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Prayer and Fasting

In Touch / Charles Stanley
The Truth Network Radio
August 23, 2023 12:00 am

Prayer and Fasting

In Touch / Charles Stanley

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Welcome to the In Touch Podcast with Charles Stanley for Wednesday, August 23rd. Do you understand the purpose for fasting? Today's podcast helps you gain a fresh appreciation for the place of prayer and fasting and talking with God.

Prayer and fasting, and primarily the fasting is what we want to deal with this morning in the series on prayer. He begins in the Sermon on the Mouth in chapter 6 by saying, Take heed that you do not your alms before men to be seen of them, otherwise you have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Then verse 5 says, And when you pray, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are, for they love to pray, standing in the synagogues and the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. Then in verse 18 and 16 he says, Moreover, when you fast, be not as the hypocrites of a sad countenance, for they disfigure their faces that they may appear unto men to fast.

Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head and wash thy face, that you may appear not to men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which is in secret shall reward thee openly. Now what he's saying in these first 18 verses, he's talking about giving to the poor, almsgiving. Secondly, he's speaking about prayer.

And thirdly, he's talking about fasting. And in all three of these things, he says there are several things for us to watch out for. Number one, he says, you don't do it to be seen of men. Don't be like the hypocrites standing in the public places, praying to be seen of men. You don't give in order that others may know how much you give.

And you don't fast and walk around with your hair uncombed and your face look like it's unwashed because you've not been fasting and you want to look like you've been sacrificing for God. He says whatever we do, we should do it in private. And when we do it in private, God will reward us openly. We have to do it out of the motivation of love and out of the motivation to be seen. For he says that anything and everything we do in those areas in order to be seen of men, if you're seen by one person or ten people, the one person that saw you do it, that's all the reward you're going to get. If a thousand people see it, all that you receive in return is the reward of the commendation or the criticism of a thousand people. And what he's saying is not that our Christian witness should be private, not that our Christian witness should be done in the closet, but that those areas of our expression toward him of giving to the poor, of prayer, and of fasting should be done secretly in order that God may reward us openly.

That is never the motivation to be seen or to be known or to be praised by others. Now when you think about the responsibility that you and I have, here in the warfare, Paul says in chapter 6 of Ephesians, he said, We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places, which says that our battle is a spiritual battle. We have personal private spiritual battles with Satan. We have spiritual battles that develop in relationships with other people. And so we have specific weapons that God has given us in order to do battle. He says, first of all, we have his name in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, Peter said, rise up and walk. We have the word of God to stand upon as our promise and the foundation of our request before the Lord. We have the blood of Jesus Christ upon which we are protected. But we have likewise prayer as a tool and as a weapon, fasting as a weapon. And what I want to share with you this morning is just a few principles about it for you to get in your mind, and I think this will become more real to you.

But think for just a moment. Here's Moses fasting before he receives the Ten Commandments. We find David in the Psalms fasting in order to deepen his own relationship with the Father.

Look to see, for example, what happened when Daniel began to pray, seeking the mind of God to know his will about Babylonian captivity and when they'd be released from that captivity and returned to Jerusalem. It was after a period of fasting and praying. It was when the city of Nineveh began to pray and to fast before the preaching of Jonah that God withheld his judgment. Jesus spent the first 40 days after the baptism, fasting and praying and seeking the mind of his Father to know about his ministry. When the New Testament church began, they fasted and prayed.

It was Paul and Barnabas. They'd been fasting and praying at the church in Antioch before they sent them out. They fasted and prayed so that all through the Scriptures, God is impressing upon the hearts of his people to fast and pray and every single time, with no exception of the Bible, not one single exception, when the people of God began to fast and pray, God released his energy and supernatural power to bring about whatever was essential, whether it was instruction and wisdom and knowledge that could not have been known any other way or whether it was the defeat of their enemy, the provision of their need, you name it, they received it once they began to fast and pray. So what I want us to notice here first of all are some principles about fasting.

And first of all is this. We do not fast in order to avoid obeying God. Whenever he requires us to fast or when we feel compelled or burdened to do so, you don't fast over here and say, Lord, I'm sacrificing my time and my food over here and God is saying, what I want you to look at is what's over here and you say, Lord, but I want you to see that I'm sacrificing and I'm proving to you how obedient I am. Obedience in fasting will never atone for sin over here and disobedience because genuine fasting always causes me to look within the sea, Lord, is my heart right with you. So you don't fast to avoid obeying God in a given area.

Secondly, fasting is for the purpose of bringing the body into subjection. We all have appetites. We have physical appetites to eat. We have appetites to enjoy beauty.

