Welcome back. So, in last week’s blog post What Is Fasting? you and I learned what fasting wasn’t about our self-indulgence or our agenda but rending our hearts to the Lord and getting closer to Him. Well today, we will be talking about the other aspect of fasting; prayer. Prayer is just as important as fasting because prayer is a spiritual link that connects us to God and allows us to ask God for guidance in times of hardship and situations that seem out of our control. Together with fasting, prayer is an essential part of a Christian’s relationship with God.
What is does it mean to Pray?
Well, the words to pray or prayer either come from the Greek word proseuchomai which means “to pray to God” or “make prayer” or from the Hebrew word palal which means “to intercede” or “make supplication”. So, if both words mean to intercede and pray to God; then why do we as Christians pray half-hearted prayers and not sincere prayers to the Lord?
I think it has something to do with the type of prayer-life that we have while we are fasting. If our prayer-life is out of sync and not aligned with God’s Word; we will continue to pray for things that are contrary to God’s plan for our lives. The Old Testament prophet Ezra talks about prayer as a means of humility and praying that God leads the Israelites in the right direction but I feel it applies to us today. In Ezra 8:21, Ezra is taking the people of Israel to a river to pray and ask God for direction.
“21. Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions.”
I like this verse because in it; I feel that Ezra wasn’t just talking to the Israelites but to us as Christians today about our motives when we pray and that when we pray; we should be humble ourselves before God and ask that He guide and direct in the way that He wants. When we fast and pray, there is no limit to what God can reveal to us when we fully commit to Him and allow Him to show us in His Word the scriptures and people who have suffered and experienced what we are feeling today as Christians.
However, it’s not that easy; when we pray, we shouldn’t pray lack-luster prayers but prayers that come from the heart. In the Bible, there are many people who have prayed and fasted allowing God to communicate with them, but are we as Christians going about it the wrong way? Well, in the Bible; Jesus tells us to pray, but not to pray like the Pharisees who were more concerned with how they presented themselves than their spiritual lives and focus on God.
Jesus, in Matthew 6:5-13 shows us not only how to pray but what to pray for saying in verses 5-6, “5. And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
Charles Spurgeon said, “… True prayer is measured by weight, not by length. A single groan before God may have more fullness of prayer in it then a fine oration of great length.”
In this passage of scripture, I feel that Christ wasn’t just talking to His disciples, but us about our prayer-life and how when we fast; there should also be a time of prayer with God where we are willing to be open with Him about anything. Jesus is also telling us not to be so proud and have people acknowledge that we are praying, but to show humility and pray to God in secret.
As one of my goals for the 2018 year, I want to renew and have a better prayer life and this is where I found a blog post by Garrett Thompson of Paradigm Shift called “Does Prayer Really Work?” where he asks a series of questions that should make us question our motivations when we pray, saying, “… maybe you were upset because he answered a prayer, but he did so in a way you may not have agreed with. Well there could be many different reasons for that…”
In the blog post, Garrett Thompson has a series of reasons that we should remember as we fast and pray because it’s only when we start to recognize that we are turning to the wrong source will we begin to pray genuine prayers.
- “Turning to the wrong source”
- “We tend to be content with hearing from God through a pastor, mentor… but we don’t go straight to the source, God himself.”
- “Believe and not doubt”
- “If you pray for something but deep down you may not think it will be answered, the Lord will do just that.”
- “Unrepentant sin”
- “… we still need to confess our sin to God. If we don’t, it will stand in-between us and a relationship with God, which ultimately blocks our prayers to God…”
Pastor Steven Furtick said, “Prayer is the arena where our faith meets God’s abilities.”
These quotes should be a reminder to us as Christians that prayer is just as important as fasting. In the Bible, there are several people that I feel not only teach us as Christians how to pray but how to pray when our circumstances seem to be against us and one such person was Daniel. Daniel was someone who we can look to when there are situations in our lives and turned to God despite knowing the danger of praying as seen in Daniel 6:10.
In Daniel 6:10, it says, “10. Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before God, as was his custom since early days.” This verse should show us how; when life seems to turn upside-down, that we need to fall to our knees and pray to the One who has the answers because even when we are faced with obstacles and opposition; we can still bring our prayers to God.
