Monday, November 25, 2013

Fasting and Prayer


Lost Truths

Matt.17: 14 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,
15 Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.
16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.
17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.
18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.
19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?
20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

Acts 10: 30 And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,
31 And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.

Acts 14: 23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.

I Cor.7: The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife.
Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.

II Cor.6: But in all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses,
In stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in fastings;
By pureness, by knowledge, by long suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned,

II Cor.11: 26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.

In you do not believe that prayer with fasting along with a surrendered life can move God on behalf of that believer then you might as well forget about fasting and prayer. In fact I have yet to meet someone in these days who practices fasting and prayer but who believes prayer is only attempting to align one’s self to what God will already do. But if you believe in the mystery of prayer than can change some things and can see God answer that prayer with actions, then you will be interested in this post. 

Lk.11: And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves;
For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him?
And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee.
I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.

This teaching from our Lord gives us some insight as to how God views authentic and pure sacrifice by one of His children. So many who wield God’s sovereignty as if they completely understood all its mysteries also contend that nothing changes God’s mind about something and that regardless of how you sacrifice yourself in prayer it does not matter. You could, they say, fast and pray for three days straight but God is completely unimpressed and will not respond to your requests unless your request just happens to coincide with what He was going to do already. Not only is that fatalism, but it is completely undermined by the preponderance of Scripture.

This teaching from Luke in essence states that the friend who was asleep (representing God) is not primarily moved by his friend’s unfortunate circumstance, but he rises from his bed and gives his friend the bread he seeks because he is impacted by that friend’s shameless boldness. His friend was risking waking up the entire family and being refused or even rebuked, but because he was desperate enough he knocked on that door in the middle of the night. You see, the teaching highlights the risk the man took at the expense of being turned down and rebuked and his friend was moved by it. The word translated “importunity” is ἀναίδεια (anaideia) in the Greek and it literally means shamelessly bold.

So what are we to learn spiritually and personally from this parable? It is obvious that Jesus is teaching us that God does honor and take into consideration sacrifice, self denial, fasting, and uncommon prayer. It does not mean that we can manipulate God, but it also means that God is not some aloof Being who has already decided what He is going to do and is sitting back and watching it unfold without any regard to prayer. It means that if you are willing to be relentless in your prayer, and if you seek and ask and knock with a boldness that reflects your desperation, well God does take that into account. But make no mistake, this is still a great mystery about which none of us have all the answers.

Now to return to the first verses the question that should come to mind is “Where has fasting gone within the evangelical community?”. Why do we hear so little about fasting to say nothing of its practice? But before we delve into those questions let us examine what fasting is and what it is supposed to do for and to us. Fasting in Biblical parlance is not eating food for a certain amount of time which usually would include eating. Now if that is part of a diet than it has no spiritual value. But if you purpose in your heart not to eat from sun up to sun down because you are seeking something spiritual then that is Biblical fasting. Most times it does not include not drinking water.

But fasting is supposed to bring the body and the mind into sharper focus as it pertains to the things of the Spirit. It must be accompanied by an increase in prayer and time spent in God’s Word. And it has been my experience that when you deny your body that kind of natural desire you can experience a much greater awareness of God’s power and presence. This does not guarantee anything, but it does afford you an opportunity to experience a change of heart and a mind that is more receptive to the teaching and leading of the Holy Spirit.

And as evidenced by the parable in Luke chapter 11, it can also manifest your shameless boldness and willingness to sacrifice to God. I realize that these are the days when God has been made to carve out some convenient space in our lives. Any suggestion about fasting and some elongated time in prayer just doesn’t seem to fit in this post modern era. But underneath all of our reasons why we cannot fast and pray is unbelief pure and simple. The church no longer believes in prayer or any kind of sacrifice and self denial. Smooth talking preachers have made the path wide and easy and some have taught a doctrine which makes prayer little more than an attempt to connect to what is already set in stone for the future. So prayer itself has been relegated to the closet of the evangelical church.

But how do we actually learn how to pray or to fast? I suggest that this is one classroom where the practiced is how we learn. Do you desire to learn how to pray? Then pray. Do you desire to learn how fasting can increase your spiritual awareness? Then fast. The doing is the learning. And there are many deep mysteries within these spiritual sacrifices that cannot be translated into human words. You see, God will not allow His sacred mysteries to be shopped around like Tupperware. You can read books on prayer and fasting and you can blogs like this about them. But until you give yourself wholly to them you will only gain some nebulous head knowledge that does no good.

But here is a practical challenge. Take one month and pray at least one hour every day. I know it sounds a little legalistic but do it by faith. And if the Spirit is ministering to you after one hour then continue in prayer that day until you know you have been released. Depending upon your medical limitations I suggest you begin by fasting one day a week.

But what do I pray?”, you ask. You should pray that God will help you forgive everyone and anyone completely. Go ahead and worship your Lord. But I suggest you pray what you’re your heart speaks, but most of all pray that God will reveal Jesus more clearly and that He will mold your life into that perfect image. Yes you can make your petitions known unto God, but many times in prayer I have found my requests seem to fade in the glory of His presence. But make no mistake. Prayer is spiritual labor and you will not walk immediately into a tangible glory. But if are determined to touch the hem of His garment you will.

