A Lesson in Fasting from the book Erza

Fasting is not practiced by Christians very often in American culture.  There is a major change from how Christians used to practice fasting. It is said that John Wesley used to require that every member must fast twice a week on Wed and Fri.[1] This practice of fasting goes back to Jewish culture who did fast regularly.  I wish to examine one account of fasting in the Old Testament that illuminates both the importance of fasting and other facets:

Ezra 8:21-23 (HCSB), “Then I proclaim a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.: So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.”

There are several things to take notes in this passage: (1) They didn’t wish to dishonor their God, (2) they fasted and prayed, and (3) God listened. Each of these are very important since they all can be incorporated in our walk.

(1) indicates that the desire of their hearts was to honor their God. They had already proclaimed God goodness to those who seek him to the king. To ask for soldiers for protection after proclaiming trust in God would possibly show they trusted earthly ways more than heavenly ways. It is important to realize that they were not testing the Lord, but allowing God to act as he promised he would. If they were to be sincere in believing God would act as he promised then they have to seek him since they said, “God is good on all those who seek him.” (emphasis mine). This is why they fasted and prayed. For fasting and prayer encompasses the entire heart. One can be half-hearted in prayer, one can be half-hearted in fasting, but it is difficult to be half-hearted in prayer and fasting. This is particularly true in the situation they were in. The enemy surrounded them and they would die if God did not answer.

Our situation is not much different than theirs. We may not be surrounded by physical enemies, but enemies of Jesus surround us still. All of Western culture ask for your money, time, and effort into worldly things.How many times do you wonder if you should buy another shirt when you already have 50 plus vs. how many times do you wonder if you should donate your money to the needy? Clearly, the latter is more important. James says that pure religion is visiting the poor and widows.[2] Yet, most are more concern seeing the next good film, then they are about the salvation of their neighbor. If you are going to live in heaven here on Earth, then you must realize this. If you realize this, then the importance of prayer and fasting becomes apparent. We are not praying and fasting just for ourselves, but for our children, friends, and family. We are not just praying and fasting for these relations either, but for the honor of lives to be upon the God of glory.

[1.] See, http://www.methodistprayer.org/wesleyfast/

[2] James 1:27

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