There are sexual appetites. There are all kinds of appetites that God has given us to be exercised or fulfilled within the limits of the boundaries of his word. But there are times when he says we're to set aside all appetites, we're to put them all aside in order to seek him for a specific reason or of a specific purpose.

We're to bring the body into subjection. That means we are to bring our body to the point that more important than eating and a greater desire than to eat is to talk to the Father. Now, our third principle here is that fasting brings the soul, the mind, the will, the emotion, the conscience, the consciousness under submission to the Spirit within us so that more important than our normal life patterns is something that God may want to say or do in our life.

So when you think about how many things you hear in a given day, all the things that come your way, how many layers upon layers upon layers of thought patterns and ideas and little habits that you and I fall into and ever dawn upon us, that we are almost sometimes the victims of our own habits that we think are good. But for God to get our attention and to get way down on the inside of us and to speak to us on a deeper level than happens day by day, fasting focuses our attention upon God the Father, focuses our attention upon our own sinfulness, and we get a whole new glimpse of what life is all about. And then our fourth principle involved here is this, that fasting has a tremendous effect upon us when we begin to seek the Lord in worship and we're willing to fast. Now, what in the world would happen if you and I began to fast on Saturdays before we came to the Lord's house on Sunday?

I'll tell you. I can't tell you exactly what would happen, but I can tell you this. It would never be normal again, whatever normal is, because when people fast and pray, they begin to seek God and He becomes the priority of their thinking, the priority of their feeling, the priority of their actions, the priority of their behavior.

Something begins to happen not only to them, but to everybody around them. So there's some principles here that God has given us all through the Scripture. Now, what I'd like to do for the rest of the time is to share with you for a few moments the purposes. Why is it that God wants us to fast? Now, He said in this passage here that He certainly does not want us to do it in order to be seen of men.

Then what is the real purpose that God has in mind? And the first one is this, and that is that our spirit would be disciplined toward the things of the Father. Now, you'll recall when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He followed His baptism with tremendous highlight in His light and then 40 days of seeking the mind of the Father before He began His ministry. And no doubt in His own human as well as His physical because He did have hungers and thirst and appetites like we do, but 40 days and 40 nights of disciplining His human aspect of Himself, His human body, in order to find the mind of His Father, to know the mind of His Father before He began that time of ministry for three years whereby the whole world and all of eternity would be changed.

But what about us? He didn't have to deal with an old carnal nature such as we, though He was tempted by Satan. But fasting brings our spirituality to a point that it becomes the priority, the body, the soul of man is under subjection, and we discipline ourselves in order to bring ourselves in a position where that He might be able to bring us to reach the maximum of our potential. Fasting sifts, fasting prunes, fasting peels off layer after layer after layer after layer of feelings and attitudes and experiences and thoughts, and so often we can't really get down to the hard core of what God is trying to say to us. Fasting is a disciplining of the Spirit. A second purpose for fasting is this, and that is to find the will of God for your life in a given situation. For example, let's say that you're contemplating marriage. Do you know that's the will of God for your life, or you sort of think it is?

You say, well, I've prayed and I've talked to this one and I've been counseled by that one, let me suggest something. If you'll take three days, and it may be difficult for you, you may have to work up for the three days. If you'll take three days in the Word of God alone on your face before Him and fasting and praying, and I mean without food but drink water, and you begin to seek the Lord and tell Him that you wanted to show you in His Word, whatever you're seeking the mind of God about, whatever it may be, if you will fast and pray, bringing the body and the soul in subjection to Him and submission to Him, He will clear your eyesight, He will clear your ears, He will clear your heart, He will clear your spirit, your focus of attention will be upon Him, and you will be able to hear from God what you've never heard before.

That's exactly what Daniel did. When he was fasting and praying in that ninth chapter, tremendous chapter on fasting and praying, he said, God, I don't know what the answer is, but I want it, on the Bible it says, He set Himself to fast and pray before the Lord. And you see, there is a sacrifice, there is a giving up, there is a surrendering, there is a subjecting of the body and the spirit, but you see, what we have to ask is, Lord, do I want to reach my potential for you, or am I willing to be satisfied to grow up around down here and have the applause and the praise and the pleasing of others, or do I want to reach my maximum? Am I willing to bring this body, this soul, this spirit, in absolute and total subjection to you that whatever you want to do in my life, God, I'll be fit and ready, and not only that, I'll know what you want to do. But you see, we've got another mind of God, and the reason it burdens me is this, usually at 99% of the time, what is the natural, normal way of doing a thing isn't God's way at all.

So how do you find out how to do it? You've got to find His mind, and we can't rush around seven days a week doing our thing and find the mind of God, not very often, about major things, not very often at all. There's another purpose He has in mind here, and that is genuine personal repentance and confession before Him. For example, let's say that you've got a habit in your life that you just can't overcome. Let's say that there's a given area in your life in which Satan has a stronghold.

