Adding Fasting to Your Prayer Life

Over the next couple weeks, as we enjoy the holidays, we will be faring sumptuously with family and friends. It is a tradition that we all enjoy and look forward to, and rightly so. There is nothing quite as fulfilling as being surrounded by family and friends, especially those who share our faith as to what this time is really all about.

However, as we approach the end of 2009 and the start of 2010, we are anticipating another tradition as well. The Forty Days of Fasting and Prayer that begins the year here at MPC is almost upon us. It is going to be a great time of spiritual renewal for those who participate and it is a perfect opportunity to search our hearts in preparation for our celebration of the Lord’s Supper on Sunday Evening, February 7.

We will be teaching some lessons on fasting in the next few weeks and we will be providing you with resources that you can use to make the most of this time of consecration. As I was reading here tonight, I came across an article on Dummies.com that was worth reading. I provide it below for your perusal (with a minimal amount of editing). God Bless.

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Fasting isn’t a complicated business. When you fast, don’t eat. You stay away from all food or refrain from specific types of food for a set amount of time. (Refraining from all food makes you the hungriest.) The duration of the fast may be a solo meal, one day, a week, or, in some cases, even longer.

Fasting from food can be done for a variety of purposes, either physical or spiritual. So abstaining from food alone doesn’t constitute a Christian fast. Instead, a Christian fast is accompanied by a special focus on prayer during the fast, often substituting the time you’d spend eating with prayer instead.

In many Christian churches today, fasting has become a lost discipline, one that is rarely, if ever, discussed and practiced. Yet, in spite of its decreased emphasis, there are a host of reasons to fast:

Fasting has always been considered standard operating procedure for Christians. Fasting has been a common practice by God’s faithful throughout history. The Old Testament includes a multitude of examples of the Israelites fasting when seeking the Lord’s blessing or direction. The New Testament records that Jesus himself fasted, as did leaders of the early Christian church.

Jesus didn’t talk too much about fasting during his ministry, but the one time when he provided specific instructions on fasting, in Matthew 6, he started by saying “when you fast,” not “if you fast.” So it seems logical to conclude that Jesus expected his followers to incorporate fasting into their lives.
Although Jesus assumes that his followers will fast, he never instructs people on the frequency or duration of fasts. Some Christians believe that he left those specifics up to the Church to decide, while others believe he left it up to individuals as prompted by the Holy Spirit.

Fasting provides self-discipline in an undisciplined age. The age in which we live despises discipline. When was the last time you came across an advertisement with a slogan like one of these:
• Buy this later, after you actually have the cash.
• Eat just one of our chips, so you can have some tomorrow.
• Do you really need a new car? Your old one still works fine.

Fasting offers a way to impose self-control in your life; it gives you a “splash in the face” to awaken you to the need for the personal strength of will that you need to grow spiritually. When you restrain yourself physically, you’ll find it easier to apply this same self-discipline in your spiritual life.

The benefits of fasting “rub off” in your relationship with God. Normal exercise and a good, balanced diet go hand in hand in my life. Although fasting is a physical activity, the practice affects you deeply on the spiritual plane of your life as well. In other words, the amount of restraint and will power you practice physically has a tangible relationship to your willingness to submit to God’s will.

Fasting fosters concentration on God and his will. Oswald Chambers once said that fasting means “concentration,” because when you’re fasting, you have a heightened sense of attentiveness. Food or any physical sensation can satisfy, fill you up, and dull your senses and spiritual ears. In contrast, a hungry stomach makes you more aware and alert to what God is trying to say to you.

Fasting provides a real-life illustration of dependency. Although modern man thrives on the idea of being independent, beholden to no one, fasting helps you put the facts in the proper perspective. It’s easy to believe in your independence with a full stomach, but when you start to feel hunger pains in your belly after missing a meal or two, you awaken to your body’s dependency on food to survive. Fasting reveals a physical reliance on food that points to the ultimate dependency — the fact that you’re dependent on God for things far more important than food.

Fasting prepares you for a big decision or an important event. Time after time in the Bible, God’s faithful spend time in fasting and prayer before a major decision or event in their lives. For example, just after getting baptized, Jesus undertook a 40-day fast in the desert as a preparation to starting his ministry. Just before she put a plan into action that risked her life in an effort to save the Jewish people living in Persia, Esther calls for fasting (Esther 4:16): Go, gather together all the Jews and fast for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast in like manner; and [then] will I go in to the king. Fasting brings you in line with God to seek his will and to simultaneously show your devotion to him before the big event or decision occurs.

Fasting often surrounds God’s special work in the world. On occasion, God moves in the world in a special way. For example, consider God’s interaction with the Israelites, Jesus’ three years of ministry, and the formation of the early Christian church. More recently, God has moved on occasion to bring people to him in what is commonly called a revival, an event where large numbers of people come to the Lord. Fasting preceded the revival known as the Great Awakening that swept through the American Colonies in the 1700s. If you start to study many of these major events, you’ll invariably find that God’s faithful fasted before them.

Fasting empowers. Fasting can also give you newfound strength in your spiritual life because of the intimacy you gain with God as a result.

