PRAYER WITH FASTING BRINGS GOD ON THE SCENE
"Whatever you do, do it with all your might. Work at it, early and late, in season and out of season, not leaving a stone unturned, and never deferring for a single hour that which can be done just as well as now." - P.T. Barnum
Mark 9:14-29 Joel 1:14 1 CHR. 4:9-10
If there is one disturbing thing in our Christian world today I would have to say it is what God will direct us to today. One of the least favorite and less attended services of the church is prayer meetings. I have no quick reasons that across our churches today in the statistics it will reveal that prayer meeting is not well attended and many churches do not even have such. There is one church that I know about that has more people at their Tuesday night prayer service than they do on Sunday mornings and they are meeting the needs of many lost souls. I believe it was Jesus who made the statement, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” God has directed us this morning to look at prayer and fasting.
Prayer promises for you: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. JN 14:13 “You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. JN 14:14 “Up to this time, you have not asked a single thing in My name . . . but now ask and keep on asking and you will receive. JN 16:24 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. MT 7:7 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. MT 18:19 “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer. MT 21:22 It’s been a proven fact that prayer is a key to seeing God move into action in our lives and others lives. He chooses to work through vessels like you and me. He never forces anything on us; he waits for us to pray for it. Jam. 4:2 “You have not because you don’t ask God!” Each year since 1989, tens of thousands of believers have responded to the challenge to deepen their personal discipleship and unite in prayer for church-wide spiritual renewal and revival. "Forty Days of Prayer and Fasting" is a biblically-based model of devotion and commitment to these goals. It is a planned opportunity for your church to focus purposely and passionately on developing an effective local church ministry of prayer and intercession.
1. WHY FORTY DAYS OF PRAYER AND FASTING? What is the purpose of calling Christians and churches to participate in a congregational program of "Forty Days of Prayer and Fasting"? Is this a new ritual, anew machinery, a cute attention-grabber? Why not just "Forty Days of Prayer"? Why bring up the issue of fasting at all? A good answer comes from Andrew Murray: “It is only in a life of moderation, temperance and self-denial that there will be the heart or the strength to pray much." Fasting intensifies the prayer commitment of individuals and groups involved in the ministry of intercession. The Bible never commands fasting, but everywhere God’s Word commends it as a freedom to be enjoyed by serious seekers after righteousness. Where does the idea of "forty days" of prayer and fasting come from? Forty-day fasts are recorded only a few times in the Bible: Three times Moses spent forty days and forty nights alone with God on Mt. Sinai, Elijah at Mt. Horeb, and Jesus before His temptation. In each instance, however, these fasts marked the beginning of a mighty work of God affecting both individuals and nations. "Forty Days of Prayer and Fasting" expresses a desire for a similar outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Establishing such an emphasis in our church will inspire renewal. Daniel one time prayed for twenty-one days. Nehemiah prayed some days upon hearing of the plight of Jerusalem. Jesus spent whole nights praying. Paul said he prayed day and night for some of his followers. Fasting was connected with such occasions as intimate, prolonged fellowship with God; repentance for personal sin; prayer for nationwide spiritual awakening and revival; deep concern over national crises and the need for divine deliverance; victory over temptation; and desire for God’s wisdom and guidance. It has been many years since a spiritual awakening swept North America. In light of the profound changes and problems in our society, there has never been a time when the cry for prayer was more urgent. The necessity of more effective disciple-making and moral renewal is evident in every part of society. The call for our participation in "Forty Days of Prayer and Fasting" is recognition of the spiritual needs of the Church and of a world that is lost without Christ. Some things just seem meant to go together. Peanut butter and ____. Bread and ____. Hot and ____. Hand and ____. Chips and ____. Debits and ____. Girls and ____. Salt and ____. Shoes and ____. You get the point if you mentally filled in the blanks with jelly, butter, cold, glove, dip, credits, boys, pepper, and socks. For Christians, there are two spiritual disciplines for which the association should be just as natural. There are many exercises that can enrich a relationship with God but these two are among a believer’s most important tools for building better discipleship. Prayer is first, talking and listening to God. The second is fasting, temporarily limiting or abstaining from ordinary activities (food, sleep, recreation, hobbies, etc.) in order to concentrate more time on prayer. They should be as inseparable in our minds as grandpa and grandma, husband and wife, brothers and sisters. We live in a generation when busyness kills more souls than unbelief with prayer and fasting are neglected. Few Christians deny the importance of prayer. There is something instinctive about reaching out to God. Fasting, on the other hand, is a spiritual discipline forgotten or feared by many believers. Jesus assumed that His disciples would fast. That is why He said, "When you fast," Thomas à Kempis observed: “Jesus has many who love his heavenly kingdom, but few who bear his cross. Many want consolation, but few desire adversity. Many are eager to share Jesus’ table, but few will join him in fasting.” John Wesley encouraged the early Methodists to observe regular times of prayer and fasting as part of their daily discipleship. He admonished ministers and lay persons to fast every Friday. Wesley regarded fasting as a "means of grace", a channel for God to influence and communicate with us by the Holy Spirit. Why pray and fast? “Let our intention herein be this, and this alone, to glorify our Father which is in heaven; to express our sorrow and shame for our manifold transgressions of his holy law; to wait for an increase of purifying grace, drawing our affections