A night of Prayer, Fasting & Worship Through Music
Date: Thursday January 5, 2017
Place: The Centre (777 Homer Street)
verb [ intrans. ]
1 a: to make a careful or detailed search for information b: to examine a subject in detail
Periodically throughout the year, Westside gathers for an evening of extended worship through song, prayer, fasting and declaration. As the name suggests, the goal is to provide a time and place for delving deeper in worship and adoration of the triune God.
Let’s be honest, for many in the church today, fasting is at best a misunderstood spiritual discipline and at worst an out and out ignored one. For some, the whole idea of not eating almost scares them, even though, if they thought about it, they could come up with a number of times in their lives where they skipped a meal or two to study for an exam, to attend a sporting event, to get a good spot in a ticket booth lineup, or to somehow fit into last year’s jeans. However, for whatever reason the idea of missing a meal or two for spiritual reasons isn’t close to being on the radar in spite of the fact that the Bible talks about fasting frequently; in fact, the Bible speaks of fasting more often than it speaks about baptism.
A couple of things to note about fasting:
I. IT’S EXPECTED AND ASSUMED THAT WE WILL.
"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)
“Then John's disciples came and asked him, "How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?" Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.” (Matthew 9:14-15)
What is also noteworthy is that Jesus gives no direction regarding how long or how often one should fast. In other words, there is no legalistic right and wrong to the practice instead that it is something that should be done in addition to other disciplines like prayer, worship, giving and so on.
II. IT IS PURPOSEFUL.
There are many purposes for fasting that I will get to; however, one purpose for fasting is not that it will earn God’s favour or somehow spiritually force God’s hand. Fasting, in and of itself, is the reward, in that it emphasizes and focuses on one’s time with the heavenly Father; in other words, God Himself is the reward. Fasting is an act whereby the Christian says in a very practical and real way, “God, you are more important to me than anything else and I want you to know that I hunger for you more than I hunger for food.” Fasting highlights how physically dependent we are and how our spiritual hunger for Jesus pales in comparison.
The Scriptures highlight some of the following purposes for fasting:
a. Strengthen prayer.
“So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.” (Ezra 8:23)
“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." So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” (Acts 13:2-3)
b. Seek God’s guidance.
“Then the Israelites, all the people, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the LORD. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offering to the LORD. And the Israelites inquired of the LORD. (In those days the ark of the covenant of God was there, with Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, ministering before it.) They asked, "Shall we go up again to battle with Benjamin our brother, or not?" The LORD responded, "Go, for tomorrow I will give them into your hands." (Judges 20:26-28)
“Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.” (II Chronicles 20:3-4)
“Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.” (Acts 14:23)
c. Express grief.
Grief and mourning over loss and death. And grief and mourning over sin – ours and others'.
“Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the month he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father's shameful treatment of David.” (I Samuel 20:34)
d. Seek deliverance and protection.
"Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:16)
“There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, "The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him." So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.” (Ezra 8:21-23)
e. Humble oneself before God.
“When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly. Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite: "Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son." 1 Kings 21:27-29
f. Express concern for the work of God.
“They said to me, "Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire. "When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” (Nehemiah 1:3-4)
g. Minister to the needs of others.
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.” (Isaiah 58:6-8)
h. In preparation for temptation and to dedicate yourself to God.
i. Love and worship.
“There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” (Luke 2:36-37)
• Acts 13:1-3