What Happened When We Added Fasting to Our Prayers?

Robert Webster

Robert Webster

By Robert Webster –

What if I told you that every major figure in the Bible actively practiced the discipline of prayer and fasting as a part of their life of faith? Furthermore, what if I could show you that Jesus “expected” his disciples to add fasting to their prayers, consistently and constantly? And how about if I said to you that there are spiritual breakthroughs that only come through prayer and fasting? Would you be interested in giving up a few meals during your weekly routine to achieve that spiritual level of maturity in your own life?

These are a few of the questions that we have been confronted with at Ashland City United Methodist Church in recent days. After discussions (and some apprehensions), we decided to start the calendar year with a program entitled “21 Days of Prayer, Fasting, and Discernment.” From January 6-26 we committed to consecrate time apart to the Lord in our praying and fasting. Materials were presented about the different levels of fasting in the Old and New Testaments and individuals were encouraged to enter into this spiritual discipline for the glory of God. Some chose to do a Daniel Fast where participants could eat certain types of foods and others did a juice fast where they did without breakfast and lunch each day.

Additionally, I took the opportunity to preach a three-week sermon series: First, “Fasting and the Appearing of God” (Daniel 10.1-21); second, “Methodists and Fasting” (I Cor 9.24-27); and third, “The Healing Jesus” (Mark 1.40-45).

People in worship were also given a handout on the first Sunday of the emphasis and asked to list three situations, circumstances, or people that they yearned for God to touch in a special way and lay them at the altar during the close of the service. Those items were prayed over during the three weeks in worship and also at prayer gatherings in the church.

In these 21 days we have seen amazing and even miraculous”things happen in the faith and life of the congregation. At one level, people have come to a basic understanding that they needed to treat their bodies more respectively and have found in fasting a way to overcome their addiction to food. At another level, people who have confessed they “did not feel like praying” declared now they have a desire to pray all the time — in the morning, at work, in school, and in the evening.

Ashland City UM Church also saw an influx of people visiting the church during this period as well. They seemed attracted to the church and interested in our dedicating three weeks to a time of prayer, fasting, and discernment. We also saw two individuals come to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives! One girl who we had been lifting up in our prayer ministry accepted Christ as Lord and left her lesbian lifestyle.  Another man accepted Christ as Savior during one of our worship services. Tragically, the very next day this man’s son was shot and killed in an accident. Many in the congregation were vividly reminded of the words of our Lord: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10.10 NRSV).

This father has told me many times if he had not accepted Christ as Lord he does not know what he would have done with the loss of his son in this way.  Additionally, individuals have shared the opening of opportunities to witness to their faith in a variety of relationships and circumstances.  So many times we have exhibited the desire to give witness about our faith but we have not been awakened to the circumstance that needed the name of Jesus spoken into it.  When people added fasting to their prayers they also confessed, “it just seemed easier” to talk to others about their faith in Jesus Christ.

Even after the official “fasting” time was completed we have seen God do miraculous things. One particular case was that of a young child who had developed two brain tumors. The doctors told the family that their son had a zero percent chance survival if he did not have surgery but only a 10 percent chance of success if he did. After a hole was surgically drilled in the child’s head, a tumor that was wrapped around a coil of a brain stem released and “jumped out” onto the operating table with no assistance from the surgeon. The medical professionals called it a “miracle” and admitted they had never witnessed anything like it in their practice.

Throughout the Scriptures and in the history of the Judeo-Christian faith, fasting has been a means of grace that God has honored in powerful ways.  Not only does the Scripture indicate that the disciples of Jesus were “expected” to fast and pray but throughout Christian history there have been various groups that have experienced miraculous breakthroughs that were traced to their faithfulness to this ancient spiritual practice.  One of the most encouraging things is that people in the church now expect the divine presence of the Lord to appear repeatedly throughout this year.  We are sensing God’s presence in new and fresh ways!

Robert Webster is the lead minister of Ashland City United Methodist Church in Ashland City, Tennessee, and also teaches United Methodist Studies at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. Dr. Webster holds a D. Phil. degree from Oxford University and his book entitled Methodism and the Miraculous is soon to be published by Emeth Publishers. Dr Webster also teaches seminars on the power of prayer and fasting in the Christian life.

 

Speak Your Mind

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.