Saturday 1st November sees the launch of Pray and Fast for the Climate – a campaign calling on Christians to pray and fast on the first day of every month until December 2015 when Paris will host the 21st UN Climate Change summit.
Fasting is a longstanding spiritual discipline within the Christian faith and many others. At the outset of his adult ministry, Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights in the desert, an experience not only of physical hunger, but of prayer and self-discovery. Denying ourselves food is an act of the will, one which creates its own physical reactions. Through fasting we are invited to use the sensations of hunger, to help us focus more deeply on God through prayer.
What will a movement of Christians praying and fasting for climate change achieve? We can often depict prayer as the means through which we offer our desires and concerns to God – but prayer is as much about listening to God as it is speaking to him. In the case of climate change, we are not ignorant of some of the issues and causes that lie behind our predicament, and we have a responsibility to respond as those who are servants of a God who is Creator of all things.
One of the key causes of climate change and environmental destruction is our seemingly endless capacity as human beings to consume the earth’s resources. By fasting we are regularly taking a modest but significant step in the opposite direction. We are denying ourselves and in a small way leaving some of the earth’s resources for others. Doing without, and setting aside time to refocus on God lies at the heart of the Old Testament understanding of Sabbath. In the book of Leviticus (ch25v1) God’s people are invited to apply the principle of Sabbath to the land itself, resting from a cycle of unabated consumption of the Earth’s resources.
In the New Testament, the invitation of the Gospel is a call to repent. Repentance is not simply an act of apology, it is a commitment to think and act differently – literally to turn around and walk in a different direction. God speaks to us in many ways, but his word makes clear that one powerful way is through creation. In his letter to the Romans (ch1v20) Paul reminds us that God’s nature is reflected and visible in the world he has made. In the Old Testament, God spoke to his people through environmental catastrophe – the most prominent was the famine during the time of King Ahab (see 1 Kings 17 onwards).
What is God saying to us today as we see our climate in turmoil and our environment in such a fragile state? What is the responsibility of Christians as we reflect on our calling to be stewards of God’s Creation? Writing to the Church in Colossae, Paul speaks of how in Christ, God is reconciling all things; putting them back the way they should be; bringing about a New Creation. As Christians we should not simply be supporting those who are committed to environmental action, but at the forefront of God’s movement for change.
It is nearly always the case in our world that when things go wrong, those who are already the most poor and vulnerable are the worst affected. In many parts of the world, lives and communities are being destroyed through climatic and environmental disaster. Through the prophet Isaiah, (ch58v6 onwards) God announced that the fasting he requires is to loose the chains of such injustice. Our fasting is not simply a matter of personally doing without – but making this a spiritual exercise in which we seek God’s purpose through deeper questions and actions.
There are many ways we might “fast for the climate” – doing without food for a day or part of a day is only one. We could perhaps switch off our central heating for 24 hours; deliberately not use our car, cut out chocolate or consider another way in which we could intentionally arrest our consumption of the earth’s resources, act differently and so focus afresh on what God may be saying to us.
You are invited to be part of this movement of prayer and action as we consider anew our calling, as Christians, to be stewards of God’s creation.
God of all creation
You have filled the earth with good things
Food, fuel, seedtime and harvest;
Land, property and prosperity
Placed at our disposal through your goodness.
We confess our capacity to make good things bad
Through taking and using more than we need;
Through placing profit and gain above the principles of care and sustainability
Many are left without
While others use the earth’s resources for their personal gain.
And in its midst
Your world is speaking
Ravaged by storm and flood.
Melting Ice and rising seas
Declare afresh the message of their creator.
This earth is not ours to exploit
But yours, entrusted to our care.
Forgive us when we fail to listen
Forgive us for when we hear
But find the challenge too much for us.
Give us the resolve to act differently
The wisdom to be faithful stewards of your creation
The courage to work for change
And the contentment
To be satisfied only with what this earth can afford to give.
So may we be part of your New Creation
In every aspect of our living and being
Through Christ our Lord