commune with me, Chad, my kids, and my friends (you) in a beautiful, life-giving, himself glorifying way. This is all for him after all. It isn't about us, although, in his goodness, we certainly benefit. I pray he increases my hunger for him and his return above all things.
Have you started the preparation process? Do you have any other ways you are preparing? I would love to learn from you.
On your mark, get set...