This is our final week before Pentecost. I am asking my church family to fast and pray with me starting tonight at Sunset through Wednesday Sunset. We will use this time of prayer and fasting to ask the Holy Spirit to give us direction. We are asking for direction in our personal life and in how we are called to serve the church. The following devotional from Bill Bright talks about fasting and gives some Scripture references for further study.
In more than fifty-four years of walking with Christ, the greatest discovery I have made to encourage revival and accelerate the Great Commission is fasting with prayer. In fact, our Lord Jesus Christ did not begin His earthly ministry until He had fasted and prayed for forty days. Further, in the Great Commission He instructed His disciples to “teach what I taught you.” True believers who look to Jesus as their model and mentor will want to follow His example of an extended fast before beginning their ministry.
These are troubling times. The newspaper, evening news, and even events in our neighborhoods help us realize our desperate state as a people and a nation. Television portrays lust, greed, violence, and many other sins in an alluring way. Crime, immorality, economic disasters, and a loss of faith are rampant everywhere. We face corruption in government, business, the media, and even the church. Only God has the answer to sin and rebellion. His holy Word, the Bible, gives us hope for the future.
This hope involves a spiritual renewal. Many times in the past, fasting with prayer has been the key for releasing God’s power on a personal and national scale. Centuries ago, a young woman faced a desperate situation in her country. The king had passed a law that decreed death for her friends and relatives. In fact, her entire race was threatened. That young woman was Esther, queen of Media-Persia.
God had miraculously raised Esther from an obscure life as a Jewish orphan to her position as queen of the most powerful ruler of that time. Yet she did not have free access to the one person who could help, her husband, the king. If she came before him uninvited, she risked her life.
The clock was ticking; time was running out. What could Esther do? Esther called the Jewish people to prayer and fasting. Esther 4:16 records her words:
“Go and gather together all the Jews of Shushan and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day; and I and my maids will do the same; and then, though it is strictly forbidden, I will go in to see the king; and if I perish, I perish” (TLB).
As Esther approached the king, he held out his royal scepter to her—she would not be put to death for entering his presence without an invitation. Esther soon asked the king for the life of her people, and he granted her request. Because of her courage and the fasting and prayer undertaken by the Jews, Queen Esther’s people were saved.
Although our nation is not facing the same threat that Esther’s people faced, we are in a battle for the heart and soul of our country. Our problem is a moral, ethical, and spiritual catastrophe that affects believers and nonbelievers alike. This fact deeply concerns me. For more than fifty years, I have prayed for revival for our nation and its people. The need for revival is even more urgent today. Our society has an appetite for immorality and corruption that seems insatiable.
In 1994, I began experiencing a growing awareness of the moral and spiritual decadence of our country and felt deeply burdened over America’s rapidly disintegrating values. I was gripped with an increasing sense of urgency to call upon God to send revival to our beloved country. I had a growing conviction that God wanted me to fast and pray for forty days for a revival in America and for the fulfillment of the Great Commission, given by our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 20:18–20.
At first I questioned God’s call. Forty days is a long time to go without solid food, and I was sure fasting would not be the most pleasant experience of my life. Yet over a period of several months, God’s call grew stronger and more clear. Finally, I was convinced: I was to seek God’s face through fasting for forty days. That fast was truly the most wonderful, life-changing forty days of my life. Since 1994, God has led me to fast at least forty days each year with remarkable blessing.
You may wonder why so long a fast. I believe this was a sovereign call of God because of the magnitude of America’s sins and the sins of the Church. The Lord also impressed upon me the great need to help accelerate the fulfillment of the Great Commission in this generation.
Fasting with prayer is the only spiritual discipline that meets all the conditions of 2 Chronicles 7:14:
“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Through earnest fasting, we humble ourselves and seek God’s face, which ultimately produces repentance and spiritual renewal. That opens the way for God to bless us.
With great anticipation, I began my first forty-day fast on July 5, 1994. During the fast, I was reading 2 Chronicles chapters 29–31 when God’s holy Word spoke to my heart in a most unusual way. As you may recall, Hezekiah invited the Israelites to join him in celebrating the reopening of the temple. As I read that passage, God impressed upon me to invite several hundred of our country’s influential Christian leaders to join me in Orlando, Florida, for a time of fasting and prayer.
More than six hundred Christian leaders, representing more than a hundred denominations and religious organizations, gathered in Orlando from December 5–7, 1994. Never in the history of our great country had leaders from so many different denominations and Christian organizations come together to fast and pray, to cry out to God for a mighty awakening for our country, to beseech the Lord to visit us from heaven with miracle-working power so that we may once again be a “nation under God.”
During that time, God met with us in a supernatural way. In light of what God did for me and all who attended, this was the most world-changing event that most of us have ever experienced. From that event sprang an annual Fasting and Prayer Gathering.
Fasting and prayer help us focus on God’s will for our personal concerns. Kay Arthur of Precepts Ministries explains how fasting can affect each one of us: “Fasting shows the seriousness of our commitment. When we step into fasting, we say, ‘God, You’ve got to move. You’ve got to do it.’” And it is only as you and I join with millions of others in renewing our commitment to God, humbling ourselves before Him, that He will begin to change our country.
That brings us to our 5 Steps study. Perhaps you or your group members are concerned about personal issues in your lives. Fasting and prayer are powerful tools to seek God’s will for these matters. As you will see through several real-life examples, fasting and prayer can touch the most private and intimate parts of our lives.
Perhaps you have deep personal burdens or concerns for your community or our country. Once again, fasting with prayer is a spiritual discipline that allows us to intercede in a mighty way for our city, state, nation, and world.
Ultimately, we experience personal revival when we surrender our lives totally, completely, and irrevocably to our Lord Jesus Christ. He is revival! We have Christ and He has us. We are filled with His Holy Spirit and true revival results.
As we approach the new millennium, I believe that God is raising up an army totally surrendered to our Lord Jesus Christ—an army that knows how to fight on its knees. I invite you to join with me in seeking God’s face in a new and fresh way. Together, we can change our world for Christ!
Bill Bright, 5 Steps to Fasting and Prayer : Leader’s Guide (Orlando, FL: NewLife Publications, 1998), 5-8.
This Sunday, as you gather together with your church, pray for each person, lay on hands, and commission them for God’s service. As you plug into your own church family, receive their blessing for God’s call upon your life.