DOES YOUR FAITH INCLUDE PRAYER & FASTING?
Verse of 2017 – Part 4 January 22, 2017
Rev. Jeremy B. Stopford, Pastor
INTRODUCTION. “Today’s Special”: “A boy & his chimpanzee”
A boy with a chimpanzee on his shoulder was walking down the road when he passed a policeman who said, “Now, now young lad, I think you had better take that chimp the zoo.” The next day, the boy was walking down the road with the chimp on his shoulder again, when he passed the same policeman. The policeman said, “Hey there, I thought I told you to take that chimp to the zoo!” The boy answered, “I did! Today I’m taking him to the movies.”
Today, we continue with our theme of faith. Once again, please zero in on the underlined question of our memory verse: “when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” Today’s texts will show us how to understand what true “prayer and fasting” is. Does this describe our church? Does this describe your faith? PRAYER
#1 Origin of the phrase
A. Psalm 35:10-18 (note in particular v. 13). David had the identity of our Savior in many things, as should we. He identified with the poor, as should we. But his holy life was a snare to people he calls “ruthless” (v. 11), who thrived on attacking him. See v. 12, “they repay me evil for good, and leave my soul forlorn.” You know those kinds of people. Remember Matt. 27:1? “Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed.” He Who loved them with an everlasting love was now the object of their deadly plot. In the garden, King Jesus prayed, “not My will but Thine be done.” In turn, what did His OT forerunner, King David, do? Note v. 13: he humbled himself with fasting and prayers. He set aside QUALITY time for their souls before the Lord. He deprived himself of food as well as regular enjoyments, that he might commit them before the Lord. Tough, but good, example!
B. Daniel 9:1ff (note in particular v. 3) Daniel, himself a prophet, a servant of the King of kings, did what on a regular basis? He read the Scriptures! And when he read the Scriptures and understood future things (as can we!), how did he respond? Vs. 3,4: “I turned to the Lord…pleaded in prayer…petition…fasting…sackcloth…ashes…confessed”. What did he confess? Look at vs. 4-6: before the “great and awesome God” [are you learning to use “awesome” as only referring to God?], he confessed the sins and shortcomings of the people – with which he identified! Is this how WE pray as a church? Or are our prayers still “now I lay me down to sleep”?
C. Acts 14:23 This is a NT usage! Paul & Barnabas, missionaries of the church, made decisions for church leadership. How did they do that? Did they see who gave them the most money? Did they see who were the nicest? Did they even see who were the most faithful? NO! They prayed and fasted! FIRST! They set aside a season before the Lord to seek His face. Illustration: in one week we, too, will be electing our leaders for this year. The nominating committee spent time in prayer for each office. And between now and next Sunday, so should we pray and fast – that the leaders of this year will be the God anointed, chosen vessels to take our church into fulfilling the mission God has for us this year!
#2 How do I “fast”?
One last thought – I know how “prayer and fasting” is used in these 3 main passages found in both the Old and New Testaments. But how do I fast? Do I simply stop eating? My doctor wouldn’t be too happy with that! Would yours be happy? How do I do it? Some of you are from a church background which celebrates “Lent”. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Lent this way: “a period of 40 days before Easter during which many Christians do not eat certain foods or do certain pleasurable activities as a way of remembering the suffering of Jesus Christ”. Is that it?
Well, once again, what does the Bible say that true fasting is before God? There are many passages on fasting, but let’s finish by looking at Isaiah 58:6. The fast that honors God is the one that puts “wings to prayer”! It is one which is NOT religious but real! It is one that loves the helpless and unlovely. It is one that doesn’t see ourselves as having “arrived and have it all together”, but rather are daily seeking the Lord as a community in prayer.
THAT’S a major way we should be fasting and praying!
Illustration: a number of years ago, a church was preparing to build a multi-purpose youth center/gym, and they were going to a local bank to borrow the money to pay their new contractor. The leaders of the church said, “let us as a church set aside this coming Wednesday as a day of prayer and fasting. Whenever you get a hunger for food, pray! And many of the church family did. Later in the day, one of the elders stopped one of his church family on the street and said, “have you been fasting and praying?” “Yes, all day long”. “Good. God has answered in a mighty way! The bank was all set to give us the money. But when I mentioned the contractor’s name, the bank leaders said, ‘Sorry. We cannot lend you the money if he is your contractor. He has a poor reputation with this bank.’” God intervened, and that church went a new direction that was God orchestrated!
Remember our theme: “when the Son of man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” In particular, will he find individuals who are setting Jesus aside as the only One worthy of our lives? AND will He find that the habit of First Baptist Church of Earlville to be a church which is both regular and consistent in prayer and fasting as a church?
Do we now? Isn’t Jesus – the One Who gave Himself for our sins – worthy of that kind of church which is known to be the church that prays and fasts?
close in prayer