2 Chronicles 7:14 (NKJV) says, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” There is no other discipline in the Bible that better fulfills all of the requirements set out in this verse than fasting. As a result of that, God promises that He will hear our cries, will forgive our sin, and heal our land. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like what we desperately need today.
And yet, we don’t fast much. We don’t even talk about fasting much. But in Numbers 29, God proclaims a fast one day out of the year for the Day of Atonement — a day of humbling oneself, seeking God’s forgiveness and healing. In 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast because a mighty army from Moab and Ammon came together against Judah. He was afraid. He knew that he needed God’s help. So all of Judah came together to seek help from God. As a result, God heard their prayers and in verses 16-17 said, Go down against them, but you won’t need to fight. Just stand and watch the salvation of the Lord on your behalf. Don’t be afraid. God answered their prayers.
In Ezra 10, we read that Ezra fasted over the unfaithfulness of the exiles to God. They held a holy convocation in Jerusalem. And in a pouring rain they gathered and listened to the man of God, and God’s Spirit brought conviction and power and change to the people’s lives. In Nehemiah 9, the people of Israel assembled themselves with fasting and in sackcloth. They separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the sins of their fathers. For 1/4th of the day they listened to the word of God read, and for 1/4th of the day they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God. At the end of it all, the people of Israel made a new commitment to the Lord. That sounds to me like what we desperately need today. In the book of Jonah, the entire city of Nineveh faced destruction at the hands of God because of their wickedness. When they heard Jonah’s message, the power of God’s Spirit came upon them, they called a fast, put on sackcloth, humbled themselves before God and repented of their sin. God forgave them. Judgment was averted.
You say, “Preacherman, that’s all Old Testament.” Okay, then. John the Baptist fasted. Jesus fasted. The apostle Paul fasted. The early church fasted, and we know the results of those fasts. Listen to me. We could spend hours talking about biblical examples of fasting, Old and New Testament. All I know is what I read in God’s Word, and as I read example after example of fasting, there begins to emerge a principle. It answers the question that perhaps some of you are asking: Why should I fast? I’ll tell you. You and I need to fast because we want God to do something great. Because we want Him to purify our motives and our enthusiasm. Because we are desperate for God to do something supernatural in our lives, in our ministry here, and in our nation. And the fact is, the length of our fast should be determined by the magnitude of that desperation.
And the church ought to be desperate today. Like the church at Ephesus in Rev. 2, we have left our first love. Our love for God isn’t what it used to be, and because of that, the church in general is sorely divided. Instead of being an oasis in the middle of the desert and a haven of rest for those who are spiritually weary, our churches have become battle zones for the spiritually carnal. And my friends, God is not pleased with division within His family.
The church ought to be desperate today because of the image we are portraying to the world. We are supposed to be the salt and the light. We are supposed to influence our morally bankrupt society. Instead, many Christians have lost their savor and are leaving a bad taste in the mouth of society. Instead of portraying the image that we are more than conquerors, Christians are struggling to survive in the world and are not working to preserve it. When some are confronted with the world’s conditions and the call to Christian action, many just say, “Jesus said it’s going to get worse, so why worry about it?” Instead of being motivated to help spread the gospel and share their faith, they live for the rapture, for the great escape.
The church ought to be desperate for God to work in our midst, but know this. God’s response to our cries for help comes as a sovereign act of God as the result of His people meeting His conditions by responding to the Holy Spirit. Do you know what that response is? Revival! Revival is God’s answer to sincere, prevailing prayer. Revival is bringing to life that which was dead, and when God sends revival, He will grip His people with deep conviction, repentance, forgiveness, and deliverance from personal sins. God will fill His people with the Holy Spirit and will manifest in them the fruit and grace of the Holy Spirit. God will fill the church and community with His presence and power. God will ignite in His people a passion to bring the lost to Christ. God will cause the lost to earnestly seek Him. That’s what God will do in revival, but we must catch the vision of God’s call to revival. We must heed the call to repentance, fasting and prayer. Before God will hear from heaven, forgive our sin, and heal our land, believers must humble themselves and seek His face in fasting and prayer. And when we do, God will send a spiritual awakening as His people obey His call and yield themselves in repentance to the Spirit of God. As the psalmist says, a broken and contrite heart will always find favor with God.