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Why We Fast–or Don’t (Prayer and Fasting, Part 2)

This week I putting together some notes and thoughts about fasting and prayer… we are fasting together, as a church, every Wednesday lunch of the month of March.

Much of the below comes from, or is at least inspired by, A Hunger for God by John Piper (in my opinion, the best book he’s written):

Fasting is connected to prayer (Matthew 6:9-18) and world evangelization (Acts 13:1-4) (95)

Fasting helps give us purity in Prayer:

  • “Fasting is a way of saying, from time to time, that having more of the Giver surpasses having the gift.” (44)
  • “Rising early is a kind of fast. And coming to pray when it is hard to get there is another kind of fast. When we make such choices, we make war on the deceitfulness of our desires and declare the preciousness of prayer and the all-surpassing worth of God.” (48)
  • “The people of God are often called to go without the ordinary means of life… ‘Even we ourselves groan, waiting on the redemption of our bodies.’ Fasting is a brief, voluntary experience of this deprivation. When we experience this will forfeiture, the Lord reveals what is in our hearts.” (58)
  • The path to the cross began at the temptation, where Jesus fasted for 40 days: He knew the only way he could endure the cross was to so love God that he could willingly give up his life; fasting was a proving ground that he had that kind of resolve.
  • “Now if you are going to win any battle, you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.” -George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian

Purity in our desire for world evangelization:

The implication is that the power of God is limitless for those who ask with pure motives. Often, our motives are not pure (James 4:1-6).

    John 14:13: “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”

When Jesus taught on fasting and prayer (Matthew 6:9-18), he said we focused on 3 things in prayer:

  • Longing for God’s name to be hallowed (that his name be cherished and honored);
  • that God’s kingdom come (longing for his kingly rule to be extended);
  • that his will be done on earth (longing that His will be done everywhere with the same energy the indefatigable angels do it sleeplessly in heaven forever and ever).
  • Do we want these things for God’s sake? (78)

The eager waiting of the early church for her Bridegroom to come explains why she prayed the way she did. You can’t really long for something as intensely as she longed for Christ and not cry out to God. So she cried out and prayed, ‘Lord, thy kingdom come!’ ‘Maranatha!’ ‘Come Lord Jesus!’ Surely this hunger for Christ needs to be restored in the comfortable church of the prosperous West. The absence of fasting is indicative of our comfort with the way things are. No one fasts to express how content they are. People only fast out of dissatisfaction. ‘The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.’ (Matthew 15:9). The absence of fasting is the measure of our contentment with the absence of Christ.” (93)

As our church fasts and prays, I am asking God that we will be reminded of His power that comes in response to the prayers of his people and we will be more aware of our desperate need for him to act on behalf of our church, city, and world.

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J.D. Greear, Ph.D., is the President of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastors the Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, NC. Tagged by Outreach magazine as one of the fastest growing churches in America, the Summit has grown in the past 8 years from 400 to over 5,000 each weekend. The Summit Church is deeply involved in global church planting, having undertaken the mission to plant 1000 churches in the next 40 years. J.D. has authored Breaking the Islam Code and the upcoming Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary.