January 05, 2002
Nothing but Prayer and
Well this is the first Sabbath of 2002. Good riddance to 2001. I think a lot of us can say
that. I can say that personally. I was talking to my dad the other day, and we just
happened to be, you know, talking about, you know, from his situation as well though
not some of the things that we went through, but we’d like to just say goodbye to the
year 2001. Between the events of the world and personal trials I was telling my dad, you
know the year 2002 doesn’t have to be all that good to really be a whole lot better than
2001. Just a small improvement would just be wonderful and make for a much better
year than we had in 2001, and he had to agree with that. I think that’s the case for many
Everyone, of course, has been affected by the national events that have gone on. Many
of you have had also severe personal trials, if you haven’t had them yourself, you have
certainly suffered with those who have had those as members of one body, like we are
instructed to do in The Bible, and I know that you have in that way suffered with those,
prayed for those people, been at their side through the various trials and things that they
have gone through. I know many, many, many people have been with my wife and
myself and our family during this past year and it’s just been fantastic. I feel like Moses
in some ways, having people hold up our arms, hold up our legs, hold up our backs as
we go through that, and it’s just been wonderful.
We do find ourselves it seems to me in a time of unraveling. I use that word specifically,
maybe some of you attended Doug Johnson’s seminar this past weekend where he
talked about generations and certain historical social studies that are going on regarding
generations, and anyway, one of the leading comments that he made, he says, it seems
like we are in a time of unraveling, of uncertainty, and maybe you find that and maybe
we see that as well when we take a look at world events, we take a look at national
events, we take a look at our personal lives.
All of us would like stability, but maybe it’s a time of instability in many ways. We find
friends and loved-ones and all kinds of people undergoing certain types of trials, and we
would like peace, but we find ourselves perhaps fighting battles on every side. We
would like calm yet we find our anxiety rising. Now granted things could be a whole lot
worse, and I think we realize that as well, but yet it does seem to be a time if we just
take a look at our world, our situation, our culture, it does seem to be a time where
things are a little bit more up in the air if we want to put it that way, again a time of
Christ talked about such a time in Matthew 24 and while you’re turning there or if you
would turn there please, I’m going to shut off this fan. I don’t know where our friend is
from. He must be from Alaska. And this is the high-point of summer for him, but… You
know when he made the comment, I looked at a few people in the back back there, and
we just kind of you know, went like this, so if you get too warm out there, by all means
have someone turn down the heat, I don’t want you to be uncomfortable, but I’ll be
comfortable with the heat just as it is, it’ll be just fine. Well, I appreciate the
consideration he showed me, that’s nice.
Matthew 24:4. We are familiar with this scripture. The disciples are asking Christ, what
about the end-time? What is going to happen? What should we be looking for? And he
Matthew 24:4. "…take heed that no one deceives you."
That was his first warning. He said…
Verse 5. "…many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive
And then he talks about verse 6 and verse 7 and verse 8, he says, you are going to see
things happen. There is going to be wars. There’s going to be rumors of wars. You don’t
know if something is really happening or not.
Verse 6. "See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the
end is not yet."
And then he says…
Verse 7-8. "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there
will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the
It’s just the beginning. I’m sorry I can’t give you any better news than that, but he said,
that is just the beginning. He said, those things are going to come, those things are
going to go. Certainly, as we get very close to the time of the return of Jesus Christ
we’re going to see very specific fulfillments of these, but in the meantime since Christ
uttered these words, the earth has gone through times of wars and rumors of wars,
famines, pestilence, various natural disasters. Those things happen and sometimes
they happen in much greater degree, and certainly, that’s going to happen to us. That’s
going to happen to our world. Again, we would like to have things nice and calm, but it’s
just simply not always going to be that way. And it’s going to be ups and there are going
to be downs.
Now I would like though to offer an idea, and I don’t think it’s new in that way, but I think
it’s important to realize that while we would like stability, calm and peace, times of trial
are actually times of opportunity. Times of trial are actually great times of opportunity.
When we think of the great leaders, be it in The Bible, be it in our country, be it in some
other place, when did they show their greatness? When did they rise to the occasion?
Well, they rose to the occasion when there was an occasion to rise to. They rose in
times of trial, in times of great stress. They took that opportunity and lead the country,
the nation, the people, the army, whatever the case may be, to victory and success. We
think of Moses in The Bible or we think of Elijah. In terms of our country we think of
Washington, Lincoln. In terms internationally, we may think of Churchill. We could also
think of Roosevelt, Marshall, Patton. Whatever name you want to put in there they used
the opportunity of trial to rise and to excel and not just survive, but turn it into victory.
