FAST AND PRAY TO FEED ON GOD
Here are my notes for teaching at the Cornerstone on Sunday, August 11, 2019.
FAST AND PRAY TO FEED ON GOD
Part 1 of 21 DAYS OF PRAYER & FASTING. Various and Psalm 84.
THE JOURNEY BEGINS
One of the best decisions we ever made as a church, was to set aside three weeks, twice a year, to fast and pray. Personally, I've been impacted profoundly by the experience.
During the 21 days in August, 2018, I felt the Lord set me free from an unhealthy dependence on food. For many years, I used food as a drug. I ate my emotions; for example, if I was discouraged, I yearned for pizza and chocolate. Food brought me comfort and, as a result, I hated fasting. Some time during that August fast, I felt food lose its grip on me. I still eat. I still enjoy food. But I no longer need it or use it as a drug. God delivered me.
The 21 Days experience reminds me of the Victorian era explorers, such as David Livingston, who was a Scottish physician, missionary, and explorer. He set out for the heart of Africa in 1841 and travelled further into the interior than any white man had ever gone. He didn't know what to expect. It was dangerous, and mysterious, and exciting. That's how I feel today. We're about to set out on on a journey of exploration, deep into the heart of God.
I really want us all to enjoy and benefit from our 21 Day adventure, so I want to provide you with a bit of a guide to prayer and fasting. I'm going to give you:
Three great reasons to fast and pray (plus six bonus reasons in the booklet).
Two great ways to fast and pray.
One great prayer as we fast and pray.
THREE GREAT REASONS TO FAST AND PRAY
In biblical history, there have been several great reasons to fast and pray. I want to focus on three (the booklet lists six more) that I am focused on for this 21 Days.
1. WE FAST BECAUSE WE LIVE IN THE PRESENCE OF FATHER-GOD.
(Exodus 34:27-28) Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28 Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.
Moses went up the mountain into the glory-cloud of God's presence, where he feasted on God for forty days, Living in the Presence was so satisfying that he forgot to eat or drink for over a month (please, don't try this at home). His life was sustained in the Presence.
The absolute greatest human experience is to meet with God. Lunch doesn't come close. We are his Temple, the people of his Presence. We fast from food in order to feast on our Father God, to draw near, to fix our focus on, and to become more in awe of his greatness, love, compassion, and goodness. We cry with the psalmist, "When can I go and meet with God?" (Psalm 42:2). We fast in order to feed on Father-God.
Next Saturday, after a week of fasting in order to feast on God, we will gather for a BIG PRAISE night. Please make it a priority in your schedule. Saturday, 6 PM.
2. WE FAST BECAUSE WE'RE CLEANSED BY THE BLOOD OF GOD'S SON.
(Leviticus 16:29-31) This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you— 30 because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the Lord, you will be clean from all your sins. 31 It is a day of sabbath rest, and you must deny yourselves; it is a lasting ordinance.
The people of Israel were required to deny themselves on the annual Day of Atonement. This self-denial included fasting from food, which represented grief for personal and national sins. It also recognized their inability to cover their guilt and their desperate need for the Lord to cleanse their guilty lives.
Today, we live in the shadow of the cross and the forgiveness that flows from it. We trust in a better Day of Atonement - a once-for-all-time cleansing in the blood of Jesus:
(Hebrews 10:10) ... We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
(Hebrews 9:13-14) The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!
As we fast, we use the time to review our lives. Conviction rises and we bring all our sins (hiding nothing) to the cross for total cleansing and forgiveness. As we contemplate of our Lord Jesus dying for our sins, we experience deep sorrow. Our grief erases our appetite for food and increases our hunger for Jesus. We fast in order to feed on Jesus.
3. WE FAST BECAUSE WE'RE ANOINTED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD.
(Luke 4:1-2) Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
Jesus was already full of the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:21-22), but he was not ready to carry out his Messianic mission. He needed an anointing from the Holy Spirit to be activated in his preaching, healing, and deliverance ministry. His 40 day fast and his total obedience in severe temptation proved his total surrender to God. Then the anointing was activated and Jesus went out with supernatural power for ministry and mission.
Our situation is somewhat the same. The Holy Spirit is in us. We're called to the mission and ministry of Jesus. But the Spirit's anointing will only be unleashed in and through us in the context of total surrender to God. Our fast creates space to renew our our commitment to God's will and ways. Jesus said it this way:
(John 4:34) “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.
