Many churches focus on prayer in various ways at the beginning of the year. Some churches worldwide have a worship and prayer meeting on New Year's Eve. While I was in seminary, my former pastor always preached on prayer on the first Sunday in January. There is also a ministry called Christian Union that encourages people to pray and fast every January. They have a variety of resources to encourage Christians in that endeavor.
All Christians say they pray to some degree, but most do not fast. Yet, it seems to be expected by Jesus. In Matthew 6:16-17, the Lord says, “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites… But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face.” Jesus does not say if you fast, but he says when you fast. It is assumed that fasting is something you do and people have done it throughout history for a variety of reasons.
We often see fasting in our study of Acts. This Sunday we will dive into Acts 13:2-3, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then after fasting and praying, they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” While seeking the Lord for direction in ministry, Barnabas and Saul initiated what became the most significant journeys in all of Church history and the foundation of much of the New Testament. The power in ministry displayed through the Apostle depends on this earnest prayer, and fasting aids in that focus. We can often forget that focus in church ministry. R A Torrey commented on this in the 19th Century, and it is still true today. (ministry activities modernized from Torrey's day)
“The devil is perfectly willing that the church multiply its organizations and deftly contrive machinery for the conquest of the world for Christ if it will only give up praying. He laughs at the church today and says to himself: You can have your foundation classes, your seminars, your church planting seminars, your fellowship group meetings, your emerging churches, your buildings, your sacrificial giving, your brilliant preaching, and teaching; if you don't bring the Power of Almighty God into them by earnest, persistent, believing mighty prayer.”
We will have many of the activities mentioned in the coming year, and they are good things yet useless without prayer. In Matthew 6, Jesus says that the Heavenly Father will reward you when you pray and fast. The reward is referred to often in the Gospels, and the best way to describe the reward is that you receive more of God.
APC will have a time of prayer and fasting from Monday, January 15, until Sunday, January 28. We will break the fast together at our congregational meal together. During this time, we encourage everyone to do some type of fast, whether you fast one meal every day or one or two days each week. Or you can fast from TV, limit phone use, social media, news, etc. The idea is taking time to pray instead of the activity of eating (or other activity)– allowing hunger pains to lead to hunger for God.
Let’s start the new year off seeking God together.
Article used as a resource: Deny Yourself and Take Up Your Cross: Three Biblical Reasons to Fast By Dr. Chuck Hetzler. Check out their website on other resources for fasting: www.christianunion.org/ministries/america/cu-national-fasts