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Fasting

Winning Combination

“But this kind of demon is cast out only through prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21)

Some things just belong together. Macaroni and cheese, a hammer and nail, Scooby-Doo and Shaggy, a right uppercut and a left jab—they just go together.

In the spiritual realm, fasting and prayer go together. We see fasting and prayer used together repeatedly in the Scriptures:

  • “So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer” (Ezra 8:23).
  • “Jehoshaphat was terrified…and begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting” (2 Chronicles 20:3).
  • “Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:3).
  • “She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day (Luke 2:37).

When people really seek God, they pray AND they fast. We see it in the Old Testament and the New Testament. And we hear it from the mouth of Jesus.

Jesus affirmed the value of the one-two punch of fasting and prayer. In Matthew 17, we read about a desperate father who brought his son to Jesus. The son had seizures and often threw himself into the fire or into the river. Many commentaries on this story suggest the son had epilepsy and was also tormented by an evil, suicidal spirit.

The father brought the son to the disciples, but the disciples couldn’t cure him. The father then went straight to Jesus. He asked Jesus for compassion, healing, and deliverance, and Jesus took action: “Then Jesus rebuked the demon and it came out of him, and the boy was instantly healed!” (Matthew 17:18). In an instant, the boy was miraculously delivered from the demon and completely healed from the seizures. Incredible!

But why couldn’t the disciples cast out the demon? Why couldn’t they bring healing to the boy?

The disciples asked the same question of Jesus. Jesus said they needed faith, but faith wasn’t all they needed. Jesus also told the disciples that some spiritual battles are won only through prayer and fasting.

In boxing, a right uppercut, left hook combo is a winning combination that can defeat an opponent. When we’re facing fierce spiritual warfare, fasting and prayer is the winning combination we need to defeat our enemy. Fasting and prayer is a one-two punch that brings breakthrough and victory.

This isn’t a time to play Christian on Sunday and ignore God the rest of the week. There’s too much at stake. It’s time to fight for our marriages, our children, freedom from addictions, financial breakthrough, physical healing, and these battles are won through prayer and fasting.

Do you desperately need resolution to a seemingly impossible situation? Involve God in your situation with the one-two punch of fasting and prayer. When you face daunting battles, remember Jesus’s words to his disciples. He said with faith, fasting, and prayer, “nothing will be impossible for you.”

Dear God, you are gracious and compassionate. You are rich in love and kindness. I need you in my life today. I need your peace, deliverance, and breakthrough in my life and in my family. You are Lord over every situation. You are all powerful. Cover me with your presence. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Today’s Reading: Matthew 17:14-21

The FWC devotionals are moving to a five day per week format, Monday through Friday. Look for the next devotion on Monday, August 17. Have a great weekend!

Categories
prayer

Shameless Persistence

Tempted to quit praying? Don’t!

“But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.” (Luke 11:8)

Right after Jesus shared the Lord’s Prayer with his disciples, he followed up with a story teaching them more about prayer.

Jesus told of a man who went to a friend’s house at midnight and asked to borrow three loaves of bread because he had an unexpected visitor and had no bread to offer him. This was a serious problem. The honor of the man with the visitorthe honor of the entire villagerequired bread to be offered to the guest.

In spite of the urgent need, the friend hollered, “Leave me alone! We’re all in bed!”

Jesus knew his audience would be appalled at the friend’s answer. Regardless of the time of day, hospitality must be extended. The neighbor wouldn’t bring shame upon the man, himself, and their village by refusing to get up and get bread.

Jesus said if the friend wouldn’t get up and give the man bread because of their friendship, he would do it if the man was shamelessly persistent.

If a worldly, human friend would eventually answer the man’s request for bread, how much more will God answer our requests when we pray?

Because God loves us, we can feel confident praying about any need, any time, as often as we wish. We don’t need to think we are annoying God, or that God gets tired of hearing our petitions. On the contrary, God is never asleep, never without resources, and always listening to our prayers.

