Day 27: Wesley's Sermon & Chilcote's Prayer

One of my favorite books to use for prayer is also one of my favorites for getting to know John Wesley and early Methodism. Paul Chilcote has written a book, titled Praying in the Wesleyan Spirit: 52 Prayers for Today, which takes each of Wesley's standard sermons and turns them into 2-3 page prayers. They are very useful for giving shape to our prayers and very helpful in communicating the beliefs and practices that gave rise to early Methodism. In the context of this week's discussion on fasting, I was reminded of how helpful I have found Chilcote's prayer-adaptation of Wesley's sermon on the passage we're considering this week, when Jesus said, "When you fast...." (Click here for more information on this excellent book.)

Blessed God,

Your witness to us in scripture is filled with allusions to fasting, and I know that this spiritual discipline is closely connected to prayer.

I know that fasting is much more than simply abstaining from food for one day or parts of days or on special days. Fasting is an attitude, a discipline of the spirit; it has to do with my longing to be closer to you, my dearest friend.

When I am overwhelmed by sorrow because of the hurtfulness of my words and actions, fasting can be the food for my healing.

When I have fallen into a pattern of overeating and have harmed my own health because of it, fasting can remind me that food is a gift and my body, your temple.

When foolish and hurtful desires well up within me, fasting can refocus my energies and my life on what is truly noble.

When I have abused your good gifts of any kind, fasting can restore a proper perspective toward your many blessings in my life.

When I am struggling in my life of prayer, fasting can draw me closer to you in my efforts to share my deepest longings and my heartfelt desires.

When I need to hear your voice, your corrective as well as your comforting words, fasting can open my ears to your still, small voice within.

When, in the midst of my blindness, you offer me a precious treasure to lift my soul, fasting can open my eyes to perceive your blessed presence in all things.

Certainly, it is important for me to fast, as it were, from sin, from pride, vanity, foolishness, and anger, but you also call me to discipline my spirit by self-denial, so that these unholy attitudes and actions cannot take root in my soul.

Teach me then, O Lord, how to fast in a proper way that will enable your loving spirit to shape and guide my life. Keep my heart and mind focused on you at all times. Remind me that fasting is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Enable me to be attentive to the inward and spiritual gift. Guard me from extremes that drive love out of my efforts to draw closer to you. Empower me to pray much and to translate my self-discipline into acts of kindness and mercy to others.

When I fast, O Lord, come to me in all the fullness of your love. Change my heart; clean up my life; conform me completely to your will and to your way; make me zealous to glorify you and offer myself up to you anew for your service. Above all else, make me more loving. Amen.(1)

A Prayer for the Day:

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.*

A Prayer for the Week:

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.*

Click here for this week's scripture readings.

*From The Book of Common Prayer (1) See Paul Chilcote, Praying in the Wesleyan Spirit: 52 Prayers for Today

[This is part of 40 Days of Prayer: Daily Emails for Lent]