“The Church in PRAYER and FASTING”
In the Northwest there were once two lumber-jacks.
One an older man, well seasoned in the skill of chopping trees.
The other a rather young man, with a chip on his shoulder out to prove a point.
One day the younger man challenged the older man to a tree chopping contest. The one who chopped the most trees by the end of the day would be the winner. The day arrived.
The younger man, who was out to prove a point, went at it with a vengeance all day long, chopping away one tree after another for 8 hours.
The older, more mature, man would chop away for an hour, and then he would take a break for 15 minutes.
At the end of the day the older man had chopped down 1/3 more trees than the younger man. Upon that earth-shaking revelation, the younger man with his ego now deflated asked, “Why?” The older man explained, I would chop for an hour then I would take a break for 15 minutes to "sharpen my ax." Therein lies the secret to our spiritual life.
I believe too many of us are like the younger man. We go at it with all we’ve got, failing to take time out to tune-up, failing to take time to sharpen our spiritual axes. The time used to tune-up that I am referring to, is the time we spend in prayer.
Few subjects evoke a greater sense of guilt in the hearts of believers than when we begin to talk about prayer.
We know that we ought to pray.
Yet the vast majority of us know that we don't pray.
And even greater numbers of us don't FAST and PRAY.
In Psalm 35:13 we read "…I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom." The subject of prayer and fasting is just about non-existent today. In fact, I am sure there is much more preaching about prayer than is practiced, and when it comes to the matter of fasting with prayer, most present day Christians either know little about it or have never practiced it.
I sincerely believe that there are some victories in the Christian life and some answers to prayer that are impossible to achieve without PRAYER and FASTING. I also believe that if we are going to see REVIVAL in our homes, churches, and in our nation, we are going to have to learn to PRAY and FAST.
FASTING is a means of saying, "God, I want you to know my very strong feelings on this matter."
FASTING is a means of saying, "God, I want you to know how very serious I am about this matter."
FASTING is to praying what UNDERLINING or the placement of an EXCLAMATION MARK might convey in a written passage. Fasting is a way of turning up the volume!
To Fast means to abstain from food for a time, to give the self more to prayer, meditation, and the study of God’s Word.
A normal FAST is a total refrain from consuming solid food.
An absolute FAST is a total refrain from consuming food and liquid.
To Fast may also mean to withdraw one's self from pleasure for a season. As Matthew 6:15 tells us, we leave the things of the world – food, sleep, and activities to "enter into our closet" to pray. Someone said,
"Prayer is the grasping of the INVISIBLE. Fasting is the letting go of the VISIBLE. As we fast, we withdraw ourselves from the physical appetite, letting go of the VISIBLE. As we pray we are grasping the INVISIBLE. In other words, prayer and fasting is letting go of the VISIBLE, food and sleep, and spending time with God, the INVISIBLE."
First: Evidence of the practice of Prayer and Fasting is found in both the Old and the New Testaments.
In Exodus 34:28 Moses fasted 40 days and nights when he went up to Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.
In I Kings 19:8 After Elijah's great victory over the 400 false prophets of Baal, he went 40 days and nights without food.
In Judges 20:26-28 the nation of Israel fasted and wept for God's direction.
In II Samuel 12:13-23 David fasted and prayed over his sin about the child that was sick.
In Nehemiah 1:2-4 Nehemiah fasted because of a burden, because of a broken heart, because of a concern for the work of God. He prayed and fasted, and as a result, what thrilling stories followed:
There were miraculous provisions.
There was divine protection in the midst of persecution.
Once again, God's Word was read in public.
Jewish festivals were reinstituted, and
The walls around Jerusalem were rebuilt in only 52 days.
Nehemiah carried a burden to God saying, “God I want you to know how serious I am about this matter.”
In Esther 4:3 A decree had gone out that all the Jews were to be destroyed. They were facing an impossible situation; however God answered through prayer and fasting.
In Daniel 9:3-4 Daniel fasted and repented for himself and the people. As a result, God gave Daniel that great prophecy, found in Daniel 9:24-27, concerning 70 weeks of Israel’s history.
In Luke 2:27 Anna served God in the temple though prayer and fasting.
In Matthew 4:2 our Lord fasted and prayed for 40 days.
In Acts 13:1-3 we read, “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. (2) As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. (3) And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” The church prayed and fasted for God's direction concerning Paul and Barnabas. You will notice,
They did not sit down hastily at a meeting and vote a decision.
They did not have extra meetings and gossip sessions.
They prayed and fasted.
Today we have become so bogged down with committee meetings, worship services, quick decision meetings. I ask
Where are the prayer and fasting times in the church?
