The Second Week
Focusing on God can be a huge struggle: each day we are surrounded by things that compete for our affections. When we say "no" to the distractions of the world and choose not to indulge our overactive appetites for food, media images, or some other thing, we may feel surprisingly weak; even nervous. Our anxiety level jumps at the thought of being empty of some familiar thing.
But this emptiness pleases God. Why? When we empty ourselves for his sake, he can fill us in ways nothing else can. When we make ourselves weak, he is able to make us strong. ... This emptying also reminds us of how Jesus emptied himself of his divine rights and humbled himself when he came to walk with us, and to die on the cross in our place.
Read and think about the following Scripture passages as a way to focus on God this week.
O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name. My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night ... for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (NRSV)
The LORD looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race. From his throne he observes all who live on the earth. He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do. The best-equipped army cannot save a king, nor is great strength enough to save a warrior. Don't count on your warhorse to give you victory—for all its strength, it cannot save you. But the LORD watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love. He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine. We depend on the LORD alone to save us. Only he can help us, protecting us like a shield. (NLT)
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." But he answered, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.' " Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.' " Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' " Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! for it is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.' " then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. (NRSV)
Lord, I ask you for the strength to persevere, for I am weak. Help my eyes to see this world as you see it; help me to look to you when I am tempted to fear the emptiness. I choose to stand before you and wait for your comfort, and not to run from that which I fear, or run back to old habits.
Help me to find my strength in you, and to abandon thoughts of saving myself. Help me to find my comfort in you, and to reject the messages I hear every day about the fulfillment I will find in food, riches, sex, and power. God, be my strength and comfort! I need your peace ... I need you. I am making space for you in my life today: Lord meet me in the empty places I have made. Lord, draw near to me, and fill me until I overflow.
See the page on fasting for some important considerations before you begin a fast. And remember that these are suggestions: you are encouraged to modify this practice in any way that will lead you more readily into God's presence.
If a complete fast (skipping one, two, or three meals) works for your lifestyle, choose a day this week as a fast day (remember to drink plenty of liquids). For the entire week (Monday-Saturday), cut out more of the unnecessary stuff from your diet and routine. Try cutting red meats for the week. If you eliminated sweets and/or junk food for the first week, keep them out of your diet for this week as well. Remember to cut back on helpings in general (this means don't eat more than necessary). Finally, try cutting the media out of your routine for one day this week (a day without TV, or the Internet, or ...).
Remember that your weekly fast (all of the above) doesn't apply on Sunday, which is always a feast day. And take care not to just remove things from your day: add more of God. Take the time you save by fasting, and offer it to the Lord. Invite God to fill you.
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