to things above; to add seriousness and earnestness to our prayers; to avert the wrath of God, and to obtain all the great and precious promises which he hath made to us in Jesus Christ.” For at least 400 years after Christ, faithful Christians fasted twice each week. They were instructed to pray three times a day and to "fast on Wednesdays and Fridays." By the sixth century, Christians who did not fast at specified times were punished. Legalism always turns blessings into burdens. Many years later, Martin Luther helped reform such wrong teachings. He emphasized that faith, not works gained merit with God. Luther fasted often that critics accused him of doing it too much. Another reformer, John Calvin, was called a seasoned faster. John Knox, the man whose prayers the Queen of England feared, practiced regular fasting, impacting the whole of Britain as he wrestled day and night in concentrated prayer. Mature believers do not brag about their prayer and fasting; but all would humbly testify that these are the sources of whatever success others credit to their accounts. Great revivals have followed the faith of leaders who set themselves apart for intense conversation with God. High tech gadgets, broadcast media, modern management theory, and marketing strategists do not produce spiritual renewal. It takes asking, seeking, knocking and fasting to release God’s mighty power in our lives and times. 2. THE REASONS TO FAST. Several factors commend fasting as a useful way of energizing a believer’s prayer life. The first has to do with prioritizing prayer. Fasting places a limit on regular activities that limit prayer. It may be food, fellowship with friends or family, leisure reading, television, hobbies; things often have a way of assuming the place of more urgent things. Fasting is an intentional decision to regain self-control through self-denial. When you choose to fast, you are affirming that your body is the servant of the spirit—an order that gets reversed at great risk. A willing spirit is often hindered by weak flesh: fasting strengthens both. 17 Biblical Reasons to Fast. 1. We worship, love and glorify God. 2. We help intensify the effectiveness of our prayers. 3. We seek wisdom and guidance 4. We express repentance 5. We teach ourselves humility and deepen our dependence upon God 6. We rededicate our lives to the Lord 7. We intercede for and help spiritual captives 8. We train our bodies to yield to our spirits 9. We wage spiritual warfare with God’s holy power 10. We hasten physical healing 11. We overcome strong temptations and strengthen obedience to God 12. We enhance personal devotions 13. We respond to times of great crisis and seek deliverance.14. We express grief. 15. We express concern for the work of God 16. We devote time to witnessing and soul winning 17. We share our abundance with others.
3. BENEFITS OF FASTING. In addition to the above reasons for fasting, consider eight benefits of this spiritual discipline. 1. Fasting deepens our desire to pray. It makes our hunger for God’s blessings stronger. The self-control of fasting teaches the flesh to yield to the spirit. 2. Fasting deepens humility. Humility is voluntary submission to God’s will. James 4 reminds us that those who grieve mourn and weep before the Lord will be lifted up. 3. Fasting encourages determination in prayer. Psalm 35:13 “I humbled myself with fasting as my prayer returned unanswered.” There are times when we are tempted to give up asking. Fasting keeps our minds on the spiritual hunger that drove us to start praying and the spiritual thirst that will not let us give up. 4. Fasting increases our delight in God’s answers. Fasting does not force God to do what we ask; it prepares us to delight in asking for whatever will please Him most. 5. Fasting increases attentiveness in prayer. It is a conscious decision to make prayer a priority. The decision to forego food to focus on prayer concentrates more spiritual energy on those needs. Fasting overpowers distractions that Satan uses to keep us from praying. 6. Fasting amplifies faith. Victory over the flesh increases our assurance that we will be flourishing in spirit. 7. Fasting creates a new openness to the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Fasting is not going without food; so much as it is an emptying of ourselves in anticipation of a fresh filling by the Holy Spirit. 8. Fasting helps drive Satan back from long-held territory. 4. WHAT WE NEED TO FOCUS ON DURING PRAYER AND FASTING. Focus on the divine plan -- not man’s plan.
1. F stands for Faith. For His plan. Prayer and fasting lets us see in the eyes of faith. Faith means to completely trust on and rely on some One greater than we are!
2. O stands for On. So we are to stand on Christ as the foundation for all that does in our lives. 3. C stands for Christ. We see Him as our rock, our base, our support. He is the base on which you should stand when you make decisions in this life. He is the base you should be anchored to in your life.
4. U stands for Understanding. This is our key to doing God’s will and understanding His ways. This happens through our listening to His word, our reading his word and our meditating on His word. We can only understand by standing on Christ who is the word. We can only understand as we pray which means to focus on God. Focus on God with no distractions. We can only understand best in the context of prayer and fasting – because in this time there is a deeper level of communion with God.
5. S stands for Scripture. The only way to understand His plan and stay focused on him is by staying continually in His Word. The problem we have even in those who say they are Christians do not want to be continually in the Word.
Here are some sample intercessory prayer requests: 1. The outpouring of God’s Spirit on the workforce and witnesses being sent to lost people. 2. Consideration for those whose lives and needs we have trouble understanding. 3. Consistent Christian everyday life of persons in the church who are active witnesses to the lost. 4. Divinely arranged circumstances that will point lost people to Christ. 5. Great conviction and sorrow for their sins that convinces the lost to turn to God. 6. Ability for unsaved persons to understand and believe the Scriptures. 7. Release from satanic bondage and blindness that block repentance. 8. Capable teachers to instruct new believers in the faith. 9. Continued obedience and spiritual growth of those who believe in Christ. 10. Success in starting new groups to enfold new believers and expand the church’s witness to the lost.