We fast from food in order to feed on the Holy Spirit and receive his power.
We could also fast for the following reasons:
4. Intense intercession on behalf of the very sick.
(2 Samuel 12:22) He answered, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’" (See also Psalm 35:13)
5. Grief over the situation in the world.
(Nehemiah 1:3-4) They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” 4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
(Daniel 10:1-3) In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war. The understanding of the message came to him in a vision. 2 At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.
6. Desire for King Jesus to return for us.
(Luke 2:36-37) There was also a prophet, Anna ... She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.
(Luke 5:33-35) They said to him, “John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.” 34 Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? 35 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”
7. Searching for the Lord's direction for his church.
(Acts 13:2) While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.
8. Before appointing people for mission and ministry.
(Acts 13:3) So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
9. Asking for breakthrough, such as deliverance from demonic oppression.
(Mark 9:28-29) After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn't we drive it out?” 29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting."
TWO GREAT WAYS TO FAST AND PRAY
Some of us are new to prayer and fasting and might be wondering where to start. I think I can help with that. Let me tell you about two great ways to fast and pray:
1. FOLLOW A GUIDE.
We've produced two booklets to guide you through the 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting. The first is an introduction to fasting and it's full of useful information and insights. I believe that the more we know about the why and how of fasting, the more we'll feel motivated to do it.
The second booklet is a daily guide. It's divided into three weekly themes:
Week 1: Surrender to our Great God.
Week 2: Breakthrough at the Cross.
Week 3: Blessing on the Rising Generation.
Each day, has a Bible reading and prayer related to that week's theme. It's a bare-bones guide to keep your focus sharp. Of course, you can add your own Bible readings and prayers and art work, whatever helps you.
Also, at the beginning of each week, there is a space to write down how you plan to fast that week, which leads us to the second great way to fast and pray.
2. TRY THE DANIEL FAST.
The Daniel Fast has helped me so much and it might be the right kind of fast for you. To be frank, if I don't eat, I don't function. I know that makes me a spiritual weakling, but that's just the way it is. So, I'm not going to totally abstain from food for 21 days.
Daniel didn't totally abstain either. A vision from the Lord upset him, and listen to this:
(Daniel 10:2-3) At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. 3 I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.
Essentially, Daniel was so devastated by the vision that he lost his appetite. "Choice food" was the high-calorie, gourmet, delicious, food that the king and his royal court ate. Basically, he was in so much turmoil that he cut out steak and candy for three weeks.
When I fast, I adapt the Daniel Fast. I don't eat breakfast or lunch. I drink water when I get up and I have a big mug of tea around lunch time. If I can't focus, I might have a small amount of trail-mix at 3 or 4 PM. Then I have dinner, but I don't eat "choice" foods, which for me means no candy, ice-cream, pizza, steak, pop, and no Chai Tea Latte, and so on.
I fill breakfast and lunch with extra time to pray and worship and read the Bible. I try to feed on God instead of eating.
You could also adapt the Daniel Fast to things other than food: abstain from TV or social media or anything that would give you more time to connect to the Lord.
You might want to give the Daniel Fast a try.
ONE GREAT PRAYER TO PRAY
Many years ago, my heart was massively re-oriented by Psalm 84. I understood so clearly that the greatest thing in life is to know and experience God. I think Psalm 84 is a wonderful and powerful prayer to keep us focused on the purpose of the 21 Days.
Let's read it together now and I think you'll see exactly what I mean.
1 How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty! 2 My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow has found a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may have her young—a place near your altar, Lord Almighty, my King and my God. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you.
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. 6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.
8 Hear my prayer, Lord God Almighty; listen to me, God of Jacob. 9 Look on our shield, O God; look with favor on your anointed one.
10 Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked. 11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless. 12 Lord Almighty, blessed is the one who trusts in you.
Recently, during my prayer walk, I felt the Lord say to me, "Seek the giver, not the gifts." He invites us into the psalmist's experience, "My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God" (verse 2). God offers us himself, living, real, beyond good. The Lord wants us to experience him, not any substitute for him. 21 Days of Fasting and Prayer can help us do that as we feed on God, not on food.
Tomorrow, let's begin the fast as a whole church together. But let's get ready now, as we consecrate ourselves to God, and commit our whole lives to him. Let's sing "Have It All." "You can have it all Lord, every part of my world ... this heart that is now yours."