Summary: Through prayer and fasting, we demonstrate that our relationship with Jesus is the most important thing in our lives.
Preparing For Spiritual Success
Text: Isaiah 58:1-8
1. As we begin a new year, we set goals for ourselves; things we wish to accomplish in the coming year. As a church, our goal for every coming year is to grow into a deeper relationship with our Lord.
2. One of the chief ways that we do this is through a period of prayer and fasting.
3. Illustration: Dr. Siang-Yang Tan, of Fuller Theological Seminary, in his book Disciplines of the Holy Spirit, says "Fasting is a most tangible and practical way of surrendering to God and allowing the Holy Spirit more control in our lives. By giving up food - the very sustenance of life - during a fast, control over ones own existence is surrendered and offered to God" (127).
4. This morning we want to consider:
a. What does it mean to pray and fast?
b. What is the wrong attitude during prayer and fasting?
c. What is the right attitude during prayer and fasting?
5. Read Isaiah 58:1-8
Proposition: Through prayer and fasting, we demonstrate that our relationship with Jesus is the most important thing in our lives.
Transition: Before we can begin a time of prayer and fasting, it is important for us to understand what we are doing.
I. What Does It Mean to Pray and Fast?
1. What does it mean to fast?
a. Very simply, fasting means being so consumed with a matter that it becomes more important than food.
b. Therefore, the believer sets food aside in order to concentrate on seeking God about the matter.
c. Biblical fasting means more than just abstaining from food; it means to abstain from food in order to concentrate upon God and His answer to a particular matter.
2. Several different models of fasting were practiced in biblical times.
a. Normal fast. A person abstained from all food, solid or liquid, but not from water — usually to prepare for some significant event.
b. Partial fast. Sometimes people entered into a partial restriction of diet, but not total abstention. For a three-week period of mourning, Daniel ate no meat or drank no wine, and he applied no lotion to his body (Dan. 10:3).
c. Absolute fast. During a relatively short, urgent period of time, people could abstain from all food and water to discern God’s leading. Notice that this kind of fast was only for a short time, because it was very dangerous to go without water. It is not recommended except for extreme circumstances.
d. Private and corporate fasts. Fasting is usually a private affair, but at times the people of God came together for corporate or public fasts, such as on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:37), in times of national emergency (2 Chron. 20:1 – 4), or for seeking God’s guidance in prayer (Ezra 8:21 – 23). (Wilkins, NIV Application Commentary, New Testament: Matthew, 281).
1. Christians aren’t the only ones who fast, and you don’t have to fast for religious reasons.
a. Some people fast for political reasons, such as to protest what they deem as unethical or unfair policies of a government.
b. Some people fast as a means of protest as a means of getting their way or to raise awareness as to their cause. This is sometimes referred to as a hunger strike.
2. However, biblical fasting is always an attempt to seek God’s favor or direction, and is always accompanied by prayer.
a. Ezra 8:23 (NLT)
So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer.
b. Acts 13:2-3 (NLT)
One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.” So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way.
3. Jesus himself spent time in fasting and prayer.
a. Matthew 4:1-2 (NLT)
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry.
b. He assumed that his follower would fast.
c. Matthew 6:16 (NLT)
“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get.
4. Illustration: James Duncan, preaching with great unction and power, was asked what was the secret of such powerful preaching. "The secret," he said, was "thirteen hours of consecutive prayer." When asked the secret of his spiritual power, Charles Spurgeon said: "Knee work! Knee work!" Livingston of Shotts, on two different occasions, preached with such power that in each service 500 were converted. Both sermons were preceded by a night of prayer. Charles Finney, after spending a day in the woods in prayer and fasting, preached that night in a phenomenally irreligious congregation. The sermon was accompanied by such divine power that the whole congregation, except one man, fell prostrate upon the floor, and voiced their agony under conviction of sin, in such loud outcries that the preacher was forced to stop.