The Spiritual Disciplines of Prayer and Fasting

Stephen W. Hiemstra 2020

Sermon by Stephen W. Hiemstra on May 1, 2021

Mubarak Mosque, Chantilly, Virginia,  Ramadan Virtual Interfaith (Iftar) Online Program


Good afternoon. Thank you for extending me the invitation join you in this Time for National Healing through Prayer. In my talk I will focus on the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting and share a prayer from my book: Everyday Prayers for Everyday People.

For those of you who do not know me, my name is Stephen W. Hiemstra. I am a Christian author and a volunteer pastor. I have been writing about Christian spirituality now since finishing seminary training in 2013. During the pandemic I translated a second of my books into Spanish, started blogging in German, and drafted my first novella. Now that I am fully vaccinated I have started to catch up on other parts of my life.

My wife, Maryam, hails from Iran and considers herself a Muslim. We have been married over 35 years and have three grown children.


Please join me in a word of prayer.

Loving Father, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14 ESV) In the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts, illumine our minds, and strengthen our hands in your service that we might draw closer to you day by day. In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.


Prayer and fasting are spiritual disciplines that serve to remove impediments to our relationship with God. God calls each of us into relationship with himself, but we are not always receptive to his call. The usual implements to this relationship can be described as sin and the worst of these is to reject God’s grace in Jesus Christ.

Prayer removes the worst impediment to God’s grace and is the most theological activity that we ever engage in. Personal prayer is difficult because we often neglect our own hearts and find it easier to mimic other people’s prayers rather than sort out our own theological beliefs. It is hard to be honest with God if we are not honest with ourselves.

Other spiritual disciplines are best focused on our favorite sins, the ones that we secretly wrap our hearts around. Fasting is particularly helpful because by deliberately limiting our favorite sins—things like gluttony, sexual addiction, or lusting after power or money—we make room in our hearts for God.

In general, making room in our hearts for God is the focus of spiritual disciplines. When we forgive someone that has sinned against us, we empty our heart of the pain making room for God to enter. This benefits us even if the person sinning against us is unworthy and continues to sin.

Focusing on our worse sins in fasting has gotten more traction in recent years. It is accordingly popular today to have a technology fast or to limit our food consumption. Suggesting that Americans limit other sins tends to get less attention because first you have to admit that you have a problem. Among Christian counselors is often joked that Da Nile (denial) is not just a river in Egypt.

The season of Lent, the 40 days before Easter in the spring, is traditionally a time when Christians fast and pray most deliberately. As a Christian author, however, I can tell you that sales of my prayer books have been  strongest over the past year during periods when the pandemic was causing people the most pain.

On a personal level, I often pray most fervently when I am working out—while I swim laps or run outdoors—because my prayers remain uninterrupted. The stress of the pandemic and my need to keep mentally alert in my writing have motivated me to begin this spring to train for the Marine Corps Marathon in the fall. My preparations include both my workouts and a serious diet. Although I am not quite as disciplined as a  good Muslim during Ramadan, I have lost about 20 pounds since March 10th when I registered for this marathon.

Closing Prayer

Please pray with me.


Almighty God,

We thank you for

the security of a roof over our heads,

gas to power our heaters, and

power to run our appliances.

Help us to remember those who lack these things.


We thank you

for the mercy of being born in a land of plenty

that gave us food to eat,

clean water to drink, and

sanitary plumbing to use.

Help us to remember those who lack these things.


We thank you

for the protection of honest police,

the care of competent physicians, and

the instruction of educated teachers.

Help us to remember those who lack these things.


Give us discerning minds,

tender hearts, and helping hands,

when we forget who we are and

how you have called us.


In the power of your Holy Spirit,

bridge the gap

between discerning minds and the ones we have,

tender hearts and the ones we have,

helping hands and the ones we have.

Forgive us, heal us, and save us from our gaps.

In Jesus’ precious name, Amen.



Stephen W. Hiemstra. 2018. Everyday Prayers for Everyday People. Centreville: T2Pneuma Publishers LLC.

The Spiritual Disciplines of Prayer and Fasting

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