I once attended a high Anglican service at a local church near my University in England. I had never been to a traditional Anglican service before and had no idea what to expect. I was intrigued by the idea of liturgy, incense, and formal communion, but a little nervous about getting things wrong or acting inappropriately. There was a formal custom to these services, and I knew I would feel like a fish out of water. Sure enough, disaster happened. During the communion we had to come forward in silence and kneel around an old wooden rail, our hands held out in anticipation of receiving the bread and wine. I followed the person in front of me, watched closely at what they did, and followed suit. In the beautiful silence of this old church, I knelt on a floor cushion, leaned against the rail, held out my hands, and waited quietly. Somehow one of the buttons on the shirt I was wearing got caught on the underside of the old wooden rail. As I rose energetically to return to my seat after I had finished communion, my shirt lifted the whole rail up with me. It fell to the floor in an almighty crash, shattering the silence with a noise I can only describe as very ungodly. It was not my finest hour.
The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us to watch, or guard, how we enter into God's presence. He speaks specifically of the temple, but of course this applies to any of our time with God. The writer tell us that God is in heaven, and we are here on earth. In other words, he is God, we are not. It is a call to respect and to be in awe of God, giving him his rightful place as sovereign and mighty over all things. With this in mind, the writer tell us to keep our words few. When we draw near to his presence, we should humbly draw ourselves low, bringing our lives before him and keeping our communication short. One of our main roles in Gods presence is to listen.
As you fast, don't use your time to simply rattle off a list of things you need from God. Of course prayer and petition are central to fasting and have an important place. But the problem is that we often fill our time of being in Gods presence with our own problems, petitions, and pieties. The reality is God wants us to draw close so we can listen, so we can keep our words few, and open the ears of our hearts to hear from him. He wants to tell you so much, and your fast is a great chance for you to receive.
Try this simple exercise today. In the time you set aside for your fast, grab a journal or an iPad or your phone and create a note you can write on. Find a quiet place and spend two minutes in prayer, talking to God about your heart, your day, your requests. But then stop and just open your heart and listen. Give yourself ten minutes if you can, and just listen. As you sense God speak, write it down. Then take a look at your notes, and use that as a thanksgiving and prayerful response.
Father, what a privilege it is for us to be able to draw near to you. Your word says as we draw near to you you draw near to us. Draw near to me today and speak, as I pause and spend some time listening to you. Amen.