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Fasting and the Work of the Church Go Hand in Hand

“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.

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Posted by on March 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Prayer and Fasting

“And He told them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” Mark 9:29 HCSB

Today in the Catholic tradition marks the first day of lent. Lent is recognized by Catholics all over the world by going to their churches and having an ash cross marked on their foreheads. This day is called Ash Wednesday. Lent is a forty day period of fasting that starts forty six days before Easter, symbolizing the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting and praying. I am not a Catholic, nor do I participate in their traditions such as lent or Ash Wednesday. However, fasting is clearly expected of all Christians.

The bible does not give us a mandate to fast and pray for any certain length of time. The bible does however give us several examples of people praying and fasting. Ester fasted for three days, Israel fasted for seven days, Daniel fasted for three weeks, and Moses, Elijah, and Jesus fasted for forty days. Nor does the bible give us a prescribed method of fasting. We find in the bible absolute fasts, (no food or water), partial fasts, vegetable fasts, and even fasts from sexual relations. There are a multitude of examples in both the Old and New Testaments.

Fasting is clearly not a spiritual diet. It is for the sole purpose of seeking God for a singularly specific reason. It is a time of demonstration to God of how serious we are for the need in which we are praying and seeking God for. It is a time when we are willing to deny ourselves and seek God.

In this text of scripture we find a father who has a son that is demon possessed. The demon that has possessed him is trying to destroy him. While Jesus was up on the mountain the father brought his boy to the disciples for them to cast the demon out. Jesus had already given the disciples authority to cast demons out and they rejoiced that the demons were subject to them in Jesus name. (Luke 10:1-20). However, they could not cast this demon out. Jesus came down off of the mountain in the midst of their failure to cast the demon out of the boy. Jesus with no trouble at all cast the demon out. Later that night the disciples asked Jesus why they could not cast this demon out. Jesus then said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”

Clearly in the New Testament church fasting and praying was a regular part of life. Not so much today is it? If have preached on fasting plenty of times only to be told by people who have been in church their whole lives that this was the first time they have heard a sermon on fasting. What a shame. Could it be that our prayers are not being answered because we sling shot quickie prayers to the throne of God thinking that is sufficient? Are we not willing to deny ourselves for the purpose of modern day fathers and mothers who stand at the feet of the church looking and longing for a move of God on behalf of their children of whom Satan and his demons are trying to destroy. Will we not fast for their sake or even the sake of our own children, churches, community, and nation? Or are we too consumed with us?

Jesus gave us very specific instructions for fasting in Matthew 6:16-18. Jesus said in this text, “When you fast”, as if it is an expectation from Him. Will you join me in praying and fasting for our children, churches, communities, and nation? They stand in great need. The good news is, we have a great God!

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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