Start the New Year with Prayer and Fasting

16 12 2009

  

As we come to the end of an old year and begin a new year, I’m reminded of the power and peace that comes through prayer and fasting.  As Jesus started his public ministry with prayer and fasting we at Mountain Springs Church want to begin our new year, as a church body, with prayer and fasting.  Join us January 4th-8th at 6:30pm for our second annual “Impact 2010” in our sanctuary as we seek the Lord through my continued teaching on Luke, worship and prayer.

I’m a firm believer in the power of prayer and fasting.  In twenty-eight years of ministry, no other spiritual endeavor, outside of Bible study, has proved to have such anointing in my life.  Let me explain briefly why I believe so strongly in the power of prayer and fasting.

Throughout scripture one of the ways God has consistently shown His power in answer to prayer has been in response to the fasting and prayer of His saints.  People may not understand the power of fasting and prayer, and thus do not do it.  People may not like the discomfort of fasting and prayer, and thus do not try it.  But no one who reads the Bible can deny the fact that throughout history whenever people decided to fast and pray, God always answered their prayer in a powerful way! Joshua, David, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, the disciples of John the Baptist, Anna, the apostles, Paul, Barnabas, and the early church all practiced fasting and prayer.  Jesus fasted and prayed for forty days before He began His public ministry.  In Luke 5:34-35 Jesus instructed His disciples to fast after He left them.  This was taken very seriously in light of the regular use of fasting and prayer that continued throughout the early church as recorded in the book of Acts and the writing of the early church fathers.  Fasting and prayer is one of the key means by which Christians throughout the ages have received answers from God concerning the prayers of their heart.

For Westerner’s like me, fasting is often difficult to practice because it is difficult to rationally understand.  Our Western Worldview is based on a rational approach to life that often subconsciously colors and limits how we read and interpret the Bible.  I think it is important to realize that fasting, as well as prayer, and many other spiritual principles in the Bible cannot be completely understood rationally.  Prayer and fasting is a Biblical principle not a mathematical formula.

Every time I have sought God through fasting and prayer I have received an answer to my prayers!  Sometimes God has answered dramatically and sometimes quietly, but His powerful arm has always moved when I have set my heart to diligently fast and pray over an issue.  I am not surprised by this; it is only consistent with a prayer-hearing and prayer-answering God.  Because God is no respecter of persons, I am confident that if anyone sets his or her heart on the things of God, God will answer.

Here is an outline for a few reasons why I believe fasting and prayer is so powerful and useful to getting answers from God.  It is borne out of scripture and experience, thus I would refer anyone interested in this subject to more learned men with far more experience than myself, for further, more in-depth study.  Many have asked my opinion on this subject, so I feel obliged to share a few thoughts.

1)       Fasting and prayer FOCUSES our prayers upon a particular need or problem by putting God first, turning our back upon everything else (including physical needs) and seeking God’s face for those things upon our heart.  Throughout scripture we see focused prayers by the saints as they cried out to God for His power and answers.  In the book of Esther, we observe Mordecai focusing his fasting and prayer for the salvation of his nation (Esther 4:1-3).  Ezra focused his prayers at one point for a safe journey through enemy territory (Ezra 8:21), and at another point he focused his prayers and fasting for revival in Israel (Ezra 9, 10).  In Acts 13 we see the church sending out missionaries as a result of fasting and prayer.  They were focused on God in a special way, and He spoke to them.  Again John R. Rice says, “Fasting, then, should mean that one determines to seek the face of God and for a time, at least, to abstain from other things in order to give the whole heart to prayer and waiting on God.  Fasting and prayer means to leave off the lesser blessings for the greater one, the lesser duty for the far more important duty”2.  The apostles said, “We will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word”(Acts 6:4). Praying went before preaching!  Fasting means putting prayer first, ahead of our bodies’ most basic desires, or any other thing that would deter us, and focusing our heart toward God.

Over the years I have fasted and prayed in order to focus my prayers on church planting, revival, family matters, and financial needs.  When we FOCUS our prayers through fasting, God has promised to answer us.  Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks find, and to him who knocks it shall be opened”(Matthew 7:7, 8).

It is the experience of most who fast for more than 7 days that clarity of mind and a freedom in prayer comes after all foods in the body have been broken down.  This clarity and freedom enables one to FOCUS his or her prayer with greater intensity.

2)       Prayer with fasting binds the evil forces of Satan in a way that prayer without fasting cannot.  In Daniel 10 we see this principle at work as Daniel sought the Lord for 21 days in focused prayer and fasting.  It took 21 days of fasting and prayer before the “prince” of Persia’s power could be broken and Daniel could receive the answer he sought.  Kiel and Delitzsch’s Commentary on the Old Testament write, “The Prince of Persia was the spiritual force that guided the advancement of the next world government”3. and The New Bible Commentary Revised writes, “The spiritual power behind the gods of Persia”4. Hence, there is agreement with these noted scholars that the thing which held up the answer to Daniel’s prayer was a “spiritual force”, a “power” working against God.  Ephesians 6:12 in the New American Standard also translates these demonic beings as “world forces”.  It would seem from the Ephesians 6:12 passage that just as there are hierarchies of angels available to do the work of God, there are also corresponding hierarchies of demonic powers that constantly work to sabotage and destroy God’s work.  In the case of Daniel, the answer from God could not reach him without 21 days of fasting and prayer!  The means by which the answer came was through a higher, more powerful angel binding the demon over Persia and thus releasing God’s power to Daniel.