Unfortunately, bad leaders also tend to do that same. Hitler, Stalin, you could add a few
in there. Satan of course also causes and takes advantage of such times. Daniel 7 has
always been for me a scripture that personally I have been particularly concerned
about, especially concerned about for the church, and again, we are talking about the
end time. Daniel 7:25 because here it talks about the saints. It talks about the church.
We understand that the church is going to experience some type of persecution, some
type of stress in that way, but I’m also concerned about this particular scripture. It says
here in Daniel 7:25, it talks about the beast coming…
Daniel 7:25. "He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, Shall persecute
the saints of the Most High…"
In another translation, it says…
Daniel 7:25. "…he shall think to wear out the saints of the Most High…"
Just to wear them down slowly, but surely. Not necessarily always a very obvious,
sudden, violent active attack, but just slow, but surely wear them down. Now this
particular translation says he shall persecute. Like I said another translation literally it
means "…to wear out..." Slow, but sure that we just become exhausted.
Daniel 7: 25. "…shall intend to change times and law."
And it goes on from there. I Peter 5:8, Satan has many tactics he can use. And maybe
personally or individually or collectively against the country or against the church, Satan
is being allowed to do more and more as the time comes to an end. He can certainly
use the opportunities of turmoil, these opportunities of stress to attack. I Peter 5:8, it
I Peter 5:8. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a
roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour."
I think all of us have seen lions hunt. They look for the weak. They look for somebody
who’s away from the safety of the herd. And in Satan’s case looks away, looking for
someone who’s away from the safety of God, of being God-centered. A lion can also if
you look how a lion attacks, a lion creates confusion in the herd and looks for somebody
who then in the confusion gets confused himself or the animal gets confused, goes off
the wrong way and the lion has its chance. So, same with Satan. That’s how he can
attack. He can get us confused, get us anxious, wear us out and then perhaps pick us
I think we all realize though we do not have to be just helpless victims to trial, be it on
the national scene, be it on the local scene, personal, in the church, whatever the case
may be. We can and this is the concept I would like to discuss a little bit today or it’s
kind of a sub-theme. We can use these opportunities to rise to spiritual greatness if you
will. I’m not saying that we’d be great on par with God, but to use those opportunities of
trial, use those opportunities of stress as opportunities for victory, as opportunities for
really accomplishing something.
How can we do that? Well, what have men and women, congregations, nations in The
Bible done in times of great stress? And while I realize that these events that have
happened to us can be certainly nerve racking, stressful, unsettling, again, I think we all
realize it could be a whole lot worse, and all we have to do is look through the pages of
The Bible to see that it could a whole lot worse. Well, what have people done in The
Bible when confronted with things like this? When they’ve been confronted with
situations like this? When the wolf or the lion was at the door, to use the proverb. Or
maybe when God was correcting him in some way or when they were threatened. I
think we all know the answer. This is nothing new. They would pray and they would fast.
They would take the impetus, take the opportunity that they had when they fully realized
that truly there was nothing else they could do except turn to God. When there’s nothing
else you can do except turn to God, somehow that motivates your prayer life just a little
bit more. For those of you, probably most of you in this room, who have been through
some type of severe trial, you realize that there is a whole different way of praying when
you’re under-going a trial and you realize that there is nobody else who can help you
Certainly, my family saw that this past year. There’s a whole difference about that. What
I would like to do today is to take a fresh look at this combination of spiritual tools that
we have. What I would like us to see and to realize as we go through a study of one
chapter in particular in The Bible is that we can use prayer and fasting not just as a
spiritual survival tool, although sometimes we might have to use it as that, but really we
can use and should be using prayer and fasting, of course, prayer a lot more often than
fasting, but that we should be using prayer and fasting as springboards to spiritual
If we want spiritual victory over our sins, if we want to send Satan reeling, if we want to
increase in faith in God during personal trials or during community upsets, if we want
people, if we want to be people who will stand in the gap that we can be part of the
solution, that we can be there to help others when they’re going through trials, there is
really no faster or more effective way than prayer and fasting. I’d like to go through just
a couple scriptures, examples in The Bible where that was done by our spiritual
ancestors if you will. Nehemiah 9. These are our brothers and sisters in the faith.
Nehemiah 9:1-3. "Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the children of Israel
were assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads. Then those of
Israelite lineage separated themselves from all foreigners; and they stood and
confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place
and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for one-fourth of the day; and
for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God."
