One of the discipleship themes we can consider during this season of Lent is that of surrender – letting go of the desires and earthly attachments that have a grip on us and are not of God.
The book ‘Celebration of Discipline’ by Richard Foster has challenged me to consider intentionally placing these spiritual disciplines of surrender into my life as I prepare for Easter.
Fasting – The voluntary denial of an otherwise normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity. Foster says that biblical fasting centers on spiritual purposes. It is God-ordained and God-centered. In my fasting experiences, I am always humbled to uncover the ‘many’ things that I am attached to and which control me. When we fast, we are reminded that God is the One who sustains us. We often let non-essentials dominate our lives. We crave for things when we are enslaved by them, but through fasting we re-learn to put our dependence on God and not on things or people.
The question we can ask, “How will I fast? What do I need to abstain from in order to create more space for God?” (Matt. 6:16-18).
Prayer – The interactive conversation with God about what we are doing together. Prayer is one of the most central of the disciplines as it ushers us into communion with God and it is in praying that we learn to see things from God’s perspective and not ours. Richard Foster describes two kinds of prayers – the Prayer of Guidance, where we ask “What would please you?” and “What is your will?”, and the Prayer of Relinquishment, letting go of wanting things our own way and following God’s way instead. Prayer is essentially learning to think God’s thoughts and His ways.
The question for us to consider therefore is “How then will I pray?” (Matt. 6:5-13).
Self-Examination – Here are some questions that can guide us as we examine our own lives in light of God’s Word: What earthly treasures am I attached to and how will I “let go” in order to invest in God’s kingdom? (Matt 6:19-21).
Who do I need to forgive and from whom do I need to seek forgiveness? (Matt 6:14,15).
How will I be reconciled to God and how will I engage in the ministry of reconciliation this season? (2 Cor 5).
Confession – Experiencing the grace and mercy of God for healing the sins and sorrows of the past.
Confession leads us to stop pretending as we come before our Father in repentance and seek grace and forgiveness. It begins in sorrow but ends in joy and freedom as we experience His love and grace in our lives. Foster encourages us to practise not only individual but corporate confession.
One question that can guide us, “How will I practise self-examination and confession in order to facilitate the truth in my inward being that God desires?” (Psalm 51:6).
It will not be easy to practise all these disciplines. What we can do is choose one or two we can focus on that will help us return to God with all our heart and mind. We can ask the Holy Spirit to direct us as we seek to create space for God and grow our relationship with Him during this Lenten season. I was so blessed and encouraged, some weeks ago, when I read in the bulletin how God led sister Cheryl Yap to set aside Tuesday evenings to retreat with Him, because this extended time matters to her relationship with the Master. How about you? Where and how would you like to begin?
May our prayer for this season be “Christ be with us, Christ before us, Christ behind us, Christ in us, Christ beneath us, Christ above us, Christ on our right, Christ on our left, Christ where we lie, Christ where we sit, Christ shine through us.”
– Article by deaconess Pauline Mok, YCKC bulletin 23 & 24 Feb 2013