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The Discipline Of Prayer And Fasting Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
April 28, 2023 1:00 am

The Discipline Of Prayer And Fasting Part 1

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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April 28, 2023 1:00 am

The concept of fasting is strange in a culture where we eat so much. But the rigors of fasting can cleanse, heal, and discipline our bodies. In this message from Joel 1, we discover the benefits of fasting and prayer for both the body and the soul. What if fasting actually deepened our walk with God?

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Many of us don't think twice about grabbing a Big Mac, large fries and a Coke at lunchtime, but there are times to bypass the golden arches and even bypass food altogether. Have you ever fasted for several days to deepen your prayer life?

Before you say, you've got to be kidding, please stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, we live in an age of self-gratification. Fasting sounds pretty counter-cultural, even for many believers.

Well, Dave, you're absolutely right. And I remember talking to a Bible scholar who said that he doesn't fast because he doesn't see fasting anywhere in the New Testament. I had to ask him the question what Bible he was reading. Jesus assumed that we would fast. He said, when you fast. And I remember reading that the apostle Paul fasted. And of course, all of us know how difficult it is, especially when we get to the second day or the third day, but God blesses those who are desperate enough to seek his face. I've written a book entitled Holy Living in an Unholy World. It doesn't deal with fasting per se, but it does deal with issues regarding discipline, what it is like to make decisions, whether or not rules have value in the Christian life and how they should be applied. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours. Here's what you do.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. All of us should be willing to do anything for Jesus who came, suffered and redeemed us. I couldn't help but think as I was preparing this message, couldn't help but ask myself, I wonder how many of us have ever heard a message on fasting. I have to confess, I never have. I've never preached one on fasting. And since I listen to more of my sermons than I do to anybody else's, I guess I can't blame anyone else for me not hearing a message on the topic of fasting.

Why is it that something that is referred to in the Bible 50 times at least is ignored? The Old Testament, David fasted, Moses fasted, Elijah fasted, the prophets fasted, they called the solemn assemblies and everybody fasted, Nehemiah fasted. You say, well that's Old Testament. Well look at the New Testament, Jesus fasted. The Scripture says in the book of Acts chapter 13 that when they had fasted and prayed, the Holy Spirit said, send away Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.

And then they gathered together and they sent them off on their first missionary journey. After they had fasted and prayed, Paul fasted. When Jesus was speaking on the Sermon on the Mount, he didn't say, now if you should fast, do it this way, he said, when you fast, just like he said, when you pray, when you give, it is assumed everybody fasts.

Or do they? So I was thinking about this business of the lack of teaching on fasting of which also I have been guilty, it dawned on me that maybe there are some reasons for it. First of all, because I think the very word fasting or the idea of fasting seems to be medieval and somewhat mystical. I remember meeting a man and we were going to go out to get something to eat and he said, no, I'm fasting today.

And you kind of look at him out of the corner of your eye and wonder whether there is some sand that got in on the wheels there. Because we normally don't do that. We live in a land where we are supposed to be feasting. And now this guy is talking about fasting and it doesn't add up. And then, of course, secondly, and this is most important, we equate fasting with starving. We equated with starving. The minute you begin to fast and you're without food for a couple of days, your friends will tell you that you will die.

They'll say that you'll die. And your stomach responds by saying, I told you so, I told you so, I told you so, I told you so. And as a result of that, we don't like to fast. We think we're going to do our body harm. I mean, it's terrible to miss one of those cravings and not fill it up with whatever it is we fill it up with.

Thirdly, I think that we walk away from fasting because in our hearts we know that when we pray and fast, we will be involved in spiritual conflict. The devil has something to do with food. Now, God created food for our benefit and for our use and even for our enjoyment. But it is not to be overlooked that the first sin that was ever committed was a sin of eating something that was not supposed to have been eating.