Here is a time of re-building for the nation of Israel during the time of Ezra and
Nehemiah, and they realized that they had gone majorly away, just over time they had
been under captivity, they really had departed severely from God. So they used the
opportunity to study God’s word, to be together, come together for worship and fasting,
just to put all other cares aside and really focus on getting back on track. And that’s
what they did. II Chronicles 20. If we find ourselves spiritually severely off-track, that is a
way to get back on track. A fast way to get back on track. In II Chronicles 20 beginning
in verse 1. This is during the days of Jehoshaphat.
II Chronicles 20:1. "It happened after this that the people of Moab with the people of
Ammon, and others with them besides the Ammonites, came to battle against
Jehoshaphat. Then some came and told Jehoshaphat, saying, "A great multitude is
coming against you from beyond the sea, from Syria; and they are in Hazazon Tamar"
(which is En Gedi). And Jehoshaphat feared…"
And what did he do? What did he do?
Verse 3-4. "…and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all
Judah. So Judah gathered together to ask help from the Lord; and from all the cities of
Judah they came to seek the Lord."
Here’s a slightly different circumstance. Yet still applicable for fasting and for prayer.
Jehoshaphat realized there was nothing he could do. He had to rely on God. And what
did he do? He sought God, and he had the entire nation seek God. Now, what did God
Verse 14-17. "Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the
son of Benaiah, the son…" well, you can read those "…a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in
the midst of the assembly. And he said, "Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of
Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: 'Do not be afraid nor
dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God's.
Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up by the Ascent of Ziz, and
you will find them at the end of the brook before the Wilderness of Jeruel. You will not
need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the
Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!' Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow
go out against them, for the Lord is with you."
The end result was that they didn’t have to life a sword. They did not have to lift a
sword. Evil or the evil of the evil ones will destroy themselves and that’s exactly what
happened if you read the rest of the chapter. God said, stand still, just watch. If we put
our trust in God, we will see that he will fight our battles for us. Matthew 4, of course, is,
and we won’t read this whole thing, perhaps the most familiar example we have or
comes to mind of fasting and prayer of seeking God before a great battle. And this is
when Jesus Christ went to battle Satan directly. Matthew 4 and I’ll just read a couple of
Matthew 4:1-2. "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted
by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was
This is what Jesus Christ did--The Son of God. In order to prepare to go to battle
against Satan, he used the spiritual tools of prayer and fasting for forty days and for
forty nights. God gave him the insight for the right attitude, the right perspective. God
gave him the insight for the right answers. And every blow that Satan tried to throw
against him he was able to deflect and he was able, of course, to win, and of course, we
can read the examples about that and we’re well familiar with that. Mark 9. You know,
when we are having to battle Satan as we often do, as the time gets closer to the time
of the end, we are going to have to become more and more vigilant about it first of all,
but we are also going to have to be simply more and more prepared for the attacks that
Satan puts upon us either collectively or individually.
Jesus Christ certainly did not take the battle that he had against Satan lightly, did he?
We don’t have to be afraid of Satan in that way where we have to panic or have a fear,
but at the same time, we should realize that Satan is very powerful, and as the time gets
closer to the end, God will allow to do more. And we have to be prepared for those
times because we’re not going to necessarily know when they’re going to happen. Most
of us did not know about September 11th , well, all of us did not September 11th before it
happened. We did not know about trials when they hit us personally. All of a sudden,
we’re confronted with it. It’s a surprise.
What type of spiritual condition can we, should we, must we be in so that when those
things happen that we are not surprised we are not taken aback. Mark 9 gives us a
perspective about this.
Mark 9:23. "Jesus said to him, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who
Now this is a father bringing his son to Christ because he had been possessed by a
Verse 24. " Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, "Lord, I
believe; help my unbelief!""
It’s certainly a prayer that we can pray.
Verse 25-28. "When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the
unclean spirit, saying to it, "Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and
enter him no more! Then the spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of
him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, "He is dead." But Jesus took him
by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when He had come into the house,
His disciples asked Him privately, "Why could we not cast it out?"
Why couldn’t we defeat Satan in this circumstance? And he said to them…
Verse 29. "This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting."
We have to realize brethren that there are going to be certain circumstances where
Satan is on the loose. He is on the attack. We’re not talking about here necessarily
demon possession, but that we need to realize that there are certain attacks of Satan,
and especially as the time draws closer to an end, that he is only going to be able to be
defeated by prayer and fasting. We are only going to able to realize victory by prayer
and fasting. Here were the disciples, and we have other examples where they were able
to cast out demons. They were able to heal people. But Christ said there are certain
circumstances where it is only going to happen by prayer and fasting. By using those
tools, by drawing very close to God, so we need to realize that as well. Again, not
necessarily in our case because of people becoming possessed by demons, but just
simply because the attacks Satan will continue to launch our way.
