“This bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh.” John 6:51 (NLT)
2018 blew in with one trial after another that felt as bruising to my family as the -26 degree Celsius weather outside.
Ongoing flu and other health issues were draining all of us of physical and emotional strength.
A neighbour had moved his wife into palliative care over Christmas. Lorraine was one of the first friends we’d made when we moved onto Robina Avenue 19 years ago.
Toronto police had had to escort an even closer family friend, in handcuffs, from Runnymede subway station to the psychiatric ward of a nearby hospital. Her sister had phoned me needing to talk . . . and vent.
Most bruising of all, my sister had gone silent for almost two weeks, a cause for concern given she is a recovering addict and alcoholic who’d only had her son “back” from the Children’s Aid Society-Toronto (CAS-T) for six months. Phone calls with her, her CAS-T worker, her son’s former foster family, her lawyer . . . wore us (me) down even more than the flu.
By mid-February, I faced the reality that all of this was more than I could control, manage or fix.
Even as those trials mounted, an equally weighty series of promptings and urgings gathered momentum.
The senior pastor and leadership team at our church had called the congregation to fast over the second week in January and to gather every night to hear what God was saying to us as a congregation. When we gathered the first Sunday after that week of prayer and fasting, leadership shared what God had been saying to all of us: We were to enter a season of encountering God and the verse that best captured what we had sensed, heard, read in Scripture and prayed through, was Psalm 27:8 (NLT): “My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.” And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.”
I start most days with 10 minutes of complete silence in God’s presence that begins with my question: God, what do you want to say to me today? Most days from mid-January on, all I had heard was: Seek my face. Pray. And fast.
My daily Scripture readings and my weekly Bible study urged me to pray and fast as the necessary way to face the extreme situations that pressed on me and on my family.
Why did I begin to pray and fast? For the same reasons I find biblical figures fasting:
• God clearly wanted me to.
• The trials and testings that had beset us, particularly with my sister and nephew, demanded a response as serious and as humbling as fasting.
• Those 10-minute doses of silence were making me want to be more aware of God’s presence in my life . . . all the time.
I began to fast on Sunday February 18th, the first Sunday of the 40-day period of Lent. I’ve done a partial fast every week since then and will continue through April when I join Baptist Women to pray and fast leading up to April’s conference.
This is the first time I’ve fasted over a number of weeks. This is all new to me.
Most days I question why I’m doing it (what difference will it make?), whether I even know what I’m doing (I’m afraid to make any mistakes), and if I’m really hearing God’s voice and direction as I pray, read Scripture and just listen (does God really care about this?)
I lean on Scripture when those questions come. Fasting makes a difference. There are no mistakes to be made and as one of his sheep, I do know my Shepherd’s voice. As do you.
From now until the week of April 23rd, do join me as I share about what I’m learning as I fast.
I hope this blog series will answer some of the questions you may have as you pray about whether to join Baptist Women’s call to pray and fast. I also hope the series will become a space where you may comment and share insights on what you’re reading and learning as you pray and fast.
Renee is the communications director for Canadian Baptist Women of Ontario and Quebec (CBWOQ) and editor of its award-winning magazine live. Prior to this position, she worked at two of Canada’s largest ad agencies and a Baptist church in downtown Toronto.