You've heard me say that Eve simply did not close the door of that refrigerator. And as a result of not doing that, sin entered into the world. And one of the reasons why Jesus fasted for 40 days is that he might be able to win a victory at the very point at which the first Adam lost the victory, namely this business of eating. Now Satan wants to do one of two things to us regarding food.

Either he wants us to love it so much that it becomes our God or else in the lives of some he wants them to hate it. And if you're here today and you struggle with what is known as bulimia, you do not need to fast, you do need to feast. And I might say you need to get help and this sermon is not going to help you.

But go to somebody, go to somebody who can help you because that too is very destructive. Well as I was thinking of preaching on this topic, of course the question that I had in my mind is the same one that you have in yours. Why bother fasting? Why should we actually deprive ourselves this Saturday and perhaps some days before this Saturday, why should we go through the rigors of depriving ourselves of something that we want to do, namely to eat? Well as I thought about it further, it dawned on me that fasting actually involves the body as well as the soul.

And so what I'd like to do is first of all talk about its benefits to the body and then we shall talk about its benefits to the soul. As far as the body is concerned, first of all, fasting enables us to discipline our body. We discipline it. Oh we don't like that word discipline. That's the title of this series, A Disciplined Life, Disciplines That Produce Godliness.

But we don't like discipline. We want to have the end, namely a vibrant walk with God, but we don't want the means by which we are going to achieve it. The Apostle Paul in the book of Philippians talks about those and this is his expression, not mine, whose God is their belly. All that they can do is to fulfill every craving that they have. Well the scripture says that the fruit of the spirit, among many others, is self-control. And therefore bringing our bodies under subjection and under control is just a good thing to do, actually physically as we shall see, as well as spiritually.

So there is the discipline of the body and now we come to the cleansing of the body. Now many of you know that I was in Orlando last month and was fasting for two days with about 600 other pastors and leaders and extended the fast beyond that somewhat because after the first two days are the most difficult and afterwards it gets very, very tolerable because you really don't get hungry after that period of time. Bill Bright had fasted for 40 days and he believes that God is leading him to inspire a vision to have two million Christians fast for 40 days. Now that's not two million Christians fasting a total of 40 days among them. That's the way I'd like to interpret it, but he actually means two million people to fast 40 days apiece.

I don't know whether or not that's going to happen. I'm not yet ready for a 40-day fast, at least not at this point in my life. But when we were there, there was a doctor by the name of Giulio Ruaball and he gave a lecture on fasting and then I contacted him and he faxed some material to me about fasting and so what I'm going to share with you is what he says.

And he not only fasts but he leads his congregation in fasting and has monitored fasting for many, many years. This is what he says about the cleansing that goes on. You see, when you begin to fast and your system shuts down, that is the digestive system shuts down after about 72 hours, your body then begins to change its mode. Rather than assimilation, it now begins the mode of elimination. It begins a cleansing process.

And some people think to themselves, I can't fast because I get a little bit light-headed or because I get perhaps a slight fever or I have this symptom or that symptom. And he says they don't realize that all that is happening is the body is cleansing itself. It is purifying itself.

It begins to spew out the poisons and become clean. And people have those effects and they don't realize how healthy the process really is. They had an experiment done on a number of people whom they got to fast for 21 days, monitoring their fluids the whole while. What they discovered was after 72 hours, the immune system begins to quiet down and then the immune system begins to rise.

Fasting brings about the strength of the immune system. And all of that is a part of the cleansing process. After the fifth or sixth day, I'm told, it's possible to have nausea.

What is happening is the liver is beginning to pour some bile into the stomach because it is finally cleansing itself. Now, what's interesting is that not only does the body cleanse itself, but it heals itself. Now, this is what the good doctor says, so don't hold me accountable for it. But he says that people fast for perhaps a week and they find pain in their body.

Their muscles will ache, their joints will be sore, and they say to themselves, see, I can't fast. Look at these awful things that are happening to me. He says what is happening is the body is correcting itself. It is actually healing itself in such a way that later on you will not get certain diseases that you would have gotten were it not for the fact that this cleansing took place. But you see, we think to ourselves how awful to go without food. What a terrible thing. I will die.