Turn with me now if you would to Isaiah 58. This is the chapter we’re going to, I’d like to
go through today. It’s not a very long chapter, but there’s a lot to pull out of this when we
are talking about drawing close to God, when we’re talking about using prayer and
fasting, and when we talk about, again, spiritual victory. Because, again, we want to see
these things not just as a case as a, you know, press the emergency button, you know,
our spiritual emergency button is fasting. When nothing else works, we have to fast,
well, yes, that is true, but we need to see prayer and fasting as a lot more than that. And
we need to realize what powerful tools they are if we use them correctly. In Isaiah 58,
let’s go ahead and begin the chapter. We’re going to try to pull out a number of key
points out of this chapter. The first part of the chapter though Isaiah is not very
complimentary, specifically, God is not very complimentary to the audience that, being
written to at this time, that Isaiah is writing to, and he tells Isaiah, he says…
Isaiah 58:1. "Cry aloud, spare not; Lift up your voice like a trumpet; Tell My people their
transgression, And the house of Jacob their sins."
And see what he’s telling Isaiah, he says, you need to get out there, you need to be
strong. He says, you need to be yelling this of what is going on, that this is not right and
that was Isaiah’s job. Now, partly, that is still the job of the ministry, but partly as well
because we are in a different age, we have a different calling than Israel did, God also
wakes us up individually, and we need to be aware of that when we, and realize when
we need a spiritual wake-up-call. And that’s something that we can be doing individually
for ourselves. Now he talks about here in verse 2…
Verse 2. "Yet they seek Me daily…"
He says, you know, God says that we have a dilemma here. He says, on one hand they
need to be shown their sins. On the other hand…
Verse 2. "…they seek Me daily. And delight to know My ways, As a nation that did
righteousness, And did not forsake the ordinance of their God. They ask of Me the
ordinances of justice; They take delight in approaching God."
So here was a complicated situation. Because God said in verse 1 they need to be
shown their sins. He says, on the other hand, he says, you really need to wake them up
because they think that they are on the right track. They believe that they are righteous.
They think that they are seeking me, and maybe in a certain circumstance that was all
true and that was in one sense, that was fine. But God says, you know, that’s not
exactly correct. They put on more of a show, and of course, we see this as Israel moved
into the New Testament times. We see this with the Pharisees. The poor Pharisees
always get it don’t they? But we see that with Pharisees. Outwardly everything looked
good. God said though inwardly it is not, and the challenge for us, is to make sure that
inwardly everything is right as well as outwardly. And so he was taking a look at Israel,
he said, inwardly, in verse 1, they need to be shown their sins. Now outwardly, okay,
things, you know, things look good outwardly, but inwardly there’s problems, there’s big
And he was telling Isaiah to point those out, and we need to be aware of that as well.
Now in verse 3 and verse 4.
Verse 3. "Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and You have not seen? Why have we
afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?'
So they were in, in this, you know, pretend, or not pretend, but in this, pseudo dialogue
between God and Israel. Israel is saying, God, we fast and we do these things. Why is it
not working? Okay now this is, number one, let’s say if you’re making points or writing
down points, in terms of point number one, we have to realize what fasting is not there
for. As we know with spiritual principles it’s always the case of doing the right and
avoiding the wrong. Same way with using prayer and fasting. We have to realize why
prayer and fasting are not for, just as much as we need to realize what they are there
for. So Israel is asking God, okay, why isn’t this working? Obviously, our prayers and
our fasting is not working. And God says, well, the problem is, in fact in the day of your
fast, you find pleasure, you exploit all your laborers, you fast for strife and debate to
strike with the fist of wickedness. He said, that’s the problem. He said, the problem is is
that you are using prayer and fasting simply to seek, in an overall sense, your own will.
He says, you are not using it to seek me.
We saw Jehoshaphat, the example of Jehoshaphat, he said, he sought God. The
problem with Israel here is that they were seeking validation of their own will, as
opposed to really taking a hard, cold look and saying, where is God’s will? Am I truly
seeking God? Turn with me if you would to James, maybe you just want to keep a finger
here or if you have a Bible marker here because we’re going to keep coming back and
forth to Isaiah 58. But brethren it is vital when we are praying to God that we say your
will be done and we truly mean that and we truly believe that. Now I hasten to add while
we do that, God certainly tells us to make our desires and our wishes known to him. We
don’t have to hesitate to do that, but deep down the key is in our approach, the key is in
our attitude. If our attitude is one of really wanting our will and we’re hoping and praying
God will validate our will, not quite the right approach. If our approach is we want God’s
will and God please be merciful enough to consider what I would like, but most
important your will, that is the right approach. I think we can see the difference.
