“Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” Acts 13:1-3 NASB
I often hear pastors and minister fuss that they can’t get their congregation to move out of the pews and into the community for the sake of the gospel. I must admit I have grumbled those same complaints more than a time or two myself. However, we often fail to realize the fact that we are in a spiritual battle and not a physical one. We are only effective in winning a spiritual battle if we fight the battle with spiritual weapons of warfare. Fasting and praying is one of the greatest spiritual tools God has given to us.
Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. As we look out into our world it doesn’t take long to understand just how plentifully full the fields are with the lost who need to be harvested with the power of the gospel. Yet, we are often left disappointed when we see so few doing the work of the Lord. God has clearly called all Christians to share the gospel. Unfortunately most Christians have never shared the gospel with anyone. Jesus said that we are to pray to the Lord of the harvest that He would send workers into the field, in other words, Jesus is telling us to fight this battle with spiritual weapon of prayer.
We see in this text of scripture the church at Antioch praying and fasting. While they were praying and fasting the bible says that “the Holy Spirit said.” It isn’t coincidental that the church was seeking God through prayer and fasting and then heard from Him. In fact this should be the norm, just as the church seeking God through prayer and fasting should be the norm.
When the Holy Spirit spoke He told them to, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” They prayed to the Lord of the harvest and God answered by sending out workers into the harvest field. God was calling Barnabas and Saul, (Paul), to go out into the world and preach the gospel to the lost.
Before sending Barnabas and Saul into the mission field the church at Antioch prayed and fasted once again for their newly appointed missionaries. Notice that they didn’t send them out into the fields of spiritual war to fight the battle alone. Although Barnabas and Saul were sent out and the others remained, the church was spiritually in the mission field fighting the spiritual battle as partners in the trenches of spiritual war with them. The church continued to fight the fight with them by praying and fasting. Through the power of prayer and fasting we can stand alongside missionaries, pastors, and evangelists all over the world; even if they are on the opposite side of the world at the time-far it is a spiritual battle.
When Paul went out into the mission field and preached the gospel, many were saved. He formed churches and trained leaders who would help lead the church so he could go into other cities and do the same. The new believers needed a church to help them grow in their walk with the Lord. At the same time there were still many lost people in those cities that needed to hear the gospel. These cities were now the spiritual responsibility of the new churches.
Paul knew what an enormous task the churches had in reaching their community and training new believers. He also knew the power of prayer and fasting. Acts 14:23 says, “When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”
Are we reaching our communities, cities, counties, states, and nation with the gospel? Are we praying? Are we fasting? Lost people are not simply caught up in a philosophical thought that is contrary to the gospel; they are in spiritual bondage. Before we can change their philosophical view, we need to call upon the Lord of the harvest to transform and change their spiritual condition through the power of the gospel. Once they have accepted the gospel they are spiritually teachable and ready for the church to teach them to observe all that Jesus has commanded. It begins with prayer and fasting, it continues with prayer and fasting, and it ends with prayer and fasting.