PRAYER, FASTING and CONSECRATION
As the people of Israel approached the promise land and were faced with every conceivable obstacle and opposition, Joshua called Israel to...
"...‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.’" Josh 3:5
To consecrate oneself is to set yourself apart from every hindrance, every sin, every temptation that keeps us from walking in the will of God and set our minds, our hearts and lives on who God is and what God wants for us.
Sometimes this is as simple as setting aside time to read the word and pray, or take our ears and eyes off the things of the world and cease watching entertainment for a period or maybe it is fasting.
In conversion God gives us grace to come before him, in consecration we give ourselves wholly to him.
One of the key areas of consecration is PRAYER AND FASTING.
Jesus, in Matt 6:5 says...
"And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray..."
Now it seems redundant to highlight but Jesus expects that we would pray.
No believer I have ever met has disputed this idea or expectation. Prayer is to the Christian as breath is to our lungs in every day life. It is not something we do in meetings but rather something that we should be doing constantly. Jesus continues...
“...when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words."
Prayer is not a meeting with people, it is a meeting with God.
That is not to say we should not pray together corporately, we should be praying in community all the time but rather if our experiences in prayer are defined or limited to that context then we are missing out on the primary reward in relationship that is found in praying in our own space.
When you pray, don't pray to be seen (Matt 6:5)
When you pray, pray to your father (Matt 6:6)
He loves you he cares, he has the power to bring breakthrough. So often we pray empty, relation-less prayers. When you pray, pray the words that are needed. Filling the air with words is not the same as filling the heaven's with your heart cry.
God hears you because of faith not the eloquence of our words.
The most powerful prayer is often the shortest - HELP!
Prayer is a two way street, we should listen more then we speak.
Ps. you still need to speak.
IN Matt 6:16 Jesus continues speaking to his disciples
“Moreover, when you fast..."
Note this, as in the beginning with prayer, there is a clear parallel, Jesus says "WHEN" not if you fast.
This is when Christians often take the 'discipleship-lite' track.
Just 'fast' TV or something but that is not what fasting is. The only way you can 'fast TV' is if you eat TV's.
The Greek word for fasting is Nesteia, a compound of ne (a negative prefix) and esthio which means "to eat."
The basic and very direct root meaning of the word simply means "not to eat."
To 'fast' is simply 'not to eat'. You can't fast anything else bar what you consume.
The so called Daniel Fast is not fasting, it is consecration. Daniel consecrated himself as an observant Jew refusing to eat the food given to idols and food outside of the Jewish requirements but that is 'kosher' not fasting.
...when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward."
Now this principle is wider than fasting, if you feel the need to tell people your actions so you receive praise, just don't.
Spurring one another on through fasting together or partnering with others in doing so is one thing, glorifying self is quite another.
What is crucial here is that 'hypocrite' is not someone who tries and fails but rather a 'hypocrite' was an actor, a fake, a stage personality.
If you try and fail you are not a hypocrite, you are human.
1. Fasting is normal Christian practice
Jesus never said 'if' you fast, he said 'when' you fast
Jehoshaphat called a nationwide fast, to seek the face of the Lord in the face of overwhelming odds (2 Chron 20:3)
Israel fasts and asks for guidance from God when going up against Benjamin (Judges 20:26 – 28)
In Joel 2 God calls the people to return to Him with fasting (Joel 2:12)
Ninevah fasts in brokenness in response to the word of the Lord through Jonah (Jonah 3:5)
Ezra calls a fast before taking the people out of captivity and back into the promise. Back to Jerusalem (Ezra 8:21 - 23)
Esther calls the people to fast so that she would have boldness to go before the King (Esther 4:3, 16)
“...and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” (Esther 4:16)
The Apostles and early Church also fasted (Acts 13:2, 2 Cor. 6:4, 5, 2 Cor. 11:27)
Jesus fasts for 40 days to initiate his ministry and prepare Matt. 4:1–11
Just a reminder, they did not 'fast TV' or 'Chocolate' or anything else.
You can set those things aside as an act of consecration but those acts are not fasting.
Fasting is an act of consecration but clearly not all consecration is fasting.
Jesus continues in Matt 6
"But you, when you fast anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Matt 6:17 – 18
Why is it that we think we need to look sad when we are being “spiritual”? I don't think for a second that God is attracted to the sour puss face.
2. Fasting is about positioning before God
In Ezra 8 we see a number of keys in regards to fasting.
V 21 says
"Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God...”
King David said, "I humble myself through fasting." (Psalm 35:13)
Fasting is about acknowledging that we are always weak.
Fasting creates an awareness of weakness. It is in our weakness that we know his strength.
We see this throughout scripture.
The Apostle Paul says in 2 Cor 12:9
“My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
We often think that the victory comes through simply putting on a brave face.
Victory is found in dependency.
3. Fasting is about direction
It continues in Ezra 8 the fast was...
“...to seek from Him the right way for us” (21b)
If you have a major decision, fast. When we are faced with major changes as a community, we need to fast.
4. Fasting is about protection and deliverance
In Ezra 8 it continues...
“...and our little ones and all our possessions. 22 For I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.” 23 So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer.” Ezra 8:21 – 23
Like we have done with so many elements of our faith, people have 'individualised' fasting but note a simple repetitive reality, fasting is often a corporate practice. It is often about US humbling ourselves, about US asking for direction or protection.
In the next post, you can read about some practical realities in your fasting.
"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." 2 Chron 7:14
Ps. 2 Chron 7 is not about Australia or about our 'nation states' it is about the people of God.