This week and the next, I plan to share with you four videos addressing some questions you might be having regarding our upcoming day of prayer and fasting. I encourage you to watch the videos and prayerfully consider participating in this fast and these corporate times of prayer. Along with the videos below, here is an excerpt on the subject of fasting from the fifth chapter of Dissatisfied Devotion which I was able to write over study break this year:
The hungry soul that rouses itself to lay hold of God for restoration, often expresses that hunger by forgoing physical food. Have you ever experienced a sorrow in the midst of tragedy that consumed your desire for physical food? Fasting is voluntarily abstaining from food as an expression of Godward agony and appetite. Jesus assumes His disciples will fast (Matt. 6:16, 17). When asked during His earthly ministry why His disciples didn’t fast, He responded with a wedding analogy: “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast” (Matt. 9:15). While Christ, the bridegroom, was present with His disciples, they feasted. But a time would come when He would depart, and then in the period between His ascension and His second coming, His disciples would fast. While a select few of us may be physically unable to fast (if you are unsure, ask your doctor), we ought to be very slow to excuse ourselves from a practice that Jesus assumes and asserts is normal for His followers living between the already and the not yet of His kingdom.
Our fasting doesn’t twist His arm to do what He otherwise would not. But if anything is clear from redemptive history, it is that when God’s people return to Him with all their hearts via fasting, ordinarily God relents and pours out His grace. Such was the case with the corporate fasts called in the days of Jehoshaphat, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. Even the pagan city of Nineveh was delivered from God’s judgment when they called a corporate fast to seek the Lord. Why? Because genuine fasting puts an exclamation point upon the soul’s agonizing appetite for God and His deliverance. When we sincerely fast, we are saying, “We are hungry for you, God! Our physical hunger has been eaten up by a hunger in our souls to see you working powerfully and dynamically in our lives, our church, and our nation!” Fasting is the soul’s expression of humble earnestness after Christ, seeking His salvation as we await the final day of consummation.
In this wilderness, an individual believer or a corporate body of believers who never prays with tears and fastings is an anomaly according to the biblical standard.
In the face of national calamity, God called His wayward people, “Yet even now, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments” (Joel 2:12–13). This call to the tear-filled, hungry pleading of corporate lament is then followed up by a most encouraging question. In fact, it is one of my all-time favorite questions in the Bible. Joel asks, “Who knows whether [God] will not turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind him…?” (Joel 2:14). Given God’s gracious character and His past dealings with His people, who knows what He might do? Our fasting can’t strong-arm Him into blessing. It doesn’t merit His blessing. We deserve His curse. But in light of who God has revealed Himself to be throughout redemptive history, the discontented brokenness by which we lay hold of God is wed to an eager expectation. We don’t know when or how, but we are confident in this reality: “Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy!” (Ps. 126:5). So we don’t succumb to fatalistic pessimism regarding the sorry state of our soul, our family, our local church, or the broader church. For as we bend ourselves in dissatisfied desire for a mighty outpouring of the Spirit of God to restore His people, who knows what our God might do?
Yours in Christ,