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  • Writer's pictureTrent Murray

Prayer & Fasting: Productivity Through the Spiritual Disciplines Pt.2

If you missed last week's blog, I highly encourage you to go back and begin there, as it is the foundation for this post and the rest of the spiritual disciplines to follow.

I pray that as we have been pondering our intake of scripture we have been challenged to take steps of action that can provide lasting impact in our life. Biblical productivity, as I defined last week is glorifying God through good works for His kingdom, for the purpose of Christlikeness and the good of others. In finding a time, a place, and a plan for reading the scriptures we can establish rhythms in our lives that reorient everything in our lives around the life-giving word of God. The other disciplines must be firmly placed upon the discipline of regular Bible intake, or they will be hollow and man-powered rather than empowered by God.

In our Student ministry we are in week 2 of our 8 part series on Spiritual Disciplines. My desire for this blog at the present time, is to be a supplemental resource to our students or anyone who would pursue a productive, God exalting life, through the spiritual disciplines. I contend that Spiritual Disciplines are any act that we must devote time and energy to train ourselves or discipline ourselves in as we grow in Christlikeness. (1 Tim. 4:7) Yet these are means not ends. We do not pray for prayer sake, we practice the disciplines because they are how we experience God.

The Disciplines:

Week 1 - Bible Intake

Week 2 - Prayer & Fasting

Week 3 - Worship & Fellowship

Week 4 - Evangelism

Week 5 - Stewardship & Service

Week 6 - Mindfulness: Silence, Solitude, & Journaling

Week 7 - Thinking & Learning

Week 8 - Productivity: getting the right things done


Many a page has been filled with meaningful thought on Christian prayer. It is not my aim in this short sprint to provide a sufficient synopsis, but rather to focus in on how prayer fits into the Christian life, and key in on two aspects of our mindset toward prayer that can help us enjoy it more in the days to come.

If we have begun with bible reading as God's clear speaking to us in his word, prayer is the logical outflow of this as our response in conversation to the Father. Prayer is not merely some formal petition to a higher power, it is a personal conversation with a personal God.

Prayer fits into the life of the Christian as the outflow of our communing with God in every aspect of life.

"Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving." Colossians 4:2 ESV

The first mindset shift we must make, then when it comes to prayer, is that it is an opportunity not an obligation. I contend that one large reason we don't spend time in prayer is because we feel like it is a task to fit on our schedule or to-do list rather than an opportunity. I don't have to schedule when to kiss my wife or to hold her hand, I just do it as often as I can because I enjoy it. I am blessed with an incredible spouse who I get to love. In the same light we would pursue prayer more often if we allowed ourself to think on what it is we actually get to do in prayer. The God of the universe who is upholding the fabric of all reality and knows the number of hairs on my head and the depth of sin in my heart desires to hear my prayer to him.

I believe another mindset shift we need to make is to quit viewing prayer as a performance but as a practice. Like learning a language, prayer takes practice. It would make no sense if children sat quietly in the home until they were in their teens and had listened to enough English that they believed they had mastered it. No matter how much they had heard it and thought about it, until our mouths form the proper shapes and our tongue learns to properly shape consonants and vowels we will not be able to speak the language. Not to mention the neurons in our brains learning words to store in our memory rather than thinking about how to form and speak every word that leaves our lips.

Quit being a perfectionist in your prayer, God is not impressed by your eloquence. Just talk to him from your heart. We don't want to speak irreverently toward God but that is something that the Holy Spirit shapes us in as we pray and put into practice our conversation with God.

Prayer is something that needs to be practiced, without ceasing. There is an episode of the Office where Jim and Pam spend the day with an earphone in having a conversation as they both go about their separate days. I have challenged our students to view prayer in this way as a telephone line that is always open and accessible not a payphone that can only be accessed in specific locations or times. We have an open line of communication with the Father, so you can stop reading this at this very moment and just tell God whatever is on your mind.

Three matters of application for you is to check out models and acronyms for prayers (Such as the ACTS method: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication), pray the Psalms out loud interweaving your own prayers as they come to mind, and try writing out your prayers to become more mindful of what you are saying. These are not the only ways to pray, but can provide just the structure you need to quit "saying the same old things about the same old things" as Don Whitney aptly puts it.