No, you will be cleansed and you will also have healing in your system. You see, we think to ourselves that we can't do it, but I want you to know today that we have resources that will carry us through Saturday. Did you know that? In fact, it would carry you through Saturday and Sunday and the days that lie ahead. When a camel walks across the desert for three or four days, he can do it because God, and incidentally, when God created camels, that certainly shows that he had some kind of a sense of humor. But when God created those camels, he said, I'm going to create them with a cistern so that they can fill that cistern and then they'll have water to cross the desert. God created us and he said, you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to create these people with a pantry and it's got a pantry in it and they can draw from it, but we don't want to draw from the pantry. We just want to keep stacking the shelves always when we have the opportunity to put something else in the pantry. And God says, you know, there is a time when you ought to get that pantry cleaned out, when you ought to use some of the stuff that you have been stuffing in there the whole time. In fact, I haven't mentioned all of the blessings from the physical standpoint. Not only does it affect your immune system, but also when you have the cholesterol buildup, all of that is cleansed away during the period of fasting.

You say, well, when do you know when it's over? Interestingly, after people are in long fasts, the body then becomes hungry. We say, well, I get hungry if I skip a meal. No, no, no, you don't get hungry, says the doctor. In fact, true hunger is not felt in the stomach. True hunger is felt in the throat. You know, it's interesting that Jesus fasted for 40 days and it says afterward he was hungry. It was time to end the fast. Your body will let you know it is now time to eat. Once you get past that whole first series of days that are so interminably difficult, we think eventually the body adjusts, cleanses itself, heals itself, and then tells you it is now okay.

Start to eat. Well, those are the physical benefits, but I want you to know today that the physical benefits are not nearly as important or significant as the spiritual benefits. It is not just what fasting does, you see, to the body.

It is what fasting does for the soul. People today say, you know, we need a master plan. We need a master plan for the church. We need a master plan for Christian organizations.

Maybe in the Bible, God says, I already have the master's plan, Jesus who fasted and who spent time in prayer. What I'd like you to do is to take your Bibles today and turn to the book of Joel. Now, Joel is not an easy book to find.

In fact, I cheated and put a marker in it so that I could find it more quickly than you're going to be able to find it. The book of Joel is what is known as the minor prophets. They are minor not because they are off key, nor are they minor because they are shorter some of the other prophets, but they are shorter in their writings. So you have Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum near the end of the Old Testament. But in Joel's time, because the land had sinned and because the nation had to turn to God, he called what we call today and was called back there, I should say, a solemn assembly. It is an urging of all of God's people to get together and to fast and to pray and to seek God.

Notice what it says in chapter 1, verse 13. Gird yourselves with sackcloth and Lomanto priests. Wail all ministers of the altar. Come and spend the night in sackcloth, all ministers of my God, for the grain offering and the libation are withheld from the house of the Lord your God.

Consecrate a fast, proclaim a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord. What he's saying is there are times when we really need to seek God. We can't always be fasting.

We can't always be calling a solemn assembly. But there are times of great need when we need to meet God in a concentrated period of time and give him that time to work in our hearts. Now what I'd like to do in the next few moments is to invite you to look at Joel chapter 2, and very quickly we will delineate some of the benefits that come to us as a result of a time of fasting and praying. First of all, fasting is to produce a committed heart, a committed heart. Look at chapter 2, verse 12.

Yet even now, declares the Lord, return to me with all your heart. That's what fasting is supposed to do. It is to be a dying to self, a recognition that we are serious.

It is a time of sobriety, a time of understanding that we are coming to God and saying, God, whatever is in our hearts, show us what it is. You know why some of us are opposed to fasting, or we hold it at arm's length? It's because down deep within, we feel that if we were to fast, we would misuse it.

