October 25, 2020
Our nation is in crisis. The hour is desperate. It’s time that the saints of the Lord Jesus Christ wake up and be called to serious prayer. Only believing, repenting prayer can hold back the floodtides of judgment and sin and release the cleansing power of Jesus Christ upon our personal lives and on America.
Many of us can’t remember what we prayed for this morning. We rattle off prayers that aren’t much more than, “Now I lay me down to sleep.” But now, prayer and fasting must become the order of the day.
I want to help you today to pray. I’m calling the church of God to prayer and repentance in a special way. Not ordinary prayer, but extraordinary prayer. I want you to learn how to pray in a way that can touch the heart of God. A prayer warrior is one of God’s most valuable servant-soldiers. Waging warfare-prayer is serious business.
Prayer is our greatest resource. God is our sure defense and hope. But God does bring judgment upon sin. God has a plan and His plan sometimes takes a long time to work out. As someone said, “The mills of God grind slowly but they grind exceedingly fine.”
At this time of crisis, how are we to pray?
The prophet Daniel prayed in a time of national calamity. Daniel had been reading the prophet Jeremiah, who foretold that God was going to bring the Babylonians against His people. They would go through an ordeal, but God would bring them back again into the land and restore them.
Daniel, one of the Bible’s greatest prayer warriors, humbled himself before God with prayer and fasting, “Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes” (Daniel 9:3).
Underscore that word “fasting.” Daniel “set his face” to pray. Have you ever set your face in prayer? Desperately sought the Lord? We need the faith and fervency of Daniel in our prayers if they are going to get to God. We’re playing church. Friend, we witness without tears. We pray without fasting. Is it any wonder we sow without reaping and have so little power in our lives?
Fasting helps us focus in earnest prayer. Fasting helps us pray with serious concentration. Jesus spoke of fasting in Matthew 6:16, "Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites…that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward" (Mathew 6:16).
Notice that Jesus didn’t say “If you fast,” but “When you fast.” He took it for granted we would fast, just as He assumed we would pray. We must fast and pray, not “to be seen of men,” but in seeking almighty God.
The 21st century church knows 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; some of Jesus’ sweetest times of fellowship were around the table. But we need to enter a serious season of prayer, accompanied by fasting.
Fasting is going without food and/or water or other pleasures for a spiritual purpose, not going without food to lose weight or for health purposes. It wouldn’t hurt us to do with less food for physical reasons, but fasting isn’t merely going hungry. In the Bible, fasting always has a spiritual purpose: prayer and fasting, watching and fasting, worshiping and fasting.
It’s possible to fast with the wrong motives.
Don’t fast to be seen of men, to show everyone how wonderful you are.
Don’t fast so God feels obligated to you. You can’t buy a blessing from God.
Don’t fast ritually. The tax collector who boasted he fasted twice a week hadn’t the foggiest notion what true spirituality is.
Don’t fast to be a religious recluse. New Testament Christianity doesn’t transform you into some sort of holy hermit.
Don’t fast to feed your ego. Don’t become prideful because you fast. Remember the Pharisee who said, “Lord, what a great guy I am. I fast twice a week.”
Fasting must be done unto the Lord. In Zechariah 7:5, God asks, “Are you really seeking Me?” Get your motive right. Your fast must be to seek Him with spiritual concentration.
“Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. (Joel 2:12)
There’s something about fasting that strengthens our prayers and shows our heart is in it.
"And you will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13).
Heaven seems to bend its ear down when we pray with fasting. We’re giving Heaven notice: 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, “Seek the face of God.”
It’s amazing how filled with self we are, and what a slave to the refrigerator. We don’t know how to say no to ourselves. We learn to say no to our self, our bodies, our appetites. We learn discipline.
If anyone was ever in trouble, it was the city of Nineveh! They were ripe for judgment. When the wrath, anger, and righteous judgment of God is ready to fall on a nation, what can they do?
"So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them" (Jonah 3:5).
As a result, "Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it" (Jonah 3:10).
If a nation earnestly fasts and prays, God will withhold judgment. He’s a God of righteousness and justice, but He had rather show mercy. In Jeremiah 18:7-8, God says that when He gets ready to judge a nation, if that nation will repent, He will turn from the judgment He had determined to send.
Fierce enemies were coming against King Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:3-4). He was filled with fear but set himself to seek the Lord. He proclaimed a fast throughout Judah. Did it do any good? Read verses 29-30:
And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries when they heard that the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel. Then the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around.
From imminent bloodshed and certain death to quiet and rest. Fasting and prayer do make a difference.
We’re in a cosmic battle today—not a battle against flesh and blood—but against principalities and powers. But prayer is a guided missile that can travel at the speed of light. No weapon can shoot it down. By prayer and fasting we can send that missile against the enemies of righteousness.
Do you want to know the will of God for your marriage, your business, your life? Do as the early church did in Acts 13. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit told them exactly what to do. The great missionary movement of the early church began with fasting and prayer. It grew so rapidly because they were serious in prayer. Iron gates began to yield and the gospel traveled across the Roman Empire.
"Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke?" (Isaiah 58:6).
People are bound by strongholds of fear, bitterness, resentment and addictions. Fasting can demolish the strongholds of Satan in our lives.
When you fast,
Set your face to seek the Lord.
If you don’t pray with confidence, you may as well not pray. You need to glance at your problem and gaze at your God. Daniel’s prayer is saturated with confidence in God. In Daniel 9:4, 7, 9, and 14, he speaks of God’s greatness, awe, power, righteousness, and mercy. It’s impossible to see who our great God is in a time of crisis and not want to pray. This is the God of greatness and mercy we can pray to.
We can look back to the shed blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and pray with confidence. We can come to God with our hands filled with the gold of His glory and the incense of His mighty name. Oh, the confidence we can have when we pray.
God is judging America because of our sin. People in America need to read these verses of Daniel’s powerful prayer. He confessed both personal and national sins, yet if you study his life, you can’t find any sin Daniel ever committed. We know he did, because “All have sinned,” but you won’t find one listed. He was a godly man. Nonetheless, he confessed his sin. We need to make sincere confession both of our personal sins and our national sins.
The question is not “when is the sinner going to confess his sin,” but “when is the church—when are we believers—going to confess our sins?” This is not a time for finger-pointing in America, but a time of repentance. We must confess our pride in materialism, our neglect of the poor. Our racism. Our sexual immorality. The merciless killing of the unborn. Godless humanism. Removal of God from our public square.
Often when we pray, it’s out of selfish concerns. We want God to heal America because we want an easy, cushy life for ourselves. But what was Daniel’s chief concern? In these two verses, we learn it was for God’s glory. His chief concern was God’s glory.
Why do you pray for revival? For your sake? Or for His sake—that He may be glorified? Our spiritual concern should be for the glory of God. When we begin to pray for His glory, God moves in.
Friend, these are desperate days. It is prayer time in America; time for me, you, every deacon, pastor, Sunday school teacher, every person in the pew, from every denomination, people who know God, whomever they be, to seek God’s face in prayer. We must set ourselves in prayer.
We'd love to give you the opportunity to pray to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord. You can do that here.