Luke 11:9 says, “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.” The answer we are seeking may not arrive on our preferred schedule, but it will arrive. While we wait, we are encouraged to keep bringing our needs to our Father in heaven, with persistence and without shame. Persistence in prayer is the result of having faith in the love and goodness of our Father.

Jesus finishes his teaching on prayer with this question: “You fathers—if your children ask you for a fish, do you give them a snake? If they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? (Luke 11:11).

Of course, we wouldn’t. We give our children the best food we can when they’re hungry. When they’re sad, we wrap our arms around them, and when they’re hurt, we bandage their wounds. And sometimes, if they ask us for a scorpion, we say no and give them an egg instead, because one will destroy them and the other will nourish them. How much more will our heavenly Father do the same for us?

Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me and forgiving me. Thank you for hearing me when I pray and loving me enough to give me the answer that is best for my life. Help me be shamelessly persistent in prayer. Build my faith daily. Make me more and more like you. In Jesus’s name, amen.

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Categories
prayer

The Ingredients of Prayer

“Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray…’” (Luke 11:1)

A few years ago, we started celebrating Fridays by making chocolate lava cakes every Friday night. We called them, “Friday Night Cakes,” and they were gooey and sweet and delicious. They were also surprisingly easy to make, only requiring five ingredients. We stirred up the ingredients, put it in the oven, and waited. Eventually, the oven turned those ingredients into a chocolate masterpiece.

We did our part by putting the ingredients together. The oven did its part by turning those ingredients into a cake.

In Luke 11, Jesus gave us the recipe for prayer. Like the Friday Night Cake, the recipe for prayer has five ingredients. When we pray, we put these ingredients together. Then we hand them over to God and we wait. God turns those ingredients into healing, deliverance, freedom, mended relationships, and so much more.

We do our part by putting the ingredients together in prayer. God does his part by turning those ingredients into transformation in our lives.

Interested in knowing the ingredients? They’re taken from the Lord’s Prayer found in Luke 11:1-4. Here they are:

  • Give God Praise and Adoration: “Your name is holy.” God is worthy of praise, regardless of our circumstances. When we exalt God even in the middle of our mess, we bring vision and order into our lives.
  • Seek God’s Will: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done.” For prayer to be effective, it has to line up with the will of God instead reflecting our own selfish desires. These two questions help us align our prayers with God’s will: “God, what do you want to do on earth? What do you want to do in my life?”
  • Put Your Needs in God’s Hands: “Give us day by day our daily bread.” God promises to meet all our needs. Whatever we’re facing, God has a promise for it. He cares about our needs and wants to carry our worries for us, but we have to put them in his hands.
  • Forgive: “For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.” Just like sugar sweetens a Friday Night Cake, forgiving others sweetens our lives. We may be super awesome, but we certainly aren’t perfect. We all need forgiveness, and we are all called to freely forgive others. There’s a sweet freedom to be found in forgiving.
  • Ask for Guidance: “Do not lead us into temptation.” Why depend on our own puny intellect when we have access to the infinite wisdom of an all-knowing God? Ask God for guidance, next steps, and direction. If we ask, he will give us the specific answer we need at the exact time we need it.

You have probably heard somebody say, “Prayer changes things,” and that’s true. But prayer doesn’t just change things; thankfully, prayer also changes people. Prayer changes us. Prayer connects us to God. As we continue in prayer, we grow to know God better and he continues to work in our lives. Through the power of prayer, we are gloriously transformed.

Father, I give you honor and praise. I long for your kingdom to come and your will to be done. What do you want to do in the world? What do you want to do in my life? Meet my needs and the needs of my family. Help me be forgiving and lead me in the way you want me to go. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
prayer

How’s Your View?

What picture comes into your mind when you think of God?

“If any want to boast they should boast that they know and understand me…” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

Our understanding of God affects our actions, opinions, and decisions. It influences everything we do.

In his book, The Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer discussed the significance of our view of God. “What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” He went on to use the foundation of a building to explain the importance of having a correct view of God: “Where [the foundation] is inadequate or out of plumb, the whole structure must sooner or later collapse.”