Where are the ALL NIGHT prayer meetings begging for God's direction?
E.M. Bounds in his book "Power Through Prayer" said, "What the church needs today is not more or better machinery, not new organizations or more novel methods, but men whom the Holy Spirit can use, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Spirit does not flow through METHODS, but through MEN. He does not come through MACHINERY, but through MEN. He does not ANOINT PLANS, but MEN of PRAYER."
I challenge those who are in leadership positions in this church to PRAY and FAST on a regular basis. I challenge those who don't have a particular ministry to take a day or two a month and fast and pray for this ministry, or for a family need. I believe you will begin to see a dynamic change for the Glory of God.
"I believe in prayer. I believe God answers prayer. But I also believe there are some kinds of petitions that God will not answer unless you and I fast while we pray."
Second: An outline of God's TRUE FAST is given in Isaiah 58:1-2. Notice 3 areas in this text.
Number 1: The Counterfeit Fast is found in verses 1-5,
“Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins. (2) Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God. (3) Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. (4) Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. (5) Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?”
This is the fast of the hypocrite. These are the people who fast for selfish motives, or to impress someone else with their "spirituality." Apparently they thought that by going through the "MOTIONS" of religion (without any inward reality of faith) they would be blessed.
In Matthew 6 Christ warned of fasting as the hypocrites do, going about with a sad countenance and impressing others with their sacrifice and abstinence. The Lord responded by pointing out that He was more interested in their obedience than their rituals. Unfortunately they, like many people, had confused rituals with relationship, outward acts without true obedience. Their hearts, not just their heads, needed to bow before the Lord.
Number 2: The True Fast is found in verses 6-7, “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? (7) Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?” These seven things identify God's chosen fast:
a. "loose the bands of wickedness" Here we are to pray and fast over those who are unsaved. You say, “I have a burden to win someone to Jesus Christ.” Then why don't you fast and pray?
b. "undo the heavy burdens" To pray and fast, that you might have power to help, encourage, bless, and relieve the heavy burdens of sickness, sorrow, home problems, financial problems, troubles, worries of people about you, is a proper reason for fasting.
c. "let the oppressed go free" This no doubt refers to the many who today are demon oppressed, and some who are demon possessed. Fast and pray for their deliverance.
d. "and that ye break every yoke" People need to be set free from the yoke of worldliness, compromise, troubling sinful habits and the binding forces of the evil one. Surely the Lord is pleased, when He sees a child of God on his knees, praying and fasting for power to help others break the yoke that drains them of spiritual power.
e. "bread for the hungry" This also has to do with soul winning, reaching the world for Christ, and even helping those who have not; to supply their need and then reach them with the gospel.
f. "the naked, that thou cover him" We are to physically help the poor, the needy and the hungry.
g. “hide not thyself” We are to come before the Lord to fast and pray honestly, withholding nothing.
This is the "chosen fast of the Lord."
Number 3: The Blessed Results of True Fasting are found in verses 8-12,
“Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy reward. (9) Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; (10) And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: (11) And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. (12) And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.”
Third: In Matthew 17:1-21, we have an illustration of an impossible situation. This same story is also recorded in Mark 9:1-29 and Luke 9:37-43.
In verses 1-13: We have the story of Peter, James and John on the Mt. of Transfiguration where Jesus meet Elijah and Moses. There our Lord received His glorified body and was transfigured into the same kind of body He was going to have after His resurrection from the dead.
In verses 14-21: We move from the mountain of glory to the valley of need. The distraught father had brought his demonized son to the nine disciples, begging them to deliver him; but they could not. Please follow as I read this part of the story.
“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.”
The father in this story like all of us at one time or another had reached the end of the rope. The father had brought the son to Jesus and in the passage in Mark 9:24 cried out, "Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief." I don't know about you, but I know that there have been times when I have had to identify with that statement, "Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief."
Are you facing some unbelievable problem where you have come to the absolute end? There is nothing you can do. What is God saying to us?
The Lord's first response was one of sorrow, found in verse 17, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.” Their unbelief and spiritual perversity were a burden to Him.
The nine disciples should have been able to cast out the demon. Jesus had given them this power and authority according to Matthew 10:1, 8. But somehow they had lost their power! These disciples couldn't help these people.
Here were disciples that had walked with the Lord. They had talked with the Lord. They had fellowship with the Lord. They were in His presence day after day. Yet, unbelief had robbed them of their ability. When they asked Jesus the cause of their shameful failure, he told them that they failed because of a:
Lack of Faith in verse 17; and a
Lack of Prayer and Fasting in verse 21.