Daniel’s decision to pray despite knowing that it could lead to his death should show us the resolve that we as Christians and as people should have when we are faced with a seemingly impossible situation. When we forget to get down on our knees and pray to our Father, the situation that may come our way will only get bigger; but, if we choose to kneel down on our knees and pray from the heart that God leads us out of the situation there isn’t a power of darkness that can withstand the prayer of God’s people.
This leads me to a devotional I read by Lizzy Milani of Pocket Fuel called, “Pray Without Ceasing – The Lent Series – Part 3” and in the devotional, she said a quote that I feel we as Christians should remember as we continue to pray daily and continue on this fast. In the devotional, Lizzy Milani said, “When fasting becomes the way to sift through the mess of our lives… you can’t help but pray in that environment.”
I can’t help but like this quote because while we all have problems and obstacles in our lives and we try to examine the mess; we should take that time to pray through that mess and have God help us in it. Also in the devotional, Lizzy has several other quotes that I think we as Christians should use in our prayer-life.
- “Prayer is engagement with the Divine. We pray more often than we think we do.”
- “Prayer is not something we do, but something we are apart of.”
- “Prayer means God is here and we are connected. To pray is to give yourself over to the belief that you are sharing this moment, time and space, with the essence of all things. A beautiful and holy exchange.”
- “Your whole life is a prayer.”
- “Within the contrast of fasting – of creating absence, space, and vulnerability – prayer is our response and engagement to what we find in this place.”
Lizzy Milani quotes Paul Evodkinov saying, “It is not enough to say prayers… It is not enough to have moments of praise… All of life, every act, every gesture, even the smile of the human face, must become a hymn of adoration, an offering, a prayer. One should offer not one has, but what one is.“
In the book of Acts, prayer and fasting were taken to a new level when the early Christian church became active and the Apostles started evangelizing to the rest of the known world. There were several instances where the Apostles were praying and fasting, but the one that I like is in Acts 13:2-3 where Saul and Barnabas are in the church of Antioch and they ministered while there, but it’s in verse 2 that we see that God appoints Saul and Barnabas through the Holy Spirit.
Acts 13:2-3 says, “2. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. 3. Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.” It was only after the Holy Spirit appointed Saul and Barnabas that the two fasted and prayed; which I think meant that their assignment didn’t begin because they had to give thanks to God and be appointed by the church at Antioch.
Later, Paul and Barnabas went to the Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch where they continued to give hope to the Christians in these regions while renewing their faith. It was also during this time that Paul and Barnabas appointed seven elders to the different churches in Acts 14:23 saying, “23. So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they believed.”
As you saw in Acts 13:2-3, Paul and Barnabas prayed and fasted which to me means that it is only when you and I as Christians take time to fast and pray will we be able to do the assignment that God has placed over our lives.
This repeated theme of fasting and prayer leads me to a sermon I watched by Pastor Steven Furtick who spoke on the subject of prayer called, “A New Way to Pray” and in the sermon, he said, “… identify the area in your life where you need the Sun to stand still.” I think this is a great quote because there could be areas in our lives where we may need God to make the Sun stand still in order to accomplish what He requires in that period.
In the sermon, Steven Furtick has several quotes in his sermon that I think; we as Christians and as people should remember as we are on this fast and even when we are praying.
- “… it presents us with a paradigm of a whole new way to pray.”
- “Sun stand still prayers are a whole new way to pray.”
- “Sun stand still prayers, they don’t have to be buffered by this cop-out clause.”
- “it teaches us that asking and acting go hand-in-hand.”
- “Prayer is not a last resort… it’s a nuclear weapon.”
- “If you’re going to pray, you’d better be ready to march all night.”
Pastor Steven Furtick stated, “… if you don’t believe anything’s going to happen when you pray, soon you give up.”
When we pray, we as Christians should pray like Jesus and give all of our needs to the Lord. Fellow WordPress blogger T.R. Noble of Inside Cup wrote a blog post on the topic of prayer and what to pray entitled, “Prayer, What to Pray | Believer 101” and in the blog post, she said, “Prayer is our communication with Him. When you talk to God be honest, and above all else, do not hold back. Give Him everything, and talk to Him about everything.”