Again we see this principle at work as Jesus dealt with a demonically influenced boy of whom the disciples tried unsuccessfully to release from an evil spirit.  After Jesus had freed the young man from the evil spirit, he explained to his inquisitive disciples the reason why they were unable to free the boy.  Jesus said, “This kin (kind of demon-Ryries’) cannot come out by anything but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29)  Prayer with fasting is needed to break through spiritual forces that hinder or block God’s answer to our prayers.  Thus, it is no wonder that every great revival has been preceded by great seasons of prayer and, with certain men, coupled with fasting.

I believe that there are certain problems so deep and powerful in a person, city, or nation, that the problem cannot be solved outside of great fasting and prayer.  It would seem that the fasting and prayer of Mordecai and then the Jews (Esther 4-10) were the means by which God turned tragedy into triumph against the evil forces working in and through Haman.

3)       Fasting and prayer increases our desire, which elevates our faith, which is a key component to answered prayer.  Throughout the New Testament we see Jesus speaking of the relationship of faith to healings, miracles, and the work He could do.  It is even written that Jesus was restricted in what He could do because of a lack of faith.  Faith is key in prayer.  According to Hebrews 11:6 prayer without faith does not even please God.  On the other hand, we realize from passages like Matthew 9:29; 17:20; and 21:21, that Jesus moves to answer prayer when there is faith.  So how can our faith be increased and deepened?  I believe it is through increasing our desire.  As our desire for something increases, our faith will also increase.  Fasting and prayer can be one way in which this can occur.  Paul Cho writes, “The desire for food is basic to all living creatures.  It is one of the strongest motivational forces at work in the body, even before birth.  Babies are born with the natural instinct to reach out for the mother’s breasts.  If we can combine this intense natural desire with our natural spiritual desire for communion with our spiritual source, then what results is a much greater intensity: this is the purpose of prayer and fasting.” 5

 

All of us pray for the desires of our heart.  It is natural that we also pray more intensely for our deepest desires.  Psalm 37:40 speaks of the importance God places upon desire, promising to bless us with the desires of our heart.  Prayer with fasting increases our desire and deepens our faith.

In my life almost all convictions that have stayed with me over the years came as a result of seasons of prayer and fasting.  My desires and deepest convictions have largely been molded, not through reading books or listening to sermons, but rather in the lonely closet of prayer and fasting.

4)       Prayer and Fasting humbles us.  Humility is one of the greatest character traits we can possess.  Humility allows us to more fully rely upon God.  2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked way, then will I hear…”  If it is true that pride is the greatest hindrance to obedience, then conversely it also could be true that humility is the greatest virtue in obedience.  (See also Ezra 8:21)

As I have felt the pain of fasting I have realized my frailty, my weakness, and my general “spiritual flabbiness”.  It is quite humbling.  (I might also add that one should not even consider fasting if it is based upon some kind of prideful spiritual elitism or ascetism).  One cannot truly fast with the proper motives without a humble admission that he or she cannot find a solution or answer to a dilemma or prayer without God’s supernatural intervention.  It is in humility that one enters into prayer and fasting and it is in this closet that one is even more deeply humbled.  The most humbling experiences of my life are when God supernaturally answers my prayers!

I encourage all men and women to fast and pray and watch God move in a marvelous way.  I would caution one from jumping headlong into this area without proper preparation.  I would encourage the reading of books on fasting and starting off with only 1 – 3 day fasts.  After several of these 1-3 day fasts, one can easily increase the time and fast longer.

When one does decide to fast and pray, it is important to remember that the battle will be spiritual in nature, thus the work of the enemy will increase in proportion to ones’ faith to see God answer his or her prayer.  Be prepared mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually for battle!  God has given us many wonderful promises and as we truly begin to believe them, the enemy will realize our potential and not be destroyed without a fight.  Thus, be filled with the Holy Spirit and get ready to experience the miraculous. 

Join us the first week in January for Impact 2010 as we seek the Lord as a corporate body in the potential power of fasting and prayer.

by Steve Holt

FOOTNOTES:

  1. Prayer, Asking and Receiving by Dr. John R. Rice, Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1942, Page 17.
  2. Ibid.  Page 216.
  3. Commentary on the Old Testament by Kiel and Delitzsch.
  4. The New Bible Commentary: Revised  by Guthrie, Motyer, Stibbs, and Wiseman Erdmans Publishing Company, 1970.
  5. Prayer: The Key to Revival by Paul Cho, Word Books, 1984.  Page 115, 116.

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One response

23 01 2010
Zach

Wow, i fasted a lot in my college days. I had a lot of faith that God would make my brain work during tests, and Finals week. I have not fasted since then. I agree that it does bring you closer to God, making you more earnist for answers and miracles.
I keep thinking of the earth quake that hit Haiti. Its made me want to take action. I want to pray about it, and find out what God’s will is for me. These resources will come in handy.

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