In verse 20, notice the element of Faith. “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.” In Jeremiah 32:27 we read, "Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh; IS THERE ANYTHING TOO HARD FOR ME?"
Do you realize that whatever thing or things you're calling "impossibilities" could be superimposed over what God says is "nothing" to Him? NOTHING!
God is asking you to substitute your impossibilities for the word "anything." You fill in the blank. "Is _______ too difficult for God?" the implied answer, of course, is: "Absolutely not. Nothing is too difficult for me."
“Hold it! Preacher, you don't know my situation.” That is true, perhaps I don't know your situation. But all you and I need to know IS GOD AND HIS PROMISES. He is Lord, and nothing is too difficult for Him. "Nothing is impossible with God."
Notice again verse 20 says "if." The "if" is our part. I believe the reason miracles do not happen is not God's fault, rather it is our fault.
This is still the age of miracles, is it not?
This is the age in which God can and will correct that impossible situation, is it not?
This is the age in which God will answer and show us great and mighty things, is it not?
The power of God is available to all of us who believe. The power of God is not extinct. It's not something that use to exist; it is available to us today. The scriptures say to "have faith as a grain of mustard seed." God will honor even a little faith. Why? Because FAITH is the ONE ELEMENT on which all divine POWER rests. If we believe, all things are possible.
I believe you will never, never, never know the sweet power and blessing of God until you experience the price of Fasting and Praying. Far too many of us run from one service or social event to another. We fuss, gripe, and complain, but we have no power. The power is there, but our faith is too weak to use it. UNBELIEF gives power to the world and the devil, whereas TRUE FAITH in God can cause "the walls of Jericho" to crumble.
Notice Jesus’ answer in verse 21 to this impossible situation, “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” Remember we said, "Fasting is a means of saying, GOD I WANT YOU TO KNOW MY VERY STRONG FEELING IN THIS MATTER."
PRAYER is communion with God, and when we are praying and communing with Him, we are not thinking of self or fulfilling selfish desires. "PRAYER IN THE SPIRIT MEANS NOT ONLY COMMUNION WITH GOD, BUT TOTAL DEPENDENCE ON HIM WITH NO CONFIDENCE IN OUR FLESH."
I sincerely believe if we are going to see:
THE POWER OF GOD and REVIVAL COME to the church,
THE HARDENED HEARTS SAVED and families put back together,
SOMETHING SUPERNATURAL HAPPEN regarding an impossible situation,
There needs to be people FASTING AND PRAYING! I believe, if the Church would pray, fast, and claim Jeremiah 33:3 "Call unto me and I will answer thee and show you GREAT and MIGHTY things which thou knoweth not," God would do something for us that would surprise even the most faithful in this auditorium. I am talking about the solutions to the impossible situations.
Pastor, I have an unsaved child.
Pastor, I have an unsaved Husband, Mother, Father or relative.
Pastor, I have a difficult home situation.
Pastor, I have a difficult situation at work.
Pastor, I am a young person with habits that are not right.
Pastor, I have a health problem, what do I do?
Pastor, I have a financial problem, what do I do?
Pastor, I am seeking the Lord about a major decision.
Pastor, I am concerned about the welfare of a loved one.
In your life are you facing a dismal situation, one that looks almost impossible, one to which you don't have an answer? Look, if you really mean business and want to turn the volume up, you are going to have to go home, and tell your family that you love them and you are going to pray and fast and beg God to make the solution to the impossible situation clear. Why? Because of verse 21, “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”
May I challenge you to begin to PRAY and FAST. May you be willing to go the limits and pray and fast and claim the power and promise of God to do something that will probably surprise you, but also give you cause to PRAISE THE LORD!
If God has spoken to your heart after reading the sermon “The Church in PRAYER and FASTING” then right now talk to God about what He has spoken to you.
Do you have the assurance that one day you will go to heaven? If you have no assurance that you know Jesus Christ, then I trust you will decide to accept Him as your personal Savior. The Bible tells us in
Acts 16:31, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”
Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This prayer is here for those who need to ask Jesus to be their personal Savior: “I do want to go to Heaven. I know I am a sinner, and I do believe Jesus Christ died for me. I realize I cannot buy this great salvation, nor can I earn it. Knowing Jesus died on the cross and arose from the grave to pay my sin debt and to purchase my salvation, I do now trust Him as my Savior, and from this moment on I am completely depending on Him for my salvation.”
If you made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, would you let me know? Please send an e-mail to pdmikBBM@aol.com and I will send you some literature that will help you in your Christian life.
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In His Amazing Grace,
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