Many of you have heard of “Prayer and Fasting”; some of you have done it. Others wonder what it’s all about.
Let me answer a few questions about it:
1) WHAT is ‘prayer and fasting’?
To Pray is to communicate with God about something specific. To Fast is to limit yourself voluntarily so that you may dedicate yourself more fully to pursuing God. Often, it involves withholding food–or a specific kind of food–for a specific amount of time, in order that, during that time, you might turn your attention to God. Some ‘fasts’ involve all food (ie; Luke 4:1-2; Daniel 10). Some might involve TOTALLY fasting from food, while others involve fasting from some foods. (Some might fast from dessert, some might fast from everything except fruits and vegetables, etc.)
Some people choose to prayerfully consider what to ‘fast’ from. In today’s culture, it might be TV, Social Media, Dessert, alcohol, etc. The point is that…IF it going to have any impact, it should be something that currently brings you pleasure and/or distraction, but something that may be inhibiting some element of spiritual growth.
2) WHY do we ‘Pray and Fast’?
Prayer and fasting almost always go together, and they function as ways of opening up to, and seeking a closer communication with, God. Oftentimes in the Scriptures, the people were called by their leaders to a time of community-wide Prayer and Fasting. In those cases, they may have been seeking the forgiveness of the Lord, seeking a move of God on their behalf, or seeking a time of closeness to God.
One example of this is found in Joel, Ch. 2. The people of Israel were facing an attack so strong that their very existence was in danger.
In this instance, God moves Joel to call a national time of prayer and fasting, seeking God’s forgiveness and protection. Forgiveness for their sins, and protection from their enemies.
(Joel, 2: 15-17)”Blow the ram’s horn in Jerusalem!
Announce a time of fasting;
call the people together
for a solemn meeting.
16 Gather all the people—
the elders, the children, and even the babies.
Call the bridegroom from his quarters
and the bride from her private room.
17 Let the priests, who minister in the Lord’s presence,
stand and weep between the entry room to the Temple and the altar.
Let them pray, “Spare your people, Lord!
Don’t let your special possession become an object of mockery.
Don’t let them become a joke for unbelieving foreigners who say,
‘Has the God of Israel left them?’”
The reason I am calling for a time of Prayer and Fasting today, and inviting you to join, is that our nation is in peril. Because of our sins–which are many–we have turned our back on God and ‘assumed’ His blessing rather than ‘seeking’ His blessing in relationship with Him. We have become arrogant. We have become greedy. We have become lazy and have not allowed him to work in our hearts and lives. We have increasingly turned away from the teachings of His Word, and have rebelled against His standards.
Increasingly, our country is denying His very existence, and therefore is figuring out their own ‘standards’ of morality. This is a situation very much like existed in the Old Testament book of Judges, in which “everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 17:6; 21:25). When that happens, all standards of morality become subjective, and a ‘downward spiral’ begins.
I believe this has been the case in our culture for about the last 50 years, and it seems to be increasing in speed and effect.
Therefore, we need to turn back to God! We need to seek His forgiveness and ask Him to put us back on the right track. We need to admit our sin, repent, and commit ourselves to doing what He says (in His Word) is right. HE is God, We are NOT!
3) HOW should we ‘Pray and Fast’?
We need to Make time in our schedules to Pray–not a quick prayer on your way to something, but dedicated, specific time of Prayer–communion and communication with God–to talk to Him about the things that concern Him–things in your life, things in your family, things in your church, things in our country.
We need to find some way that works for us–individually–to put the ‘desires of the flesh’ aside in order to focus this much more. For many of us, it’s food. For some, it’s Facebook. The point is that you do it, and that you substitute seeking the Lord more for that time that you would have been involved in those things. It may work to dedicate the morning or evening time you had been using Social Media to time in Prayer and the Word instead. If you choose to fast from food, use every craving and reminder of that food as an opportunity to rededicate yourself to the Lord and to seek to hear Him more clearly.
4) The PERSONAL Application: So…Why are YOU Praying and Fasting? What is God moving YOU to change in pursuit of Him? Is there anything specific He wants you to repent of? Are there specific issues that you are burdened about in your life, your family, your church or your country? Write them down! Journal about what God is showing you! Ask Him to take you deeper in prayer and communion with Himself.
5) The RESULT of prayer and fasting:
For many, these times can be very revealing–about how much we want God ‘on our terms’, and how we want the blessing of God, but refuse to forego any comfort or make any real change when He moves us to. We may find that He puts His finger on something specific, and IF we repent, turn to Him, and let Him lead us, we may find increasing intimacy with Him, increasing power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, increased appreciation for the sacrifice of Jesus and the grace of God.
In Joel’s day, here’s what God promised if the people did this:
“That is why the Lord says,
“Turn to me now, while there is time.
Give me your hearts.
Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.
13 Don’t tear your clothing in your grief,
but tear your hearts instead.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
He is eager to relent and not punish.
14 Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve,
sending you a blessing instead of this curse.
Perhaps you will be able to offer grain and wine
to the Lord your God as before.” (Joel 2:12-14)