Looking to Anna: Prayer, Fasting & Worship
There is a little story in Luke just after we see the shepherds worshiping the newborn king. Jesus is presented in the Temple to the Lord. There, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph meet Simeon and Anna. Simeon was a righteousness man who had been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would see the Messiah before his end of days.
Anna was a prophet. She had been married for seven years before becoming a widow, then she remained a widow. At the age of 84, she met God’s promised Messiah. Though He was but a baby, after meeting Him, her response was to talk about this child to all who were seeking the redemption of Jerusalem.
So what was Anna doing in those years between the loss of her husband and the day she met Jesus?
“She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day.”
Perhaps our lives do not seem so extreme compared to hers.
Her life was simple:
These were not small add-ons of her life. They were her life. Worship. Fasting. Prayer.
She never left. This was her life. We may be tempted to think this is not much of a life. Even if her life does have appeal, it does not seem possible to live such a life today.
Today, worship seems optional, fasting is almost unpracticed, and prayer has become private and occasional. Our lives are busy. Our days are full. Our hearts are often empty. Worry and fear consume our society. Our American dream worships comfort, security, and safety. And this is not just those who do not know God – this is the majority of those who claim Jesus as Lord. It seems like there is no escape.
So we settle.
We convince ourselves life (that is truly life) begins after we die. We trudge through, try our best, fall on grace, and change very little.
We tack on prayers to the beginning of our days and our meals, we attend worship services when we can, and we do not think much about fasting. We meet the King each Christmas, trying to not get too caught up in the commercialization but rarely leave the season with a fresh desire to speak of Christ to all who are seeking redemption.
We become uncomfortably comfortable. We allow the world’s dream to darken our own, and we believe the lie that this is all there is in this life. Most of us would not know how to live a life of worship, fasting, and prayer even if we wanted to.
A few of the zealous may set out to achieve such standards, but most of even these inevitably fail. We find we are powerless, so we settle.
Continually pushing down the deep desire for more, we become uncomfortably comfortable.
What do we do if we long to be more like Anna but find we are unable? What if we want to fight against the comfortable life but do not know how to start? Here are four simple steps we can take to embrace a life of worship, fasting, and prayer.
- Set your heart toward God.
Take a step toward God. Life is full of ups and downs, so when life is up, run. And when life is down, just take one small step and ignore the voice inside telling you it is not enough. And when life leaves you beat down and unable to stand, turn toward God and wait. Let prayer become not just your words, but your posture toward God and your very life.
- Try a short fast.
Pick a day, and skip two consecutive meals. Drink water and pray whenever you feel hungry. Be thankful for God’s provision, and ask Him to help you feast on Him during your fast.
- Look for God in the little things.
See Him in the laughter of children. See Him in the kindness of a stranger. See Him in the sunset and in the flowers. See Him in the warmth of a good meal and in the opportunity to extend kindness to another. See Him, and be thankful. Worship Him with your breath. Breathe in “thank you” and breathe out “Jesus.”
- Do not give up.
Rest in God, but do not settle. Find peace where you are without giving up continuing to grow and stretch yourself. Allow yourself to fail. Find grace in your failures, but do not ever give up.
God is good. When His children seek Him, they do find Him. The finding may not always be how we would like, and it certainly will not be on our terms, but if we seek Him – truly seek Him – we will find Him, and find Him faithful.
As we leave Christmas behind us for another year, let us learn from Anna. Let us seek a life of more worship, more feasting on the Lord, and more prayer. In short, let us seek a life of Magis Deo (more of God).