Prayer Teaching Series: In My Name
Why do we need to pray if God knows what we are going to say already? How can one prayer make any difference? Does prayer really change what happens? God loves me and understands me, so how will praying make our relationship any better?
Prayer is vital and God invites us to talk to him through prayer. Through this Series, In My Name, I will be sharing my thoughts and biblical teaching on these questions and more.
Prayer changes things! In my previous teaching on prayer, I mentioned that we are invited to commune with our Father and that we can develop our closeness to him by the way we come to pray.
Prayer is a gift, an open door into the throne room of heaven. Fasting is a powerful discipline that can enhance our prayer. It is an attitude as well as an action. We not only need but we must make this activity part of our prayer life. It is powerful.
We are expected to fast! In Matthew 6:16 we are told "when..." (not 'if') "...you fast do not look gloomy".
Why Should We Fast?
Fasting is mentioned throughout the Bible. In the Old Testament, we read of many examples of fasting. Moses, Elijah, the prophets, the children of Israel, King David, Esther, Daniel. All these fasted along with prayer.
In the New Testament there are more examples: Cornelius the centurion, the Apostle Paul, the Disciples and of course, we have a record of Jesus himself fasting for 40 days in the wilderness.
So, we are given the instruction to fast and we have the examples of those mentioned above.
Why do we need to fast today?
There are many reasons to do so. Firstly, to gain greater intimacy with God. When we fast and pray, we are more in tune with the Holy Spirit and led into closer communion with God as we pray.
Secondly, it enriches our prayers and because we are more sensitive to the Holy Spirit's prompting, the barriers fall, repentance flows and we can draw nearer to God.
As this becomes our experience, our praying becomes deeper and more intimate. In Psalm 35:15, David speaks about being humbled through fasting. When we humble ourselves before God, we forget self and focus on Him. As our senses are sharpened, the Holy Spirit can speak more clearly and we can read His word with greater clarity.
Thirdly, the abstinence from food helps us bring our bodies into submission. God wants us to gain mastery of our flesh and elevate our spiritual experience. Food is tempting, it can look enticing, smell appetising and lead us to think we must have it because it will feel good. As do many things which are not always good for us.
Of course food is necessary and a good thing to enjoy but, to omit it for a time is to allow us to focus on God and His word.
Choosing To Fast
Adam and Eve initially knew no evil. The devil introduced the idea that the forbidden fruit which looked so delicious to eat would give wisdom. Until that time, Eve's attention was elsewhere.
The devil uses our desires to distract us. The fruit Eve ate wasn't bad but it was forbidden. God had provided all they would need and at that stage they knew nothing of evil. But Adam and Eve were given free will.
Of course we have that too. Free will isn't free will if there is no choice. So we can exercise our free will and choose to rein in desire for food for an allotted time.
The Urgence Of Fasting
In the midst of huge conflict and persecution that is going across the globe we need to be taking prayer seriously. We need to add fasting with our prayers and actively seek God. This is not an optional extra its for all of us to take part in. It's not just for those in full time ministry or just for the serious matters. It's for you, for now.
Where Do We Start?
Having decided to fast, how should we begin? It is important to set a length of time to fast for. A day, a week, or for the weekend. Once that is established it is important to prepare spiritually and physically. We need to confess our sins and seek forgiveness from any who have been hurt or upset by us. Then we can approach God with clear a conscience and clarity of mind.
Then, pray for the Holy Spirit to fill and guide. Ephesians 5:15-20 instructs us on how to act and to give thanks for all things.
Romans 12:1-2 tells us to "present our bodies as living sacrifices and be transformed by the renewing of our minds". This is what we seek as we fast.
Next, make time to pray. Obvious, I know but, without meals there is more time available to pray. The focus of our daily activities changes and prayer can take a priority.
Praying alone in submission before God or praying while walking in the fresh air are both communion with the Father. While we fast, we have more time to read the Bible and allow the Holy Spirit to speak and enlighten us.
What Should We Pray And Fast About?
The subject and reason for each period of fasting should be clear. When faced with a challenging decision, difficult action or seeking help with a matter for ourselves or others, God can speak and strengthen and guide us. His throne room awaits us and we can enter anytime.
Let's sharpen our senses, follow His commands and take up the offer of seeking Him and His intimacy and His power. Our Father delights in us; what a blessing that is!