Have you ever wondered why prayer and fasting is an important discipline for a follower of Christ? This article was written for the church family that I serve as pastor and I wanted to share it with you.
…Some of you may be asking why we periodically call our church family to times of prayer and fasting. That’s a great question. Jesus taught His disciples that some great moves of God and victories we will not experience except through prayer and fasting (see Matthew 17: 14-21).
Why? I believe the answer is found in 3 words…
Let’s examine a passage of Scripture God spoke through the Prophet Isaiah so that we can clearly understand the power of Fasting.
Isaiah 58: 5-11, “Will the fast I choose be like this: A day for a person to deny himself, to bow his head like a reed, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast and a day acceptable to the Lord? 6 Isn’t this the fast I choose: to break the chains of wickedness, to untie the ropes of the yoke, to set the oppressed free, and to tear off every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, to bring the poor and homeless into your house, to clothe the naked when you see him, and not to ignore your own flesh and blood? 8 Then your light will appear like the dawn, and your recovery will come quickly. Your righteousness will go before you, and the Lord’s glory will be your rear guard. 9 At that time, when you call, the Lord will answer; when you cry out, he will say, ‘Here I am.’ If you get rid of the yoke among you, the finger-pointing and malicious speaking, 10 and if you offer yourself to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted one, then your light will shine in the darkness, and your night will be like noonday. 11 The Lord will always lead you, satisfy you in a parched land, and strengthen your bones. You will be like a watered garden and like a spring whose water never runs dry.
What is God teaching us in this passage?
Fasting is more about Surrender than suffering.
Fasting always involves sacrifice. There is a setting of something aside in order to spend more time in prayer and focusing on God. Unfortunately, some people can’t focus on anything else other than what they are setting aside whether it is food, technology or their favorite past-time activity. Through Isaiah, God makes it very clear that the physical act of fasting is not what He is concerned about. God is looking at our heart. The condition of our heart is what separates any religious activity from being heartless religion or true, God-honoring devotion.
In Matthew 6:16, Jesus warns that those who are only fasting to draw attention to themselves already have all the reward they will get. God is looking for a heart of surrender. True fasting should lead us to a position of humbling before God and sincerely seeking His presence and His will to be done. In other words, God is looking at the “Why” you are fasting more than the “What” you are fasting.
2. Fasting helps our focus get into proper Alignment.
In Isaiah 58: 6-7, God tells us exactly what He is longing to see. He wants our priorities to align with His. God loves people. He proved His love when He sent His one and only Son to this world to offer Himself for our sin so that we may have eternal life. After Jesus ascended back to Heaven, He gave the charge to His followers to go and bear witness for Him on the earth (Acts 1:8). In Romans 12, the Apostle Paul wrote that we who follow Christ have been chosen by Him to be His hands and feet on the earth. We are each gifted in our own unique way to share the love and message of God with others. How will people know that God loves them if we don’t show them? How will they hear that God loves them if we don’t tell them?
There is the story of an evangelist who came to visit the great D. L. Moody one night at his hotel room in London. Moody was preaching a crusade and the crowds were large and many people were making the decision to follow Christ each night. The evangelist asked Moody what was the secret to his success in preaching crusades. Moody walked over to a window overlooking the streets of London and asked the visiting evangelist to look out the window and tell him what he saw. The man looked out the window and said, “I see streets, lamps, stores,…” Moody said, “Look again.” The man looked a second time and said, “I see people, lots of people.” Moody said, “Look again.” The evangelist was frustrated and asked what he was supposed to see. D.L. Moody looked out the window and said, “I see men, women, boys and girls lost and going to hell if I don’t tell them about Jesus and until you start seeing people like that you will not have success in evangelism.”
D.L Moody saw people the way God does. That is the whole reason God sent His Son to this earth.
Fasting is an opportunity for us to align our vision with God’s and to begin seeing people the way He does.
3. Fasting activates our faith for the Mission.
When our heart is surrendered and our focus is properly aligned, fasting then ignites our faith to action.
James, the half-brother of Jesus wrote a powerful reminder of our responsibility to put our faith into action. He wrote,
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but does not have works? Can such faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith by my works. (James 2: 14-18, CSB).
As you pursue after God through prayer and fasting, let me encourage you to seek after God with a humble heart, surrendering to His plans and purposes. Sincerely seek His presence and you will find that He is closer to you than you ever imagined. As you seek Him, ask Him to align your focus with His. Invite the Holy Spirit to help you see people the way He does. Finally, let that focus set you into motion and live on mission for Christ. You are gifted and empowered by the Spirit of God to make a difference in this world. Never forget this, God will do the miraculous when we pray and fast!