Mk.2: 18 And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not?
19 And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.
20 But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.

Can our Lord have made it any clearer about His will in this matter?
The single most deficiency in the church and in the lives of believers is prayer. It is time for genuine repentance.


Anonymous said...

I came to the website yesterday expecting to see your post on fasting instead you posted a sermon on persecution. Now I understand why it is these two instructional sermons were posted in this order.

No one in the U.S. knows about being persecuted because of their belief in Jesus Christ. Oh we read about it in Voice of the Martyrs, but we have never experienced it on that scale. But it is coming soon. In the second sentence in Luke 18:8…Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?"

Prayer, fasting and the continual reading of the Word should be an un-common practice for me, moreover a discipline.

I see Satan’s finger prints showing up in a lot of the news coming from government. Especially in this new legislation called The Affordable Healthcare Act. After paying the exorbitant amount for health insurance who is going to be able to afford to go to doctor, let alone buy the prescribed medications? You see Satan is saying those believers in Jesus read they can move mountains with their faith let’s see if they can be healed of their sickness now. Am I ready for this? Mark 9:29 So He said to them, "This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting."

I need to be leaning on the everlasting arm of Jesus. I can only do this by “nothing but prayer and fasting”.

In Exodus 32:1-14 Moses kept God from destroying the children of Israel by reminding God of His Namesake. I used to think why God would need to be reminded of anything. Not only does prayer and fasting increase my faith and bring me closer to Him but while I am there I can remind Him of His promises.

Thank you Rick.


michael said...

Good exhortation today!

Besides what you've laid out I'll share a testimony about fasting and prayer based on some Words of the Apostle Paul from his epistle to the Ephesians and exhort in one area of Our Royal Priesthood that once we get that firmly active in our "daily" life we won't have another dull day on earth because we'll be so fired up for the Glory and Honor of The Lord!

I was in a transit area of San Francisco Airport. I had about three hours before my next departure and I had been doing some fasting and intense praying for a few days so I decided to go into a restaurant in the terminal to have some hot tea.

When I fast I like to focus on some area of Scripture, some topic or an epistle or an Old Testament book. It just so happened I was focused on the book of Ephesians and these Words especially:

Eph. 3:13 So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,
15 from whom every family[fn] in heaven and on earth is named,
16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,
19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

I walked into this place and it was packed full. There were two places left, a table and a booth. I asked to be seated at the table. As I stood there waiting to be taken to the table a man and his wife and their son came up and stood beside me.

Break, continued

michael said...

The young man was speaking in an angry tone to this man and woman.

Then the hostess came up and asked me to follow her to the table now that it had been bused and prepared for me. As I walked away I could still hear this young man angrily speaking to the couple. I came and sat down. This restaurant was packed with travelers so there was a high noise volume of talking. A bit of time goes by, maybe three or four minutes and I look up to see the hostess seating the couple and the angry young man at the booth. They were in an intense conversation, mostly this young man. He became infuriated with something the man said and raised his voice so loud it startled everyone sitting around him. People started getting up and leaving.

After ten or fifteen minutes the entire restaurant was emptied out but me and this couple and their son. So the noisy crowds talking were gone so now I could hear these three talking. As I listened I came to understand what the fuss was about. The young man was the son and was attending a major university in the Bay Area and the parents had just flown in on their way on an overseas trip but stopped to inform their son they were not happy with his progress at university and all the complaints they were getting about him. They decided to cut his stipend off and were letting him know if he wanted to continue his studies there he'd have to get a job and go it alone! His language was very abusive and vulgar. As this went on I opened to those words at Ephesians and began to pray specifically to the Lord based on them. I asked The Lord to touch this young man's heart and convict him and bring him to repentance right there in the restaurant and that there would be reconciliation between them. This praying went on for a bit but the anger and intensity of this young man increased. I had to use the restroom so I got up and let the hostess know I would be right back. I went to the restroom and to a stall. As I was standing there doing my business the door opens and in walks the young man and his father! This young man is crying and repenting and asking his dad's forgiveness! I finished and went back to the table and looked over at the mother sitting there. She was crying a little, more like weeping and touching her eyes with her head bowed. Then the two come back and the mother stands up and hugs her son who was crying and apologizing to her for being disrespectful to her. They then sat down and grabbed hands and bowed heads and started praying!

I was finished so I got up and left.

It was some weeks later I was reading some verses from Psalm 149 and The Lord gave me understanding about our unique place in the lives of "families" as Ephesians says there in chapter 3.

Here's Psalm 149 and the specific words:

149:4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people; he adorns the humble with salvation.
5 Let the godly exult in glory; let them sing for joy on their beds.
6 Let the high praises of God be in their throats and two-edged swords in their hands,
7 to execute vengeance on the nations and punishments on the peoples,
8 to bind their kings with chains and their nobles with fetters of iron,
9 to execute on them the judgment written! This is honor for all his godly ones. Praise the LORD!