So, how do we view God? Many people view God as a genie, who exists to grant wishes. Others see him as a judge, ready to mete out wrath and punishment for any wrongdoing. Still another view is that God is a distant cosmic force who doesn’t get involved in day-to-day events.

Our view of God is particularly important when we pray. How we approach God in prayer is largely shaped by our view of him. In Luke 11:2, Jesus presented a new view of God. When he taught his followers (that includes us) to pray, he said to address God as “our father in heaven.”

This was a new paradigm, a new view of who God is.

People in the Old Testament couldn’t see God’s goodness clearly because their vision was blocked by their sin. They had to continuously offer sacrifices and observe rituals to stay OK with God, but the sinful nature of their hearts never changed.

Thank God, things are different now. Now, because of the cross, our hearts can be changed and our spiritual eyes opened. We are able to see God’s grace, mercy, and love clearly. We are blessed to see the truth, that God is a loving and kind father who works for what is best for his children.

God isn’t angry with us, filled with wrath, eagerly anticipating an opportunity to punish someone. His wrath was poured out on the cross. It was directed at the sin that separated him from his children, whom he dearly loves. A. W. Tozer said it like this: “The Cross is the lightning rod of grace that short-circuited God’s wrath to Christ so that only the light of His love remains for believers.

John 3:16 tells us the story in just a few words: “For God loved this world so much that he gave his only son…” He did that for us, when we were covered in sin and transgressions. He did it because he loves us as a perfect father loves his children. Earthly fathers vary greatly on how well or how poorly they love their children. God’s love isn’t like that. He loves each of us perfectly.

When you pray, remember you’re praying to a God who loves you dearly. He wrote you a love letter on a cross 2,000 years ago. He treasures you. You can approach him in prayer with confidence, knowing you are praying to your heavenly father…and he loves you like crazy!

Our father in heaven, reveal who you are. Set the world right. Do what’s best—as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the devil. You’re in charge. You can do anything you want. You’re ablaze in beauty. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
Fasting

Battlefield Strategy

“Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting.” (2 Chronicles 20:3)

Sometimes the mess we’re facing is so daunting and so confusing that we really don’t know what to do next. What does this lab result mean for my future? How will I ever get back to work with this economy? All three kids are throwing up—what do I do with that? There are times when we face too many problems at the same time and every path we consider seems to lead to despair and defeat.

In 2 Chronicles, chapter 20, King Jehoshaphat found himself in just such a situation.

Even though Jehoshaphat was serving God, disaster threatened in the form of two powerful enemy armies on their way to attack and destroy the nation of Judah.

Jehospaphat was terrified.

But he didn’t run. He didn’t hide. He didn’t order his warriors to ready their weapons and oil up the chariots.

His first action was to pray. His second action was to call the nation to a fast.

Prayer and fasting are the best possible actions to take when we are facing an attack, a battle, or a decision and we don’t know what to do. Fasting and prayer bring direction and guidance. We stand in the gap for our children and grandchildren through prayer and fasting.

And we impact our communities and nation through prayer and fasting. I love that in this time of extreme challenges in our country, churches throughout the nation are calling their people to pray, fast, and seek God, just like Jehoshaphat.

Oh, yes, what happened to Jehoshaphat? Did the enemy destroy Judah?

Judah was most definitely NOT destroyed by the enemy armies. On the contrary, they didn’t even fight. They actually sang their way to victory! As the singers began to praise, the enemy starting fighting among themselves until not one of them was left to attack Judah. True story.

It’s really cool that the Bible tells us the words to the song they sang, a song of faith birthed through prayer and fasting: “Give thanks to the Lord, for his faithful love endures forever!”

When we’re facing a battle, what should our battlefield strategy be? How about this: First, pray. Second, fast. And, finally, sing praise to the Lord for his faithful love endures forever!