And there are ways to misuse the fast. Isaiah chapter 58 says very clearly, number one, there's the possibility of thinking that we can force God to do something that he doesn't want to do. And so there were those who fasted and said, well, God, why aren't you blessing us? We are fasting. And the Lord said, wait a moment, there is injustice among you.

You are not paying your employees properly. There are poor whom you are not helping. So don't fast and think that you can twist my arm to bless you if you are insincere, or you use it as a pretext to cover your sins as an excuse not to be holy.

So there's that possibility. The other possibility is to misuse it because we want to be thought of as more spiritual in the eyes of people. All of us have felt nausea at that man who stood up in the temple in prayer to pray and said, I thank the Lord that I am not like other men. And then he began to list all of his qualifications. And among them is he said, I fast twice a week. And when the Pharisees fasted, they oftentimes let people know that they were doing it by their long drawn face and the way in which they were, I am spiritual, I am fasting. God says, I do not delight in that kind of a fast.

Could I ask you a question today? When you think of the word holiness, what comes to mind? Is it someone with a sad face?

Is it someone with a long beard and sandals? What is holiness? Of course, we've been emphasizing in these messages the disciplines of the Christian life, but it's also important for us to realize that holiness means decisions. It means knowing the place of rules in the Christian life, how to have contact with the world without being contaminated with the world.

These are the kinds of issues I deal with in my book entitled Holy Living in an Unholy World. The subtitle is Balancing Love, Law, and Grace. For a gift of any amount, this book can be yours.

And I hope that you have time to get a pen or a pencil and write this information down. You can go to I'm going to be giving you that again,, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. And I want to thank you in advance for helping us here at Running to Win. We are greatly encouraged as we continue to expand this ministry because of people just like you. Ask for the book entitled Holy Living in an Unholy World.

And here's that info again, rtwoffer, and of course as you might know, rtwoffer is all one word,, or call us at 1-888-218-9337. It's time once again for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. In these economic times, being careful with our funds is crucial. Jeff got in touch with us at Running to Win to ask some advice on wise investments. He says, my question is on investing in worldly securities. I personally don't think we should invest any money into the world of stocks, bonds, and so on.

Would God want us to trust in man's promise of return? Many have lost their entire savings by doing so. Isn't it better to spend only the money that we need for ourselves and to spread the gospel and then trust God to take care of us?

Jeff, I admire your attitude, but I think that your thinking is a little bit skewed at certain points. First of all, you say that we shouldn't invest in worldly securities and a promise of return from man or from the world. But actually, if you invest in a bank, if you keep some money in the bank, you're also, of course, promised a rate of return from quote the people of the world. So I don't think that there is anything wrong with investing in quote worldly securities. What is wrong is gambling. Gambling is based on chance. There's nothing wrong with believing in a company. And so because you believe in the growth of the company and the reliability of the company to invest some money in it with a rate of return. As a matter of fact, Jesus told a parable about the need to invest in such a way that we have a rate of return.

You remember that parable. Furthermore, I think it is so important for us to realize that we should not, however, and this is where I certainly agree with you, we should not be investing more money than we can possibly use or money that might not be used or hoarding wealth. The Bible is against that because you're absolutely right, Jeff. We should use our money to support Christian ministries. There's enough money out there to support all the Christian ministries, to support missionaries, to do worldwide good work for the gospel. But these organizations are languishing. Not because there is no money, but because the money is in the banks and the securities and the retirement funds of Christians.

So on the one hand, yes, we can invest, but on the other hand, you're absolutely right. We should be generous and trust God. Thank you, Jeff. And thank you, Dr. Lutzer. If you'd like to hear your question answered, go to our website at and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer or call us at 1-888-218-9337.

That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. Some of the tough laps in life's race require the discipline of avoiding food, as our Lord did in the wilderness. Fasting, that's what Jesus needed.

Could you need it as well? Next time, tune in for more reasons not to fast, and the real reasons we should fast. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-28 03:49:41 / 2023-04-28 03:58:42 / 9

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