Going into Battle with a Knife and Fork
A prayer warrior is one of God’s most valuable servant/soldiers. Waging warfare in prayer is serious business, and we are not making light of it. But the thought of a knife and fork as weapons does bring a smile. Actually, it’s the laying down of the knife and fork that can facilitate the battle.
Perhaps the least favorite way for many Christians—maybe most of us—to enter a serious season of prayer is to do so with earnest prayer accompanied by fasting.
1. Turn to Philippians 4:6. Has this passage sometimes frustrated you?
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by ____________and _________________, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
When our Lord tells us not to be anxious, that goes against our nature, for there is always something we could easily be anxious about. We mumble, “Lord, don’t you realize how serious this issue is? Yes, I'm anxious.” Then we feel guilty for being anxious. But God hasn’t asked us to do anything He will not empower us to do. Let me repeat that: God will not ask us to do anything He will not empower us to do—if we humbly submit and say, “Lord I will give this to You. I'm depending totally on the Holy Spirit to empower me, moment by moment.”
A CLOSER LOOK AT “PRAYER” VS. “SUPPLICATION”
above mentions “prayer” and “supplication.” What is the difference? It
sounds as though God just said the same thing twice.
No, we’ve all experienced the difference. “Supplication” is earnest prayer, where you are on your knees and sometimes even on your face before God. “Supplication” is more than just causal “bless our food” or “now I lay me down to sleep” prayer. It’s earnest. We are totally focused.
Sometime due to a serious circumstance, or the drawing of the Holy Spirit, we feel compelled into a time of earnest prayer.
Fasting is one of the ways we focus in earnest prayer.
2. Turn to Daniel chapter 9 beginning with verse 2. If you want a study of one of the Bible’s greatest prayer warriors, study the lifestyle of Daniel.
3 Then I _____ ____ __________ toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and______________________, with _______________, sackcloth, and ashes. 4 And I prayed to the Lord my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments…”
3. How did Daniel approach the Lord God? He (v. 2) _______ his ________.
He approached with both prayer and _______________________________.
To that, he added fasting.
Fasting is not something that appeals to the “flesh”—to the “natural man.” It is true self denial. Those who have medical reasons that prevent them from fasting in the strictest sense need not feel any guilt about not being able to fast. For the rest of us, fasting is one of those “weapons of our warfare.”
As we covered in a previous “Digging Deeper” study on prayer,
“Many of us could not even remember what we prayed for this morning or last night. We rattle off prayers that don’t amount to much more than ‘Now I lay me down to sleep.’”
If you missed that previous study, we answered the question: Have you ever “set your face in prayer” like Daniel did? Have you ever desperately sought the Lord?
What were the circumstances? __________________________________________________________________________
The Faith and Fervency of Your Prayer
Prayer and fasting are the order of the day.
4. Look again at verse 3, “I set my face unto the Lord God to seek by prayer and supplications with fasting.” In your Bible underscore the phrase “with fasting.”
Was it just an Old Testament discipline?
Let’s see what the Lord Jesus had to say.
5. Turn to Matthew 6:5—
“When thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.”
In the time of Jesus, the religious leaders put on their long flowing robes and stood out on the street corners to be seen so people would say, “My, isn’t he a holy man?” Jesus said, “Don’t be like that. When you pray, enter into your closet and pray.”
6. Now turn to Matthew 6:16,
“Moreover, ________ ye _______, 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.”
Jesus assumed we would fast, just as He assumed we would pray.
But who did He not want us to be like? _________________________
We must fast and pray, not “to be seen of men,” but with the right motivation: seeking almighty God.
The church of the 21st century knows very little about fasting. One man said, “We’ve gone from the upper room to the supper room.” I’m not against fellowship or church suppers. Jesus had some of His sweetest times of fellowship around the table. But what do we know about fasting? What is fasting?
Fasting is going without food and/or water and other pleasures for a spiritual purpose. Fasting is not merely cutting down on food or going without food to lose weight or for health purposes. Now it wouldn’t hurt us to do without some food for physical reasons, but that’s not what fasting is. Fasting is not merely going hungry. The Bible always links fasting with spiritual purposes. For example, watching and fasting, prayer and fasting, worshipping and fasting.
Why do we fast?
The “why” is as important as the “what.” It’s possible, as Jesus taught, to fast for the wrong motivations. Here are some things to avoid.
a. Avoid exhibitionism. Jesus said there were some who fasted to be seen of men. Don’t be ashamed of the fact that you fast, but don’t fast for exhibitionism, to tell everyone how wonderful you are that you fast.
b. Avoid legalism. Don’t get the idea that you can buy a blessing from God…that if you fast, somehow God is obligated to you. You become a legalist with a slot-machine religion.
c. Avoid ritualism. Don’t fast as a ritual. Some people fast ritualistically. Jesus told about a tax collector in the Bible who boasted to the Lord that he fasted twice a week. But Jesus indicated this man has not the foggiest notion about what real spiritual religion is.
d. Avoid asceticism. The devil would like to make you some sort of a religious recluse, a person who constantly goes off in a cave to fast. That’s not biblical. New Testament Christianity doesn’t transform you into some sort of a holy hermit.
e. Avoid egotism. Don’t get swelled with pride because you fast. Remember, the Pharisee said, “Lord, what a great guy I am. I fast twice a week.” Fasting must be done unto the Lord.
7. Turn to Zechariah 7:5:
“Speak unto all the people of the land and to the priests saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto ___, even unto ___?”
