Summary: How prayer with fasting INCREASES INSIGHT and REDUCES STRESS.
During the minister’s prayer one Sunday, there was a loud whistle from one of the back row seats. Little Gary’s mother was horrified. She pinched him into silence and, after church, asked, "Gary, whatever made you do such a thing?"
Gary answered soberly, "I asked God to teach me to whistle, and He just then did!"
You have to admit the boy believed in prayer!
But I wonder sometimes if we believe in it as much as we say we do.
Today’s message is "Taking a Stand on Your Knees." The Incredible Power of Prayer and Fasting!" We’re in the series on the book of Esther, "Divine Destiny, How God is at Work in My Life," and today we’re going to see that Esther not only believed in prayer - she believed in prayer WITH FASTING.
God is indeed at work in my life, as we’ve been observing throughout Esther’s story, but His work is intensified and magnified when I pray AND FAST! Prayer with fasting is one of the most powerful but perhaps one of the least used spiritual success tools in the life of the average Christ follower.
Fasting is going without food voluntarily in order to give your self more attentively to God and to prayer. You can fast by skipping one meal and spending that time in prayer, or you can fast for an entire day, or, in some serious cases of need, several days. This is what Esther decided in response to Haman¡¦s plot to have all the Jews in the Persian Empire murdered. When she found out about the plot from her adoptive father Mordecai, he challenged her to speak to the king on behalf of her people.
15 Then Esther sent this answer to Mordecai: 16 "Go and get all the Jewish people in Susa together. For my sake, fast; do not eat or drink for three days, night and day. I and my servant girls will also fast. Then I will go to the king, even though it is against the law, and if I die, I die." 17 So Mordecai went away and did everything Esther had told him to do. Esther 4:15-17
Esther asks her fellow Jews to specifically go to God for her in prayer and fasting since she has decided to accept Mordecai¡¦s counsel to go before King Xerxes uninvited. She asks them to go beyond the ordinary types of fasting. She asked them to abstain from food AND DRINK. Normal fasting is just abstaining from food. She also requested 3 days. A normal fast for a Jew would have been from sundown one day until sundown the next. She was calling for an extraordinary fast for an especially difficult case.
Remember; the Persian king was an authoritarian ruler. If you came before him without an invitation and he didn’t hold out his royal scepter to you then you would automatically be executed. Esther decided to risk her life to plead for the lives of all her fellow Jews in Persia. But first she wanted a three-day-period of fasting and prayer to ensue.
What is it about fasting with prayer that the ancient Jews knew, and Christ followers today know, is so powerful? Why did Esther consider this the best possible preparation before taking a great step of faith?
Since the Super Bowl is next Sunday I remind you of a light-hearted story the Associated Press carried about Billy Graham several years ago. The Dallas Cowboys, honoring the distinguished life and ministry of Dr. Graham, presented him with a Cowboy jersey with the name "Graham" on the back and the number "#1" in large print on the front and back.
Graham responded to the gift in a way that demonstrated his unique sense of humor. He said, "It has my name on the back and I’m No. 1. I may show up at the next game and see where they put me."
Graham had about as much chance at getting into the game as Esther had of gaining an unscheduled audience before King Xerxes.
"From a human point of view, everything was against Esther and the success of her mission. The law was against her, because nobody was allowed to interrupt the king. The government was against her, for the decree said that she was to be slain. Her sex was against her, because the king’s attitude toward women was worse than chauvinistic. The officers were against her, because they did only those things that ingratiated themselves with Haman. In one sense, even the fast could be against her; for going three days without food and drink would not necessarily improve her appearance or physical strength.
"But ’if God be for us, who can be against us?’ Romans 8:31 (KJV) [Say that out loud with me!]
"The answer of faith is ’nobody!’" (Warren Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, p. 727)