Monday, June 26, 2006

Resources for Revival: Bill Bright on Fasting

See the Call to Fasting and Prayer

"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:16-18

If we're going to fast and pray, we must be wise. The book Fasting Can Change Your Life contains interviews with many leaders talking about how fasting has been a part of their ministry. One interview I'm immediately drawn to is Bill Bright's. Dr. Bright had a practice of participating in 40 day fasts in which he would pray for world revival. And what has happened? His ministry Campus Crusade for Christ has blossomed into one of the largest mission sending agencies in the world and they have copied the Jesus Film into hundreds of different languages as an evangelistic tool. Dr. Bright shared 4 principles of fasting in his interview:

1) "First, I set a specific objective. If the Lord leads us to fast, He will usually burden our hearts with an objective. We should prayerfully ascertain what that is so that our efforts may be focused. My major focus is not for national and world revival and the fulfillment of the Great Commission." Brothers and sisters, our focus ought not be just the renewal of the Presbyterian church, but an awakening. We should focus first on awakening within our own congregations and cities, and then awakening across the nation.

2) "Second, I prepare myself spiritually to seek God's face, not His hand. The very foundation of fasting and prayer is repentence. Unconfessed sin hinders our prayers. In Scripture God always requires His people to repent of their sins before He will hear their prayers. So with God's help I search my heart to make sure there is no unconfessed sin in my life." This is a powerful reminder -- we don't fast and pray on behalf of the sins of others. This discipline will inevitably shine the searchlight of the Holy Spirit upon the dark recesses of our own souls. We will have to face up to our secret thoughts, prides, wraths, careless words, and little idolatries. Let us look at the logs in our own eyes as we enter this season of fasting and prayer.

3) "Third, I prepare myself physically. We should not rush into a fast..." Here Bright gives instruction on preparing for long fasts -- however I'm suggesting we focus on simple day-long fasts. Even so, we need to prepare. Drink plenty of water. For those who are physically unable to fast from food for health reasons, perhaps you'll consider fasting for something else (a number of pregnant women in our congregation are fasting from electronic media). When you feel the pang of loss from whatever it is you're fasting from, take that as an opportunity to pray to God for strength and focus -- and to thank God for His provision for you. Realize that this is the Holy Spirit's training ground for growing the fruit of peace, patience, and self-control in your life.

4) "Fourth, I ask the Holy Spirit to enable me to experience a meaningful fast as I seek God's face. He honors a humble and contrite spirit". Fasting is not something that we do to curry God's favor or love. Rather it is a discipline of obedience through which the Holy Spirit works on us and through us.

To help guide our prayers, here is an excerpt from the Book of Reformed Prayers -- a prayer from the Westminster Directory of worship of 1647"

"O God,
who hast so greatly loved us,
and mercifully redeemed us;
give us grace that in everything
we may yeild ourselves,
our wills and our works,
a continual thankoffering unto thee;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen"

Soli Deo Gloria