A Dark Side to Spiritual Disciplines

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Luke 2: 36-38 ESV: And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. And there was a prophetess, Anna. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband for seven years from when she was a virgin, and then she was a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshipping with fasting, and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

Spiritual disciplines, in and of themselves, are good. These practices, or habits, many of which we see throughout Scripture and commanded by God, are intended to help form and shape us into the image of Christ, giving glory to our Father who is in heaven. When the center and focus of our disciplines is God and His glory, “it is right, and a good and joyful thing.”

But they can have a dark side.

Our flesh desires control. We want what we want. And we will use any means to get whatever that is. When our own desires become the center of our fasting, we are seeking to control God by doing certain things, expecting Him to do certain things in return.

Anna shows us what fasting can and should look like, not used as a means to her own end, but as a means of worship.   Her heart is turned toward God; her desire is to bless Him. This life of worship is what saves her from loving the blessing more than the Blesser. And yet she receives her heart’s desire, the greatest blessing-seeing the Messiah, the one for whom she has waited all her life.

Father God, teach me how to fast in ways that are pleasing to You. May my fasting turn my heart more toward You, seeking Your glory above all else. Thank you for Your abundant grace, as You teach me. And thank you for the blessing of fasting and the ways You use it to grow me more and more into the likeness of Your dear Son. In His precious Name, Jesus, AMEN.

Deacon Lisa Schwandt

HopePointe Anglican

The Woodlands, Texas

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