God is saying, “Now look, priests and people, you fasted, but did you fast unto Me? Were you really seeking Me?” Get your motive right. Your fast must be unto the Lord. seeking Him with spiritual concentration.
What will fasting do?
Six things that fasting will do:
1. Fasting will strengthen your prayer.
Turn to Joel 2:12,
“Therefore also now saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart and with fasting and with weeping and with mourning.”
We turn to God with “all _____ _________,” turn to God with all of your heart. Fasting shows we have put our heart into it.
“And ye shall seek Me and find Me when ye shall search for Me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13.
There’s something about fasting that strengthens our prayer. Heaven seems to bend its ear down when we pray with fasting. When we fast, we’re giving Heaven notice that we mean business. Fasting brings faith into focus. It’s like having a spiritual string tied around your finger and every hunger pang reminds you that you’re to seek the face of God.
2. Fasting subdues self.
Turn to Ezekiel 16:49.
“Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, ____________, fullness of ______________ and abundance of____________________.”
Many of us would be amazed at how selfish we are, how filled with self, and what a slave to the refrigerator. We don’t know how to say no to ourselves. The Bible links pride with “fullness of bread” and “abundance of idleness.” Do we know how to say no to self, to our bodies, to our appetites? Do we know anything about discipline?
3. Fasting stays the judgment of God.
Look at Jonah 3:5. If anyone has ever been in trouble, it was the town of Nineveh! The Ninevite culture was a stench in the nostrils of God. They were ripe for judgment. Sometimes the wrath, anger, and righteous judgment of God is ready to fall upon a nation. What can be done?
“So the people of Nineveh believed God and __________________ a ______ and put sackcloth from the greatest of them even to the least of them.”
Nineveh repented with fasting. Then see what happenes: (v. 10 of chapter 3)
“And God saw their works that they turned from their evil way and God repented of the evil that He said He would do unto them and He _____ ____ _____.”
Why? Fasting and earnest prayer by a nation stays judgment. If that nation will fast and pray, God will withhold His judgment.
God is a God of righteousness, judgment, and justice, but—as we’ve seen before—God had rather show mercy than send judgment.
Turn to Jeremiah 18:7-8.
“At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom to pluck up and pull down and destroy it; If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.”
God is not speaking only of Israel but of nations in general. God says, “When I get ready to judge a nation, if that nation will repent, then I will turn from the judgment that I had determined to send.”
4. Fasting stops God’s enemies.
Turn to 2 Chronicles 20:3-4. King Jehosaphat had some ungodly enemies who were coming against him, and he was filled with fear.
“And Jehosaphat feared and set himself to ________ the _________ and proclaim a __________ throughout all Judah. And Judah gathered themselves together to ask help of the Lord, even out all of those cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.”
Did this effort do any good? Fast-forward to verse 29:
“And the _________ of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries [that came against Jehosaphat] when they had heard that _____ _________ fought against the enemies of Israel. So the realm of Jehosaphat was ________, for God gave him _________ round about.”
From imminent bloodshed and certain death to quiet and rest! Fasting and prayer do make a difference!
We’re in a cosmic battle. Not a battle against flesh and blood. We’re in a battle against principalities and powers. But prayer is an intercontinental missile that travels at the speed of light. No weapon can shoot it down. With prayer and fasting we can send that missile against the enemies of righteousness.
5. Fasting seeks guidance.
Do you want to know the will of God for your marriage, your business, your life?
What did the early church do? Turn to Acts 13:2.
“And as they __________________ to the Lord and ___________, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I’ve called them.”
The great missionary movement of the early church began with fasting and prayer.
Have you ever wondered why the early church grew as rapidly as it did? They were serious in prayer. When they fasted and prayed, iron gates began to yield and the gospel went across that Roman Empire.
6. Fasting shatters strongholds.
Read Isaiah 58:6—
“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens and to let the oppressed go free? And that ye ____________ every ___________.”
People have strongholds in their lives of fear, bitterness, resentment and habits. Fasting can demolish the stronghold the enemy has put into our lives.
How should we fast?
1. Examine your motivation. Ask God about it. Not because someone asks you to do it, not out of legalism.
2. Prayerfully choose your own fast. As you study the Bible about fasting, it gives no rules. It doesn’t say when to start, when to stop, what to do, and what not to do.
3. Avoid extremism. A one-day fast is a good start. Don’t say, “I’m going to fast for forty days and forty nights.” Why don’t you just try one day? Choose a day when you can give yourself to seeking the Lord.
4. Remember that fasting is more than going hungry; it is linked with prayer, worship and spiritual exercise.
5. A normal fast is doing without food but normally taking water. Some people for medical reasons cannot abstain from food but must eat fairly regularly. They might try a “Daniel” fast. Daniel and his friends were not “fasting” per se, but they asked and were granted permission from the king’s steward to have only vegetables and water for a time. They abstained from the rich meats and exotic dishes at the king’s table and dined only on simple vegetables and water. You may deny yourself something you would normally have, doing so as a fast unto the Lord for a spiritual reason. It is common sense that if you’re on medication, if you’re pregnant, if you have particular problems, talk to your doctor about this and get his advice and permission.
6. When you break your fast, break it by eating lightly, perhaps a salad or something else light.
7. Above all, avoid bragging about fasting. Then you become like the Pharisee Jesus described. You will have voided your purpose and focus.
The words of this song from years ago come to mind:
Are there any rivers that seem to be uncross-able?
Are there any mountains you cannot tunnel through?
God specializes in things that seem impossible.
He knows a thousand ways to make a way for you.
Set your face to seek the Lord.
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