The discipline of fasting can be problematic or even downright dangerous if you have experienced or are susceptible to eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia. Therefore, keep the following in mind:

~ Don’t fast beyond the time limit you originally set. If you find that you can’t stop your fast, see your doctor immediately.
~ If you feel yourself preoccupied with the physical aspects of going without food (such as possible weight loss), then the act of fasting may be a hindrance to your prayer life rather than a help. If you focus on the fast and have difficulty praying, break the fast immediately and pray about what you just experienced.
~ If you’re recovering from an eating disorder, avoid fasting altogether as a spiritual discipline.

Bro. Lambeth’s Website

Just a note to direct your attention to Bro. Lambeth’s website, www.jblambeth.com. His heartbeat for the country of Brazil is unmistakeable and there is a lot of interesting stories and presentations there for your perusal. Also, you will be reminded of the desperate need that missionaries have for our prayers on a daily basis.

I will be placing a permanent link here on the blog. Visit often to receive his blog and newsletter updates.

The Countdown is on…

Hey… it’s almost time. The countdown is on for Reaching for Revival 2009.

R4R 2009

Bro. & Sis. Bass will be arriving at the Moncton Airport at 9:45 PM. Pray that God grants them journey’s mercies and that they will arrive rested. Let’s pray a special prayer for him as he ministers to each one that will be visiting during our services.

As a note of special interest: Bro. Bass preached our very first Reaching for Revival in 1999. He preached again at our fifth Reaching for Revival in 2004, and here he is again for our 10th. I guess we know who’ll be back in 2014 if the Lord tarries…

Is He Getting Results?

praying hands
“Is [He] seeing the result of the labor of His soul in us? He cannot unless we are so identified with Him that we are roused up to get His view about the people for whom we pray. May we learn to intercede whole-heartedly that Jesus Christ will be abundantly satisfied with us as intercessors.”

– Oswald Chambers (My Utmost for His Highest)

Tell Jesus I Love Him

The following article was written by Missionary Brad Lambeth in 2005.

It was my mistake. I left the front gate open (a big no-no in Brazil) and he walked in. He wore only a pair of Bermuda shorts. Nothing else. His torso was covered with colorful tattoos. They belied his sad countenance. His eyes were distant and glazed. He was wired high on drugs.

He was trying to sell trinkets (for more drugs?). I offered a quick tip just to get him out of the yard and on his journey. He refused. He insisted on selling his nonsense merchandise.

Then suddenly conversation went into another completely different direction. “Hey, I know you!” he said. “You’re the pastor of that big green church.”

His eyes misted with tears. With slurred words he told me of the only time he had ever walked into the sanctuary. It was a wedding night, apparently, but he felt God so strongly that he had never forgotten the experience, in spite of the many years that had passed. I asked him his name.

“Fabricio,” he mumbled. Then Fabricio turned to me and said, “Do me a favor. Tell Jesus that I love Him.”

The words came out quietly, but very clearly. Because of the incredible sincerity of his words, I implored him go to church and tell Jesus himself.

“No,” he responded. “I am not worthy.” Sadly he turned and walked away without answering my call to return.

With the words “tell Jesus that I love Him” echoing in my ears, I went to church that night and told Jesus what Fabricio had said. He loved Jesus so much that (in his fogged mind) Fabricio felt totally unworthy of entering into His sanctuary.

My mind wandered in the Bible and was drawn to Job. He rose up “…early in the morning and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually” (Job 1:5).

Surely there is prayer, a different prayer to be prayed for the Fabricios. All of us have loved ones, spouses, precious friends that are unsaved and tremendously bound by the fetters of sin. We need to pray intercessory prayers. The strong kind that crushes Satan’s shackles.

We need to pray the prayers that the sinners would want to pray. But they can’t. They don’t know how! They don’t have the strength. Or, like Fabricio, they feel unworthy to utter the precious name of Jesus. These types of sinners are bound in their sincere ignorance, incredulous of the fact that God loves to hear the cry of a sinner pleading for help. So they die, daily in their silence. Drowning in the shame of their sins.

The true church needs intercessors that are willing to pray the surrogate prayer—to pray in the stead of a sincere, helpless sinner.

We are often so caught up in our own (vain) world that we forget how we, too, were helped by someone’s prayers. While I was praying at an altar of forgiveness (before the Holy Ghost fell into my soul with fire), my precious mother cried the prayer of faith over my life, pushing away the boundaries of sin by her commanding prayer!

A perfect example of this concept is found in the Gospels. First, it is striking to note that the centurion soldier felt the same sense of unworthiness that Fabricio manifested when he says, “I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof…”. As a Roman centurion, he felt disqualified to be one of the chosen saved. He was unworthy of Jesus’ attention. Yet, he was willing to intercede in favor of a soul that he felt had a need worse than his! That is what prompted Jesus to declare: “… I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” (Matthew 8:10). And the servant was healed without Jesus’ coming into the house, according to the faith of another man—proxy prayer, proxy faith, positive results.

I am certainly aware that salvation is an individual matter and each man must have a personal experience with Christ and His salvation plan. We cannot be baptized for another person nor can we receive the Holy Ghost as a substitute stand-in. Yet, there is no denying that our prayers have a greater effect than we can ever imagine. The power of pleading prayer reaches beyond our four walls and demonstrates a faith which offers liberty for the operation of the Holy Ghost.

The bottom line is that others are depending on your prayers. It may be your son, sister, father-in-law, or boss. They are hoping that you will pray the surrogate prayer and tell Jesus that they love Him. After they get untied, freed from their shackles, surely they will say it for themselves, “Jesus, I love You.”

Don’t forget—he said Fabricio was his name.