Prayer and Fasting
As I considered this topic I referred to a book which is considered a classic on the subject of fasting. It is “God’s Chosen Fast” by Arthur Wallis and I recommend it for anyone wanting to understand fasting from God’s perspective. For myself, I have fasted as I have been led by the Spirit over the years. This should be our experience in our prayers as well as fasting that we are led by the Spirit for then we are progressing as sons of God (Read Romans 8). As Arthur Wallis discusses, we should also consider practical issues related to fasting as well as spiritual. While fasting will affect our bodies and can be uncomfortable, it should never be abusive.
The title of the book I mention is taken from the reference from Isaiah. The Lord rebukes His people for using fasting as a technique to get what they want. Prayer, as I have heard many times recently, can be our way of trying to twist God’s arm on our behalf. Thankfully, He often says no, or is silent. I recall writing a similar thought not too long ago. Some things are worth repetition. Similar attitudes can affect our fasting. This was God’s complaint with that people.
Many times we hear a call to corporate fasting. I have observed that this is sometimes the result of leaders are not getting the results they want, or they expect, or they think should happen. I have been at a church where many believers came together and spent an entire Friday praying as part of a 21 fast. Loudly they cried on and on. I was impressed by their intensity. Later I observed many other activities including requests for funds, even prayers to release money from my own bag. As I got to know the leadership I heard more and more that conflicted with my spirit. It was not aligned with what I was discerning from the Lord Himself and I had to cut myself off from that relationship for a season.
Sadly, I learned a hard lesson finding that the leader saw me as a resource to build and support his ministry. He had a heart for God and the people but he was infected with that attitude that he needed a conference center and a school and he needed the money to do it. And he needed it now. We must fulfill our call is our cry. The cries of the 21-day fast were about fulfilling “apostleships” and the ministry of their church. The mixture drowned out the heart and love for the Lord Himself. Meekness and humility were lost in the noise.
As I reflected further on the loud voices I had heard, I was reminded of the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. If we are praying with focus on money, our hearts are divided at best, and we will receive nothing from the Lord Himself. Jesus is walking through His churches today as He did through the churches of Asia as revealed to John on Patmos. (See Revelation 2, especially vs. 1) He has never stopped the process of walking through the church and meeting with men and women like John to speak to His churches. He speaks encouragement and also correction as needed. Further, He will still flip the tables in the outer court when merchandizing replaces true prayer.
As we read the passage in Isaiah, the Lord calls us to move past fasting from food. This does not mean we never do it but the Lord makes it plain through His true servant, the prophet, that He is looking for more than the temporary fast from food. The Spirit speaks of His sabbath. We are encouraged to be pressing into that rest, that ceasing from our own efforts we might do His works. The Lord, through Isaiah moves us to turn away from doing our own pleasure to doing what pleases Him on His sabbath. Jesus has finished His work here and has taken his seat of authority in the heavenlies. He did only what pleased our Father. More than that He would only do what He saw the Father do; He would do nothing else. When the people wanted to make Him king, He went the other way.
Jesus lived a whole life of prayer and fasting. He fasted permanently from His own will. He did not come to do His own will but that of His Father. He lived a life as a sabbath to God. He was turned from His own desires to do the will and all the desire of the One who sent Him. This is the reality of those who are maturing, who are growing toward the fullness that God is after. Do we fast as a technique, or do we fast in love for the One who loved us and gave His most precious gift? Read and consider the entire chapter 58 of Isaiah. In Antioch, they fasted and prayed. First, Barnabas and Saul were there for a year with other prophets and teachers (Acts 11:26, 13:1). Later, as they worshipped the Lord, the Spirit directed them to send out Saul and Barnabas. So they went as sent by the Holy Spirit. May our praying and fasting bring us to the place where we hear from the Lord Himself and are directed only by His Spirit.