I like T.R.’s quote because I think that prayer really is just communication between us and our Father and whatever we ask from Him through prayer, we will receive as stated by Jesus in Matthew 21:22. But, it’s not just about what to pray but why is prayer so important? Well, blogger SpaniardVIII of Spiritual Minefield wrote a blog post on the importance of prayer entitled, “The Importance Of Prayer”; where he said, “Prayer keeps us humble and reminds us of our dependency on the Lord.”
Once again it all goes back to our humility towards the Father and prayer reminds us of that. Fasting and praying are important not because they are just some “practices” that we as Christians utilize, but fasting along with our prayers should be heartfelt and should be a time for reflection and enabling us to renew our relationship with God and renew our spirits every day. Also, in SpaniardVIII’s blog post, he makes several quotes that I think that as Christians, we should take to heart when we pray saying:
- “When we don’t pray we start to sever our connection with God and become prideful by relying on ourselves rather than Him.”
- “Prayer to the Lord reinforces our commitment to Him and gives us a burst of hope to continue to walk with the Lord.”
- “Prayer keeps us alert and awake so that we won’t fall into sin.”
- “Prayer keeps our relationship with Lord burning. If we stop praying that relationship will start to die off.”
- “Reading the Bible and praying is like breathing. Stop breathing and you will die; likewise, if you stop reading the Bible, and stop praying your faith will start to die.”
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”
Efua of Grace over Pain wrote a blog post on prayer entitled, “Prayer” where she talked on this topic. In the blog post, Efua said, “Prayer is simply talking to God. It isn’t restricted by languages and big vocabularies” and I think this is a great quote because sometimes when we pray; we think that we need to use big words and other languages to be able to talk with God but we don’t all we need is us willing to look outside of ourselves and ask the One who has all the answers.
Also in the blog post, Efua has some quotes that I feel we should keep in mind as we are fasting and praying.
- “… Prayer is not a competition.”
- “… never link the answers to your prayers to the number of hours you pray.”
- The factors that determines answers to your prayers are:
- “The state of your heart”
- “Praying the Word the God.”
- “Pray in Faith.”
- “Pray in accordance with God’s Will.”
- “This kind of prayer brings peace because I am sure that what I get is God’s Will for me.”
- “Prayer is our weapon. Prayer should never be your last resort but first.”
- “Not praying is a sign of arrogance.”
- “Use the weapon of prayer. It will empower you. It will change your life and change the way you view life challenges.”
Pastor Steven Furtick talked about prayer in short video called “Pray Like You Mean It” and in the video, Steven Furtick said, “… when you pray like a juggernaut and ask God to do the impossible there’s no mountain that He can’t move.” I like this quote because as Christians we should be prayer warriors and be praying continually for whatever it is that we ask, but we always seem to fall short in our prayers. Why is that? I think that it has something to do with our relationship with God and how His timing is never when we want it.
We, as human beings and as Christians are impatient people and sometimes we want problems to just go away when we pray but it doesn’t; because we have no faith to back up what we are asking, which is why we should be consistently praying in order to hear from God and so that our faith can withstand the trials of our lives. In the video, Pastor Steven Furtick has some quotes that speak further on the need for prayer and what type of prayer-life we should have.
- “… there’s got to be a variety, not in what we pray but in the way we pray about what we’re praying about so you learn how to bring these things that matter to us to God because they matter to Him.”
- “… evaluating what your prayer life is like.”
- “.. it all starts with that bold prayer.
- “pray big for God, pray specifically, pray practically, pray with confidence, pray with hope.”
As most churches go into their second week of the consecration, I want us as Christians and as people to pray continually and allow God to take His time when we expect an answer right away. As Christians, we should be willing to pray; even when it seems that there is an obstacle in our path, because, it’s only when we pray and we believe then we will receive what we asked for.
I pray that as we continue this fast, we as Christians can become stronger prayer warriors and allow God to use us to bless others.
T.R. Noble’s blog post “Prayer, What to Pray | Believer 101” has several quotes that I think should give us as Christians a chance to reflect on what it means to pray, what to pray for, and how to pray.
- “Prayer with the Lord comes with the intention you want Him to be with you, to be a part of your life… this means you want to be Christlike, and follow Him.”
- “Jesus says go to Him behind closed doors for prayer, it is a special time. You and Him.”
- “Asking for God’s Will, also indicates we know a little bit about what God wants, and we can learn these things through the Bible.”
