Tuesday, 5 October 2021
Title: Why Christians And The Church Should Fast
By: Stephen Wong
Text: Acts 13: 1-3
“Now there were prophets and teachers at Antioch, in the church that was there: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set Barnabas and Saul apart for Me for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, when they had fasted, prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.”
About 20 years ago, I was invited to join a Christian NGO to start a new ministry of supporting pastors and missionaries who were either in retirement or about to retire, because it was recognized that there was a deep financial need amongst Christian workers in both the urban and rural setting. I was very enthusiastic about this matter. After a few months, we entered a phase where things were not moving well. In my naivete, I suggested that we fast and pray for the project as I sensed that we were doing things like any commercial setting. There were pastors in the team but fasting and prayers seemed far from us, as we spent countless hours trying to raise funds and to prepare the guidelines for using these funds. The Head of the Committee shot down the idea of fasting and prayers as it was deemed unnecessary. Prayer and fasting may well be the last thing in our minds as we did the Lord’s work in a most flesh-like way at that time
Why should we fast and pray?
In the first instance, fasting is not a spiritual practice monopolized by Pentecostal or charismatic church friends. Our Lord Jesus Christ taught about fasting, in His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 6. Fasting was a valid spiritual discipline in both the Old and the New Testament. Our Lord told us that we need to be mindful and understand that fasting is a personal discipline, and not be put on display for others with our “woeful” appearance. Fast by all means, but let it be a secret between you and God. But then, is fasting a part of our walk with God today? Jesus said in Mark 2:19-20 “Jesus answered, ‘How can the guests of the Bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, as long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them and on that day they will fast.’” As it is, fasting is no longer common in our Christian life despite the Word of the Lord.
In Acts 13:1-3, before choosing and sending out missionaries among the Gentiles, the church fasted and worshiped the Lord, and the Holy Spirit spoke to the leaders that Barnabas and Saul were to be chosen for the mission ahead. It was a public fast where the church joined together to fast and worship the Lord before He opened their hearts and convicted them to pick Barnabas and Saul. Somehow, fasting and worship improves our sensitivity to God’s guidance and leadership as we make decisions together as a community. Are we receptive to consider a church-wide call to fast and pray, from time to time, so that we may gain wisdom and direction from the Holy Spirit in all things that concern the work of the Lord and the lives of our members?
Ezra proclaimed a public fast to seek the Lord’s face and to humble the Israelites and himself before God as they sought a safe journey back to Jerusalem in the re-building of the temple. The Israelites had perilous times and the Lord had shown His faithfulness when the leaders and the people sought Him with fasting and prayers. The Lord granted safe passage to the Israelites with their children, possessions, gold and silver for the temple, bearing in mind that the journey was dangerous and marked with challenges from bandits and other environmental elements (Ezra 8:21-23). As we enter a new phase of the Covid19 pandemic, are we fasting and persevering in prayer for the end of this pandemic? Malaysia might face a fresh surge of the covid infections in the future, like in the UK and USA are experiencing. Are we fasting and praying for wisdom to re-start our physical worship services at the right time? Please do not misunderstand. I am an advocate for an early return to the physical worship services but I reckon we need to change our approach in making decisions together as a Body of Christ.
Anna, the prophetess spent much of her life as a widow. She stayed in the temple for most of her life to fast, pray and worship God. One day, her personal devotion to God bore fruit and she saw the baby Lord Jesus (Luke 2:36-38) just as the devout Simeon did earlier.
And in 1 Samuel 7:6, when the prophet Samuel called for a public fast and confession of the sins of Israel, it was well participated as the people recognized the depth of their wickedness and the propensity to sin. Fasting is crucial in dealing with sin in our lives, because sinning is both the old and new normal whatever pandemic might come and go. Fasting and confession brings this matter seriously before the altar of God as we learn to hunger and thirst after righteousness, and seek freedom from the sins that grip us and our children.
Above all, we can do a church-wide fast where we learn to partner each other and intercede for the current and future decisions that we must make. In fasting and prayer, we can draw encouragement from Ecc 4: 9 “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour.” Group fasting is a deep encouragement for us to draw strength from one another in seeking the Lord. There is much we can do through fasting. We will continue to be imperfect in what we do. But how about taking a first step into a spiritual journey with our leaders where we choose to experience hunger purposefully, and seek God for His answers and help to breakdown some of the fortresses of sin and unforgiveness in our church and families, or perhaps a new way of fulfilling the 5 fold mission of God for Pantai Baptist Church? You will be surprised by what the Lord will do as we seek and trust Him with all our hearts using fasting and prayer as a channel of seeking His favour. Let fasting be really fasting as we learn to test the limits of our endurance to go without food, as we seek God’s favour and answers to our prayers.
Dear Lord Jesus, Thank You for Your words of encouragement and teaching about fasting and prayers. We have come so far together as a church over the last 64 years, and experienced the ups and downs of a community of believers that is weak but yet dear to You. Help us not to live for the momentary pleasures of our time but help us to seek first Your Kingdom and Your righteousness. And we pray that the church shall continue to seek Your favour through fervent fasting and prayer so that Your will be done in our church and our nation. In Your precious name we pray. Amen
首先，禁食并不是五旬节派或灵恩派的教会朋友所独有的属灵惯例。我们的主耶稣基督在马太福音第六章的登山宝训中教导了禁食。禁食在旧约和新约中都是有效的属灵操练。我们的主告诉我们，我们需要留心并明白禁食是个人的操练，不要以我们的 “愁容” 外观向他人展示。您可以禁食，但让它成为您和上帝之间的秘密。然则，禁食是我们今天与上帝同行的一部分吗？马可福音2:19-20记载：“耶稣对他们说，新郎和陪伴之人同在的时候，陪伴之人岂能禁食呢？新郎还同在，他们不能禁食。但日子将到，新郎要离开他们，那日他们就要禁食。” 其实，尽管有主的话语，禁食在我们基督徒的生活中已不再常见了。