Isaiah lived in a day when for- malism and hypocrisy had rendered fasting obnoxious to God. But we need to remem- ber that this was also true of their offerings, their prayers, and their worship. (Isaiah 1: 10-15) In the 58th chapter of Isaiah, God not only uncov- ered the self-seeking and self- pleasing which was behind this show of piety, but He went on to unfold the fast that He had chosen, and the bless- ing that it would bring to oth- ers as well as to them.
Fasting is connected with seeking God, drawing near to God, prevailing with God. It is designed to make prayer mount up as on eagles’ wings. It is intended to usher our praises and pleas into the very presence of Almighty God! It is the tool to give an edge to our intercessions and power to our petitions. Heaven is ready to bend its ear to listen when we pray and fast. The man who prays with fasting is giving heaven notice that he is truly in earnest; that he will not give up or let up until vic- tory comes. Not only so, but he is expressing his earnest- ness in a divinely appointed way. He is using a means for God’s promise… “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am.” (Isaiah 58:9a)
We face crucial situations in our lives calling for divine guidance that require us to do as Ezra did in chapter 8: 21-23 “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict our- selves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.” Ezra was car- rying a large load of gold and silver to the temple in Jerusa- lem along a route infested with bandits. He needed God’s divine guidance! Prayer and fasting captured God’s atten- tion as noted in verse 23… “So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us.” and in verse 31… “and the hand of our God was upon us, and he delivered us from the hand of the enemy, and of such as lay in wait by the way.” It is no secret that we are living in crucial times in our personal lives and in the Church. Our enemy, satan, who has come to kill, steal and destroy, is lurking all around us on our journey to that heavenly city. He is lying by the way as we walk in the way, waiting for any given opportunity to overcome any one of us. Just as with Ezra we must seek God with prayer and fasting for guidance in all that we do. Guidance, deliverance and ulti- mate victory comes about with prayer AND fasting…God has promised!
Ezra is just one of many, many biblical examples of the need to pray and fast as noted in the following poem. Can you identify those who prayed and fasted in many of the verses?
On Sinai’s mount, with radiant face, to intercede for heaven’s grace Upon a stubborn, wayward race…he fasted
Once lifted from the miry clay, when opposition came his way This soldier-king would often pray…with fasting
A seer, possessed of vision keen, who told the troubled king his dream Had light on God’s prophetic scheme…through fasting
The prophetess in temple court, beheld the Babe the two had brought For Him she long had prayed and sought…with fasting
He came to break the yoke of sin, but ere His mission would begin He met the foe and conquered him…while fasting
‘Set these apart’, the Spirit bade, a spring that soon vast rivers made Broke ope by men who as they prayed…were fasting
So shall they fast when I am gone? Was this no word to act upon? Ask countless saints who fought and won…with fasting
When we shall stand on that great day, and give account, what shall we say If He should ask us, ‘Did you pray…with fasting?’