- “When asking for His Will, we need to also pray and ask Him to help us seek Him no matter the answer.”
- “Talk to God about what is on your heart and what the day brings to you.”
- “Pray that whatever situation you may be in that God will provide exactly what you will need.”
- “Ask God for help with your pain… and your will to accept moving forward, instead of looking back on the wrongs of others.”
- “We need to ask the Holy Spirit to prick us when we are putting ourselves in situations that encourage tempting situations.”
- “Prayer time can happen anytime… What we pray about shouldn’t become a routine check off list.”
T.R. Noble said, “Our life, relationships, and eternality with Christ are largely founded around what kind of prayer life we have because it’s our time talking and listening to God.”
So, in the end, learning how to pray during a fast isn’t as easy as we think it is. While we are fasting, we should be praying but it’s the type of prayers that we are praying that can have the most impact on not just us but the people we encounter. As we pray, we as Christians should also be mindful of what we are praying because as I said before; prayer is our communication link with the Father and He knows what we need even before we pray; all we have to do is ask.
So, as we go into the second week of the fast, I want you to reflect upon your prayer-life and ask yourself these simple questions before you begin to pray.
Am I praying out of a heart of wanting to know God or out of a heart of selfishness?
Am I praying for the right reasons?
Am I willing to trust God; even if my prayers take time to answer?
Why am I praying?
Stay tuned because in two weeks; we will be discussing on how to cultivate our prayer life with God after the fast in Part 3 of the Purpose of Fasting series.
“A New Way to Pray”, YouTube, uploaded by Official Steven Furtick, 2 years ago, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxQKR2zb8i0 . Accessed 7 Jan 2018.
Furtick, Steven. “Prayer is the arena where our faith meets God’s abilities.” http://www.azquotes.com/quote/762461 . Accessed 9 Jan 2018.
Martin Luther King Jr. “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/602419-to-be-a-christian-without-prayer-is-no-more-possible . Accessed 06 Jan 2018.
“Pray Like You Mean It”, YouTube, uploaded by ChallengeCSUChico, 7 years ago, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVzdUKFeUzo . Accessed 09 Jan 2018.
SpaniardVIII. “The Importance of Prayer”, 20 Nov 2017, spiritualminefield.wordpress.com, https://spiritualminefield.wordpress.com/2017/11/20/the-importance-of-prayer/ . Accessed 07 Jan 2018.
Spurgeon, Charles. “…True prayer is measured by weight, not by length. A single groan before God may have more fullness of prayer in it than a fine oration of great length.” http://www.azquotes.com/quote/544777 , Accessed 08 Jan 2018.
T.R. Noble. “Prayer, What to Pray | Believer 101”, 3 Aug 2017, nobledevotion.wordpress.com, https://nobledevotionblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/03/what-is-prayer-how-do-i-do-it-believer-101/ . Accessed 10 Jan 2018.
Author Unknown. “Pray without ceasing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:17”, http://bible-lists.pw/Answered-Prayer/1-Thessalonians-5-17.shtml . Accessed 06 Jan 2018.
Author Unknown. “Ezra 8:21”, https://i0.wp.com/www.dailyholybiblereading.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Ezra-8.21.jpg?fit=1920%2C1080 . Accessed 07 Jan 2018.
Author Unknown. “Matthew 6:5-6” https://biblia.com/bible/esv/Matt%206.5%E2%80%936 . Accessed 08 Jan 2018.
Author Unknown. “11 Daniel Prophet Sef Eng” https://www.slideshare.net/chucho1943/11-daniel-prophet-sef-eng-presentation . Accessed 10 Jan 2018.
Author Unknown. “Acts 14:23”, https://gbcboerne.org/the-plurality-of-biblical-eldership/ . Accessed 11 Jan 2018.
Author Unknown. “NOTES FROM SUNDAY’S SERMON: “NEW DIMENSIONS” (Matthew 21:18-22)”, http://myemail.constantcontact.com/MTC-ONLINE—-NEW-DIMENSIONS—Matthew-21-18-22-.html?soid=1101168946026&aid=qw_azgub0Gs . Accessed 12 Jan 2018.
Lloyd, Samson. “Knowing What You Believe”, http://slideplayer.com/slide/5867528/ . Accessed 12 Jan 2018.