I mean, he doesn't have a little toe hole. He's got a tremendous stronghold in your life. In fact, he's just got one whole big whopping section of you, and you're saying, Lord, I've prayed, I've read the Bible, I've been counseled, I'm trying to walk in the Spirit. Why is it that I can't get victory over this thing in my life? Here's what happens when you begin to fast, and sometimes it'll be like hell on earth the first few hours because Satan will attack you.

Listen, I don't mean that all fasting is that way, but if you go to God telling Him that you want freedom, you want liberty, you want victory, you want healing in the inner man, and you begin to fast, you can just watch it. Satan calls for every demonic power that is available for attack, and he's going to attack you, and here's what he's going to say. You don't think that's going to work, do you? And besides that, it's almost time for lunch.

Listen to your stomach growl. What is your wife or your husband going to think? What are your children going to think? And after all, the Bible says you shouldn't do it in public, and your family already knows that you're going to fast today or tomorrow, the next three days. They know you've gone away for three days, and you don't think God's going to answer. I'll tell you, He'll put every evil, diabolical, wicked thought He can come up with, and He's got gobs of them to cause you to doubt, to do anything He can to get you up off your knees, because Satan knows when one of his children gets on their face before God to get right with him in fasting and praying, what is God going to do? When we begin to see what's inside of us in the light of what He's like, and we confess and repent of this, and God cleanses our life out and gets us straightened out, friends, you become a powerhouse for God.

God is going to move in your life as He's never moved before. There is no incident in the Bible of people fasting and praying and repenting toward God without the release of God's supernatural power in their life. And you see, I'm not saying that you have to fast every time you confess, but I want to ask you this. Are you one of those persons who's saying, I want to be everything God wants me to be, but somehow I just can't do that. I want to, but I can't break out. In fact, I don't even know what it is that has me chained. I don't even know what it is that keeps holding me back. I just know what I want to be. I know what I believe God wants me to do, and I can't do it.

And I want to challenge you to start with one day. Take a Saturday, if that's your day off, what it may be, and you just say to your wife quietly, don't make any big to-do out of it, honey, I want to just fast today. Or if your wife and you want to do that, you tell your family, your husband, and look, I'm willing to cook three meals today if necessary, but it would certainly be easier on me if I didn't have to go in the kitchen today and just be by myself alone to pray, and husband, surely you'll take the kids out and do whatever's necessary, won't hurt you to cook.

I'd teach you to appreciate your wife a little more, and you just take care of that while she sets aside a time to pray. Or if the husband and wife want to take a time of fasting and praying together, or the whole family fast and pray, God will do something supernatural in your life and in your family. And, friend, there is a power released when you fast and pray that does not come any other way.

Well, let me just go through just two or three things quickly that I've already mentioned about what happens. The first thing that happens when God's people begin to fast and pray is a sharpening of the mind. There is nothing that makes the mind so keen, nothing that gives such clear sight as fasting, able to see ourselves as we've never seen ourselves before, able to see those around us as we have never been able to feel their feelings and see their condition. We're able to understand Scripture like we've never understood it before, able to get the mind of God, able to discern His will, and most of all, the supernatural power of God is strangely, miraculously, but definitely released when God's people are willing to humble themselves before Him, bring themselves in subjection to Him, and say, God, I can't, but You can.

More important to me than food, more important to me than any intimate relationships of any kind, any need that I have, more important than that is my relationship to You that I find what You're saying to me. And, friend, we have the privilege of watching God do a supernatural work in our midst. The greatest work will be in our hearts, and it's my prayer that God will burden your heart that you'll never be satisfied with less than the maximum of your potential for Him. Now, Father, we thank You in Jesus' name for giving us examples of fasting and praying all through the Scripture, and there's so many of them. We thank You for that beautiful chapter of Isaiah 58 that describes how we ought to go about fasting, and I pray that many today will commit themselves to begin to fast and to pray and to seek Your face, confessing and repenting of sin, that You may be able to use each and every one of us and all of us together in small groups, in a great body, in a whole nation of people, that through all of us You may demonstrate Your supernatural power, that You're alive, that You're God, that You're sovereign, that everything on this earth and everything beyond it is under Your perfect control. I pray for somebody here today, Father, who is unsaved, for they cannot pray except they first pray for mercy and forgiveness and cleansing and salvation. This we ask in Jesus' name and for His sake. Amen. Thank you for listening to Prayer & Fasting. If you'd like to know more about Charles Stanley or In Touch Ministries, stop by intouch.org. This podcast is a presentation of In Touch Ministries, Atlanta, Georgia.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-27 22:26:56 / 2023-08-27 22:35:18 / 8

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