Today marks the ninth day of Twenty-One Days of Prayer and Fasting at the Church of The Highlands here in Birmingham. This is the third Prayer and Fasting that I’ve taken part in since my wife Jackie and I began attending Highlands in 2009, and this one has already been more impactful for me than the first two combined. I attribute this, not to the fact that I’m praying more, eating less, and abstaining from caffeine, but from the expectancy that I had going in.
The concept of fasting for a given period of time isn’t new to me. Throughout my life, as a child, an adolescent, and as an adult, I fasted every year during Lent, which is the period of forty-days leading up to Easter Sunday. To be honest with you, I wasn’t really sure of why I was fasting, other than the fact that everyone in my family and my church did. I guess I figured that fasting was just something that I was supposed to do.
I realize now that fasting is a way for me to get closer to God, just as Jesus did. During each of the previous Twenty-One Days, I’ve had some amazing revelations (or revies, as my friend Amy Leigh refers to them) about myself and about God. Now, rather than dreading the fasting period, as I had done in the past, I actually look forward to it with anticipation and expectancy.
The first day, which was Sunday, came and went, and my biggest “take-away” from that day was the massive headache which was the result of caffeine and sugar withdrawal. As much as I wanted to, I certainly didn’t feel any closer to God. The same could be said for Monday and Tuesday.
When Jackie and I rolled out of bed on Wednesday morning at five o’clock to make it to the prayer service at church by six, I knew that something was still missing, and to tell you the truth, I was a little frustrated by it. I mean, I was giving up caffeine and sweets and bread and snacks for twenty-one days to get closer to the Lord, and it wasn’t working! Undaunted and as determined as ever, because I know that God is faithful, I slid into the car with Jackie and we headed for church to join the hundreds of others that would be there offering their petitions to God.
The prayer service began with a short message from one of the pastors, which was followed by a song performed by the worship team. Even as I was singing I realized that my heart just wasn’t in it; I seemed to be simply going through the motions, which only served to dampen my spirits even more.
The end of the worship song marked the beginning of thirty minutes of personal prayer, which would be followed by everyone coming together in corporate prayer, led by the pastor. With the sounds of pre-recorded worship music filling the large sanctuary, personal prayer began, and I left Jackie in her seat as I stepped away and began my “prayer walk,” as I refer to it. You see, sometimes I like to pace the floor when I walk, for various reasons that I won’t go into right now.
My initial prayer to God was for a “revie”…
“Lord, I know that something is missing here; something that’s holding me back, that’s keeping me from drawing closer to You. If there’s something that I need to feel, let me feel it. If there’s something that I need to see, let me see it. If there’s something that’s hidden from me, please reveal it. Could you help me out here? Could You give me a revie? I’m just not satisfied with where I am.”
It took less than a minute for me to “get it.”
What’s your favorite food? I mean something that you absolutely love to eat? At this moment, because I’m still fasting, there’s nothing that I’d like more than a Krispy Kreme doughnut and a cup of coffee! Under normal circumstances, it’d be a nice medium-rare steak with a baked potato and a side of sautéed mushrooms. Quite simply put, I have a passion for a great steak.
But what if I’m not hungry? If I’ve just finished two cups of coffee and a Krispy Kreme doughnut and a guy comes up and offers me a nice, juicy steak, I’m gonna decline his offer. While my passion for steak is as strong as ever, I’m just not hungry for it.
Do you see where I’m going with this?
My passion for God is as great as ever. The fire that burns inside of me for Him is white-hot, all consuming, never fading. That passion is most evident when I get to share what’s my heart about God, with believers and non-believers alike. There’s no shortage of passion, to be sure.
The problem is that somewhere along the way, between Jackie, family, business, the prayer room in our salon, Christmas, and church, I lost my hunger for God. I lost the fervor to seek Him, to get into His Word, and to know more about Him. I even lost the joy of writing about Him.
It all boils down to this: When we’re not hungry, we don’t eat. When we don’t eat, we don’t grow. That’s exactly what happened to me.
You see, I had grown complacent in “getting after” God. I was feasting on an explosion of spiritual growth that I’d had a couple of months ago, and I guess that I foolishly thought that it would just last and last. Quite obviously, it didn’t.
If you’re old enough, you probably remember the closing line to an ad campaign on television years ago that made the quite simple, yet quite true proclamation that “There’s always room for JELL-O.” True, that is, as long as you were hungry for it.
GOD is the same way. There’s always more of Him to feel, to learn, and to experience. Even when you think that you’re as filled with Him as you could possibly be, there’s always room for more. Always.
You just have to be hungry for Him. And all you have to do is ask.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 NIV
I asked. He answered. I’m hungry!