In the church today, Fasting is the most neglected of the disciplines. Fasting is talked about more in dietary nutritionist circles than it is in the church. For example, I personally fast each day with an eating window from noon to 8pm. I do this for health and mental health reasons that I could "nerd out" on in a different space, but there is no spiritual benefit or direction to this fasting. I don't think it is a coincidence, however, that in a state of fasting we have heightened senses of awareness, focus, and ability to lock in on essential things as we weed out the trivial. Almost as if God was on to something when he speaks of his people fasting. But I am kidding myself if I try to shoehorn my intermittent fasting into some sort of Spiritual work. I must make times of intentional spiritual fasting a part of my regular routine in order to be fasting in a biblical sense.

In a biblical sense, fasting is a voluntary abstaining from food for the purpose of spiritual devotion and to remind us of our dependency upon God, helping us cultivate a proper hunger for the things of God as we discipline ourselves to replace a meal with the word and prayer. As we feel those tinges of hunger pains it reminds us of our longing after Christ like a deer that thirsts and pants for the water. Fasting helps us redirect our energy and attention toward what is most essential, the person of Jesus Christ.

Though the Bible teaches of fasting from food, there are other things we can fast from to improve our spiritual health. (Also this should go without saying, but it is possible that due to health reasons or specific medications fasting from food may not be an option.) The bottom line is that fasting must be done with spiritual purpose to receive any spiritual benefit. This is why prayer and fasting are a package deal. To spend time fasting with no prayer or communing with God is not going to be beneficial to your relationship with Christ. Fast, and when we feel a desire to eat or engage in the selected activity, redirect that energy and attention toward God in his word and in prayer.

"Fasting helps us redirect our energy and attention toward what is most essential, the person of Jesus Christ."

Much like last week we need to be intentional about our prayer and fasting in order to see it nurture fruitfulness in our productivity. If we want to do more of the right stuff we must make sure that we have placed the disciplines in their proper place in our lives not as filler but as the large substance of our spiritual routines. Think of a glass vase you are trying to fill with rocks and sand. If you pour all of the sand in first you will not be able to fit what is most important, the rocks. So make the big rocks of the disciplines a priority in your life that the tiny trivial things of life, the sand, can fill in the cracks instead of taking up valuable real estate.

The key to productivity is doing what matters most, most. So find a time, find a place, find a plan when it comes to your prayer and fasting. If you read last week you should have been thinking about how you can do these things to create regular rhythms of time in the word. It is time now for us to find how to incorporate prayer and fasting into our regular routines and rhythms, or else we will simply not do them.

"Fasting must be done with spiritual purpose to receive any spiritual benefit."

Where the rubber meets the road:

Decide specific chunks of time this week you will devote to prayer and fasting. I suggest making fasting a monthly commitment to God or even a weekly commitment once you have gained an appetite for it, pun intended. Once you have committed to this tell someone. Notice I said someone, not everyone. Find an accountability partner who will commit to a similar structure and hold each other accountable. Christ was very specific about not fasting in public and being visibly distressed to draw attention to yourself. (Mt.6:16-19) Because in doing this, the attention you receive is the reward you are looking for and sadly its the reward you get, missing out on greater treasures in Heaven. John Piper reminds us "fasting and being seen is very different than fasting to be seen". So check your motivation, don't post it on Facebook, and put your focus where it needs to be: on the presence of the Lord where you find fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore. (Ps.16:11)

Prayer and fasting are not as if we are in the drive-thru and we are asked if we want to make our medium a large. We don't just hit the upgrade button on normal Christianity to become more hardcore or more dedicated. Prayer and fasting are an expected aspect of our walk with Christ. When Jesus spoke of prayer and fasting he did not leave them as cool suggestions to try a few times to see how we liked them or if we got any benefit. He spoke with expectation that while the Groom is away we would fast in longing and hunger for his return (Mt.9:14-15), communicating with him through prayer in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Right now, plan when your next fast will take place and commit to see what God will do in that time of reading and praying.

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