Lord, thank you for being a God who battles for me. Though I see so many problems, both in my life and in my nation, I know you are in control. Honor my prayer and fasting as I seek your power and wisdom for the needs of my country, my community, and my family. I praise you, Lord, now and forever. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Today’s Reading: 2 Chronicles 20:1-30

Categories
Fasting

Step Boldly into Your Calling

“Then Jesus, armed with the Holy Spirit’s power, returned to Galilee and his fame spread throughout the region. He taught in the synagogues and they glorified him.” (Luke 4:14-15)

Jesus spent 40 days fasting and praying in the wilderness. At the end of the fast, Satan tried to lure him into sin, but Jesus stood strong. Luke 4:14 tells us Jesus left the wilderness armed with the Holy Spirit’s power.

Jesus headed to his hometown, Nazareth. The people in Nazareth were familiar with Jesus and his family. They knew Jesus when he was a baby, when he got in trouble with his parents, and when he argued with his brother. They had watched as he grew up.

On the Sabbath, Jesus went to the synagogue. Jesus stood up to read, the normal procedure for reading at the synagogue. The rabbi handed him the scroll of Isaiah to read to the congregation—also, normal. Jesus knew exactly the Scripture he wanted to read: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, and he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted, and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.” The people must have sensed something different about this reading, because all eyes were fixed on Jesus.

It was normal for a teacher to stand up to read and sit back down to teach. As the people watched, Jesus followed the normal protocol. He rolled up the scroll. He handed it back to the rabbi. He sat down. The people were on the edges of their seats, wondering what Jesus would say about what he just read to them.

Imagine how stunned they were when Jesus said, “These Scriptures came true today right in front of you.” And, just like that, normal flew out the window. Things would never be normal again.

Can’t you just imagine their thoughts? “Oh, snap! Did Jesus just claim he was the Messiah? Mary’s boy?

No one expected those words to come out of Jesus’s mouth. What they didn’t realize was that Mary and Joseph’s “boy” had just spent 40 days and nights fasting and praying in the wilderness. Because of this, he wrestled with Satan and won, he was armed with the power of the Holy Spirit, and he was ready to tell everyone who he was and what he was called to do. Game on!

The Messiah, the chosen one sent by God, the anointed redeemer of mankind publicly revealed his calling and purpose—when? Yes…right after he fasted!

Friend, we’re not the Messiah but we are purposefully called and powerfully anointed. God deliberately put us in this particular place at this precise time for a specific purpose. Fasting and prayer puts us in tune with God’s purpose for our lives. It empowers and strengthens us to walk boldly into that which God has called us to do.

Dear Father, I humble myself before you. I want to draw closer to you. Give me power and strength as I fast and pray. Help me be more concerned about your plan for my life than about my own plans or desires. Direct my steps. Help me to boldly live out the purpose and calling you have for my life. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Categories
Fasting

Why Should I Fast?

“It was then the devil said to him, ‘If you are really the Son of God, command this stone to turn into a loaf of bread for you.” (Luke 4:3)

Why do Christians fast? What makes fasting and prayer so vitally important? Fasting brings many benefits into our lives. Today, let’s talk about one of them: Fasting brings victory over temptation.

Right after Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit led him into the wilderness. He fasted and prayed there for 40 days. When Jesus finished his 40-day fast, the Bible says he was “very hungry.” That sounds like an understatement to me. I’m sure he was completely famished, and also physically weak and fatigued. It was at this precise moment Satan chose to tempt Jesus.

Satan’s logic seems flawless. He must have thought, “Jesus is the Son of God, but he’s just spent 40 days and nights alone in the wilderness without any company or anything to eat. I bet I can tempt him to misuse his power to fill his belly with bread.”

Satan may have had good logic, but he had a poor understanding of the spiritual strength that results from fasting. Jesus said, I will not,” and he supported his answer by quoting Scripture to Satan.

Satan didn’t give up after his first failure. He tried twice more. Those three temptations tested Jesus’s flesh (“turn these stones into bread”), his ego (“perform an impressive miracle”), and his materialism (“I’ll give you kingdoms and wealth”). Jesus refused all three of Satan’s temptations by using Scripture and by the spiritual strength he received during his fast.

We find ourselves battling against these same three types of temptation today. We’re tempted to give into our body’s appetites and desires. We’re drawn into sin because of our pride, ego, and desire to look important. And we’re still tempted to put money, power, and wealth ahead of God’s kingdom.

