Summary: Obviously the way to address loneliness is social engagement and relationship-building. Likewise when we feel lonely or isolated from God we need to work on that relationship to correct the problem. The tools that are very important to help us toward abun
This week I read an article by Medical News Today about the health effects of loneliness. Quoting the article, it states that “there is evidence that the risk of developing and dying from heart disease can depend on the strength of one's social network of friends and family…”
Warren Clark is a senior analyst with Housing, Family and Social Statistics Division, Statistics Canada. He prepared a survey on Canadian Social Trends. In an age of high-tech communication Clark reveals how we are “terminally in touch…yet many people live alone.” Families have decreased from 4 to 2.6 members but houses are larger, from 5 to 6 rooms. We want private bathrooms and private space. The age of people sitting in the same room and being in meaningful activity and relationship is a lost gift of healthy social interaction. On average we spend six hours alone every day.
I think these growing trends reflect a parallel reality in our journey with God. There are more churches, more Christian literature, and more blackberry and iPod apps; more Bible reading-plans, more social networks for podcasts and simulcasts than was dreamed possible a few years ago. Yet the stories of loneliness and isolation from God are staggering and are becoming as common as cable television and fast-food dinners.
Obviously the way to address loneliness is social engagement and relationship-building. Likewise when we feel lonely or isolated from God we need to work on that relationship to correct the problem. The tools that are very important to help us toward abundant living and deal with our need for Deep Connection with God are PRAYER and FASTING.
Prayer and Fasting is often viewed as one item with two parts, kind of like “fish and chips”, understanding the relationship of “pride and joy” or keeping things under “lock and key”. But prayer and fasting is not an “item” in all cases. I found eight Bible passages where they work together (1 Ki 21:9; Da 9:3; Ps 35:13; Lu 2:37; Mt 17:21; Mr 9:29; Ac 13:3; 1 Co 7:5) while not fewer than twenty-one passages where fasting is a solo topic and prayer is not part of the equation.
So let’s look at them separately while trying to understand their relationship in our quest for God.
1. PRAYER – The key to connection
If there is any hope to deep connection with God, it will come as a result of prayer.
I cannot offer anything new on prayer. There is more than enough information on the subject. So, the best place to review prayer is to turn to the Bible’s teachings about prayer and the forms that prayer can have. I will not be talking about how we should pray, when we should prayer or how often we should pray. I simply want to explore what the Bible says about prayer and leave it with you to listen for God’s voice as he speaks into your heart and tells you what you ought to do with the information you receive because the approach to prayer is as different as our personalities.
Among the lessons we learn about prayer in the Bible we learn that prayer is a means of articulating our thoughts to God. Solomon, the son of King David, did so when he finished building the Temple of Yahweh (Name for God in the Hebrew Bible). The story is recorded in 2 Chronicles 6:12-42. Solomon prayed how he expected God to deliver on his promise to his father David that someone from the family line would always sit on the throne of Israel. He spoke of the mystery of understanding how God can inhabit the Temple when the universe cannot contain Him! He asks for mercy, for forgiveness and for deliverance for God’s people; he articulates his desire that, whenever the people sin, or there is famine, or there are invaders, that when the people come to the Temple in repentance and confession, or seeking help in tough times, God would pay attention and answer prayer. He is simply speaking his heart to God.
It is a fascinating thought to consider another lesson about prayer and that being, prayer can Influence God’s Plans! Have you ever tried to change someone’s mind about something? As your mind races to that ‘someone’ and you’re thinking how stubborn they can be, turn it around and think of a time when they tried to change your mind or influence your thinking on something. Did they succeed in changing your mind or did they fail? Odds are they failed because most of us see things our way!
Can you imagine changing God’s mind about something? It is possible! In 2 Samuel 24 David did a bad thing. He counted his fighting men, a sign of pride and ambition. He put confidence in his army strength instead of trusting God. God’s response was allowing David to choose one of three punishments. I don’t recall my parents ever letting me choose my punishments! David could choose between three years of famine, three months of running from his enemies or three days of plague. David chose plague because he felt God’s mercy is better than anything else. Yet it was disturbing as 70,000 people died of a horrible plague in three days. We pick up the story in 2 Samuel 24:25 where we’re told, “David built an altar there to the LORD and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the LORD answered his prayer, and the plague was stopped.” If David hadn’t prayed would many thousands more have died of the plague? We’re left to wonder. We do know that David’s praying seemed to change God’s mind and God stopped the plague.