DEVOTIONAL INSIGHTS

INSIGHTS ON PRAYER

The Principles of 40 Days of Prayer and Fasting

THE PRINCIPLE OF 40 DAYS

In both the OT and NT some major events occurred over periods of 40 days. Below are Scriptures which describes those events. What are they?

SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

EVENT DEPICTED IN THE SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

Genesis 7:1-4 .
Exodus 24:12-18 .
1 Kings 19:1-8 .
Matthew 4:1-11 .


I believe that if only one event in the Bible lasted for 40 days, then nothing significant might be gleaned from it. The fact though that 4 major events occurred over a period of 40 days implies that the Bible attaches significance to the concept of 40 days. (Note also that God punished the Israelites by having them wander in the wilderness for FORTY years. Whereas it's 40 YEARS instead of FORTY days, the main focus once more appears to be on FORTY.) What do you think is the significance of these events occurring over a period of 40 days each? That is, why do you feel that it took 40 days for these events to occur?


Although I cannot prove this, I feel that when you look at these passages, you discover that 40 days/years were necessary in order for these events to experience completion: 40 days of rain to destroy the earth completely, 40 days to prepare Moses and Elijah completely for their encounters with God, and 40 days to prepare Jesus completely for His struggle with Satan.

We have been so influenced by the microwave. We are now a microwave-able culture. If we can't get the food within fifteen minutes, arrive at a certain destination immediately, click on a button and access the internet immediately, then we are beside ourselves. For the longest I resisted converting the church office to DSL. Some act as if you are living in the age of the dinosaurs if you don't have high-speed internet. That's crazy, especially in light of the fact that we didn't even have the internet until about 8 years ago. The truth is that microwaves and the development of the individual contradict each other. High tech does not mean high touch.

How does this apply to prayer? As in the cases of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus, many times extended prayer (40-days worth of prayer) is needed to prepare us for what God wants to do through our prayers. One of the most misunderstood parables in the NT involves a widow and the judge. According to Jesus when does the judge relent and grant the widow her request (Luke 18:2-8)? Why do you think this is the case?


The point is not that we have to "badger" God but that sometimes we have to persevere in prayer. Jesus is arguing from lesser to greater. If the unrighteous judge yields to the widow who perseveres, how much more will the righteous Judge of the earth yield to those who persevere in prayer? God laid it upon my heart to pray for a godly wife before He gave Nancy to me. It just so happened that I ended up praying for SEVEN years (another divine number). Because of that lengthy period of prayer, God convinced me that she was HIS gift to me and that our relationship did not result from my being a "wonderful" person.


THE PRINCIPLE OF FASTING

Another principle found in the Bible and associated with prayer is that of fasting. Most of us misunderstand the principle of fasting. It does not make you more right with God; it does not make you more spiritual. Instead it intensifies your prayer life. By refusing to feed the flesh, your spirit seems to be able to focus more sharply in prayer.

Below is a list of Scriptures which relate significant events associated with fasting. Please list those events beside the appropriate verse.

SCRIPTURE PASSAGE

EVENT DEPICTED IN THE SCRIPTURE PASSAGE RELATED TO FASTING

Exodus 33:17-34:9 .
Matt. 4:1-11 .
Acts 13:1-4 .
Acts 14:23 .


When you look at these passages, you see that after Moses spent 40 days in prayer and fasting, God gave Moses a vision of Himself like none other in OT times. After 40 days of prayer and fasting, Elijah received fresh communication from God. After 40 days of prayer and fasting, Jesus achieved a great victory over Satan, while after a period of fasting the leaders at the church in Antioch launched the first great mission to the Gentiles.

I have gotten to experience the results of 40 days of prayer and fasting. When I was youth minister at FBC Lancaster, I felt the Lord was leading us to have a youth revival, not just youth revival services, but a youth revival. I had been ministering to the youth for over 2 years and had seen a lot of seed sown among the young people in our community. I believed that God wanted to reap the harvest He was preparing. About 50 days before the revival was scheduled, I shared with the young people the 2 passages about Moses on the mount seeing God and Jesus defeating Satan in the wilderness. I then challenged them to commit to praying and fasting for the 40 days leading up to the first revival service scheduled for April 8. No young person was asked to fast more than 1 meal at a time. Instead I asked them to sign up, at least one person per meal for the 120 meals leading up to the revival.

They responded positively in a big way. Each day at least 2-4 young people and sponsors were praying and fasting during a meal time. In fact at school the young people would take their prayer guides and pray during lunch for their friends, their school, their families, etc. What happened next was wonderful.

We had scheduled a real hot shot of a youth minister to come lead us in the revival. When he entered the church, my jaw dropped. He had really let himself go. He looked unkempt; he had gained at least 50-100 pounds. When he got up to speak, he told jokes for 45 minutes. I couldn't believe it. All that prayer, and this is what we got. After 45 minutes he shared a brief testimony. Then it happened. Kids started pouring down the aisle getting saved, rededicating their lives, and committing themselves to fulltime Christian service. It was wonderful. Youth who had never graced the doors of the church professed Christ as Savior. That year we had the most number of baptisms our church had had in a LONG, LONG time. Our youth SS program shot up from 80 on Sunday mornings to 120; our Wednesday night youth crowd, from 80 to 100; and our Sunday night youth group, from 25-80 EVERY SUNDAY NIGHT. Over a year later when I left the church, these same youth who had never graced the doors of the church were some of the most committed to our church.

How does all this apply to our church situation? I believe that we as a church could really stand a fresh vision of God, fresh communication from God, victory over sin, and the revitalization of our mission to reach Corsicana for Jesus. If prayer and fasting preceded these events, then they probably need to precede these events in our church. Both B.F. and Chuck believed last year during the staff retreat that we needed to have revival this year. Hopefully, we will not be simply having revival services; instead I pray that we will have revival through which God will accomplish these very things in our midst. As a result, I am asking the men's groups to commit to covering the 40 days leading up to the revival with prayer and fasting.

I believe that our church and community need revival. Our church has worked out many of the negative relationships from the past; and yet we still have further to go. Instead of attacking relationships though, I've seen Satan attack people. A lot of people are really going through a lot of stress in their lives and they need a fresh touch from the Lord. Our community needs a fresh touch from the Lord. There is a lot of hate in society these days and Corsicana has not been immune from it. Only the love and Spirit of Christ can heal our society both here in Corsicana and elsewhere.

Here is the way it will work. I am asking that each meal time 40 days leading up to the revival will have at least one person praying and fasting. Since this will mean 120 meals, I will ask each of you to pray and fast during 4 meal times. You don't have to pray during consecutive meal times. In fact you may pray one day over breakfast, next week pray over a supper, etc. If you sign up for a meal but have to cancel due to unforeseen circumstances, please contact somebody on the list and switch with them. (I am also going to ask the Women's Ministry to assist us in this effort.)

The 40 days of prayer and fasting will begin Wednesday, April 7 and conclude May 16, the beginning of our church revival. A prayer guide will be provided to help you work through your prayers.

I like what one president said: "If not now, when? If not you, who?"