Romans 7:19 describes our situation perfectly: “For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.” We can all identify with this dilemma. We know to do good, we want to do good, but we still sometimes end up doing the very thing we know we should not do. In our own strength, we are no match for temptation.

How do we say, “I will not,” to temptation? We pray, and we fast.

Luke 4:14 says after Jesus fasted, he was “…armed with the Holy Spirit’s power…” Jesus spent the extra time in prayer and submitted his body to the discipline of fasting. As a result, he was armed with the power of the Holy Spirit. He was ready for the fight. Jesus understood the power that results from devoting ourselves to fasting and prayer. He’s our model, our example. Just as fasting brought power to Jesus, fasting gives us the power to shout an emphatic, “I will not!” to temptation. And that’s a really good reason to fast.

Dear God, thank you for this day. Use it for your glory. Lord, direct my heart as I consider fasting. I know there are deeper spiritual levels for me to reach and greater spiritual power for me to access. Help me understand the role of fasting in my journey. Let me honor you in everything I do. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Today’s Reading: Luke 4:1-15

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The Power of Words

Speak Up!

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“We must say what is true and say it with love. In that way we will grow up in all things to be like Christ, who is the head of this body.” (Ephesians 4:15)

Have you ever looked at a problematic situation and thought, “Why doesn’t someone do something about this?” If so, you understand how Nehemiah felt when he heard that the walls around Jerusalem were broken and burned, leaving the city vulnerable to attack from its enemies. Nehemiah wept, cried out to God in repentance, and implored God to allow him to repair the walls.

Nehemiah wasn’t a priest or a prophet. He lived 800 miles away in Persia. He had a secular job, cupbearer to the king. What could he do to change the condition of the walls around Jerusalem?

For four months, Nehemiah wept and prayed. One day, the king noticed Nehemiah’s sadness and asked him about it.

The question terrified Nehemiah. The king could have him fired or executed. Did he dare tell the king what was on his heart? Did he really want to leave his comfortable position and face the dangers and unknown challenges in Jerusalem?

Nehemiah didn’t stay silent. He chose to speak up.

Amazingly, the king granted Nehemiah’s request to travel to Judah and rebuild the walls. The project was riddled with opposition, attacks, and difficulty. Nehemiah never wavered. The walls of Jerusalem were rebuilt, and the people in the city turned their hearts steadfastly toward God—all because Nehemiah had a heart for God’s holy city and the courage to speak up.

We know what happened when Nehemiah spoke up back then. We see it demonstrated then, and we must live it now.

Three things to remember about speaking up:

  1. Open your heart to needs around you. Nehemiah didn’t ignore the condition of Jerusalem. He didn’t expect someone else to take care of it. He opened his heart and wanted to be the one who made a difference.
  2. Pray up before you speak up. Nehemiah approached the king from a prayed-up position. He diligently sought God’s help in fixing the problem.
  3. Choose the right time. Nehemiah waited four months for the right time to tell the king about his desire to go to Judah and repair the walls. And when God provided an opening, Nehemiah said a quick prayer, and then spoke up.
  4. Speak up to add value. We don’t speak up just to hear ourselves talk. Or to make sure everyone knows our opinion. Or for the fun of winning an argument. We speak up to spread light in the world, to bring glory to God, and to add value to people. We speak up to change someone’s life for the better.

The world can sometimes make us feel uncomfortable about speaking up. That was true in Bible times, all through history, and is still true for us today. There are times when silence and listening is a good choice. But there are also times when we must stand up straight, put on our courage, and speak up—telling the truth with kindness and love. Our voice can be a catalyst for change, a cry for peace, and a beacon of truth. Pray up. And, at the right time, speak up.

Heavenly Father, Forgive me for the times when I should have listened but talked instead, and for the times when I should have spoken up but didn’t. I ask for your wisdom in the words I speak. I ask for discernment in knowing when to listen and learn, and when to speak up and add value. Thank you for your forgiveness, your mercy, and your constant presence. Let my words glorify you. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Join the conversation! How do you decide when to speak up?