2 Months of PRAYER, FASTING, AND SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION

2 Months of PRAYER, FASTING, AND SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION
Summer 2012
John Piippo (johnpiippo@msn.com; johnpiippo.com)
DESCRIPTION: This course comes out of my desire to bring the followers of Jesus into deeper relationship with him. At the center of a life that dwells in Christ is the activity of prayer. A person who abides in Christ actually prays, prays a lot, and prays in a certain way. “Prayer” is: talking with God about what we (you and God) are doing together. For this class we will add biblical “fasting” to the activity of praying. “Fasting” is: a God-led response to a grievous sacred moment. A main result of a life that lives in and out of  a prayer-relationship with God is inner, spiritual transformation into the form of Christ (Galatians 4:19).
METHOD:
1.   There will be three large-group teaching and sharing times. They will be held in Redeemer’s sanctuary on:
a.   Tuesday, June 19, 7-9 PM
b.   Tuesday, July 17, 7-9 PM (Josh Bentley teaches)
c.   Tuesday, August 14, 7-9 PM
2.   Participants will be assigned to pray 1 hour/day, 5 days/week, from June 20-August 14.
a.   “Prayer” is: talking with God about what you and he are doing together.”
3.   Use Matthew chapters 5-7 as your spiritual reading during these two months. Immerse yourself in, be immersed by, Jesus’ beautiful, challenging “Sermon on the Mount.”
a.   Meditate on these verses. To meditate on Scripture is: taking a portion of Scripture and slow-cooking in it; pondering it; allowing it to ponder you and seek you out. A way to begin meditating on Scripture is to simply repeat it, over and over. Write down some verses from these chapters and carry them with you, pulling them out occasionally to read them and to be read by them.
4.   Keep a spiritual journal. A spiritual journal is a record of the voice and activity of God in your life. When God speaks to you, write it down.
5.   During your prayer time or elsewhere God may call you to enter into a time of accompanying your praying with fasting.
a.   “Fasting” is: the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life.
b.   Fasting in the Bible describes not eating or not drinking.” “Fasting is a choice not to eat for a designated period because some moment is so sacred that partaking in food would deface or profane the seriousness of the moment.
c.   NOTE: If this is not medically possible for you, then you may choose to fast from something else; e.g., fasting from the media.
d.   During your times of fasting write down anything God reveals to you or speaks to you, or does for you.
RESOURCES
Bill Bright
Richard Foster
·        Celebration of Discipline: The Path toSpiritual Growth (see chapter 4, “The Discipline of Fasting”)
Scot McKnight
John Piper
·        A Hunger for God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer (you can download this online for free)
Elmer Towns
Dallas Willard
·        Google ‘Dallas Willard Fasting’
And…
  • I’ll be writing and posting things on prayer, fasting, and spiritual transformation and e-mailing them to students.

The More Westernized a Person Is, the Less They Pray

Girl watching Shampa Rice, at Redeemer

I estimate that 80% of North American pastors and Christian leaders do not have a significant prayer life. By this I mean that they do not take time to actually pray. By “taking time” I mean more than saying a blessing over dinner, or multi-task “praying.” By “significant” I mean an average of 1-2 hours a day.
My estimate comes from teaching and coaching 1500 pastors and leaders over the past 35 years.
The statistics flip for pastors and leaders who are from Third World contexts. 80% of them have a significant prayer life. When they attend my prayer and spiritual formation seminary classes they already have quantitative prayer life in place. They pray… a lot. The North American clergy, on the other hand, find themselves “too busy to pray.” They find it very hard to “fit in” times of actual praying. Why is this so?
The reasons North American pastors don’t significantly pray and Third World pastors do, include these.

  1. NEED: More access to human helping agencies lowers the desperation level. But when I was, e.g., teaching and speaking in India, the lack of access to medical care, education, jobs, etc. was massive. One could only turn to God, in prayer. So in India I found pastors who were praying people. The less felt need there is, the less one prays; the more felt need there is, the more one prays.
  2. CONTROL: The more Westernized a person is, the less they pray. Third World non-westernized people have not yet lost their prayer life. Westernized pastors live under the general cultural illusion that they are in control of life; Third World non-westernized pastors live in a cultural world where human control is minimal at best; hence, they appeal to God (or gods, or spirits) for help. The more one feels in control of life, the less one prays; the less one feels in control of life, the more one prays.
  3. TIME: The more stuff a person has, the less they pray. This is because much of their life is dictated by their stuff, which demands much time protecting, arranging, storing, repairing, cleaning, cultivating, etcing. Stuff demands time. On the other hand the less personal ownership, the more actual time to pray. The busier one is the less one has time to pray; the less stuff one has, the more one has time to pray.

The typical North American pastor has little felt need, is under the illusion that they can control things, and is afflicted with burnout busyness. As these three elements converge, the actual God-relationship is virtually gone.
James Houston writes: “To pray is to declare loyalty to a spiritual reality above and beyond the human realm of self-effort and control.” I agree. But if one’s spiritual loyalty is to self-effort and human striving, and that such this-worldly things bring in the Kingdom of Heaven, then of course one would rarely pray or “not have time” to pray. One follows the wisdom of Ben Franklin more than the praying example of Jesus; one follows deism nore than theism.