James 4:13. "Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such
a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit whereas you do not know
what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a
little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall
live and do this or that."
If God wills that we should do this or do that. That has to be our approach when we use
prayer and fasting to seek God. It is that we truly are seeking him. Not just seeking a
validation of what we want. Turn with me, if you would, to Proverbs 3. I have the
opportunity this year to teach a class at ABC. I’m teaching former prophets, Joshua,
Judges, books of Samuel, and the books of Kings. And when we talk about this principle of
seeking God, as you go through the examples and the history of Israel, even among
righteous leaders, it is very interesting to note, when they truly sought God’s will, things
worked out. When they didn’t, even righteous leaders, when they didn’t it back fired.
And one of the first examples that we’re going to be discussing in the book of Joshua
because that’s the first book we’ll take a look at is Joshua’s treaty with the Gibeonites. God
had told Joshua don’t make any treaties with people who are within the land that I have
given you. Now the Gibeonites, they pull a fast one, they make it look like they’re from an
entire far country. The point is Joshua never consults God before making the treaty, and he
finds out that the Gibeonites are their next door neighbor and it creates a big problem. Now
God bails them out of the problem. The point is though that Joshua, even as a righteous
man, forgot to consult God and to really seek God’s will. And God, of course, would have
told them, no, the Gibeonites are not from some far off country, they’re over in the next city.
Okay, and there are four cities right smack dab in the middle of Israel, and that’s exactly
where they were. They weren’t that far from Jericho. But Joshua had forgotten to consult
God, to really say God, show me what you see. Show me what you want.
Proverbs 3:1-2. "My son, do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands; For
length of days and long life And peace they will add to you."
We read in Isaiah 58 in verse 3, God says the reason I am not listening is because you
continue in the conduct that is the problem. So we realize, of course, in terms of prayer and
fasting that our conduct needs to be such that God will listen. We just read that here, too, in
Verse 3. "Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on
the tablet of your heart."
Truth and mercy. What is Satan? He’s the father of lies. He’s the father of deception. We
have to love truth.
Verse 4-8. "And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man. Trust in the
Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways
acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear
the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones."
God promises to give us strength if we are seeking him first and foremost, if we are really
wanting to do what he wants us to do. And, again, not just looking to have our will
validated. Let’s go back to Isaiah 58. It’s important that the focus that we have in our life
shift from ourselves to God. We must seek God and seek to become a vehicle of his
righteousness. Now granted that’s hard for us to do. We as human beings are concerned
about what is happening with us. We’re concerned about what is happening in our lives, but
our focus really needs to shift to God. In fact, we must come to the point where we are a
100% comfortable and confident in God’s will no matter what that will is. Now that’s
sometimes hard to do.
You know for those of us, those of you who have battled severe trials, you know exactly
what answer you would like. You know exactly what answer you would like to have God
say. And we ask and we pray for that answer. Certainly, there is one answer we prayed for
with my wife, still pray for. And you who have had similar trials, you do the same thing. Yet
at the same time, we have to be like Jesus Christ during his final hours before his
crucifixion where he prayed for his answer that he would have really liked, but we know he
said, not my will, but your will be done. And Christ was 100% confident, 100% comfortable
with the answer from God, even if it didn’t turn out to be what he at that moment would
have liked because he knew God would work it out.
And that’s important with us as well and that’s the problem that in these first four verses
God had with Israel. He’s saying, you just want validation from me of what you are doing,
which is wrong, of who you are deep inside, which is also wrong, and he said, that just ain’t
going to happen. That’s just not going to happen. He says, you continue in all these things,
and he said, that is not the way I work. So, again, when we take a look at prayer and
fasting, we have to avoid the wrong approach on that. It has to be truly a case that we are
seeking God with our prayers and when we fast to humble ourselves before God.
Okay, let’s go on to verse 5. Here God then begins to describe what it should look like. He
begins to describe using this tool. Now I realize, and I’ll be the first one as someone who
loves to eat, when I hear about fasting, I’d rather hear about any other spiritual tool in the
whole book than that. You know? I’d rather, you know, say I’m sorry in front a thousand
people before, you know, I would go hungry, but this is the way it is, and I think we all
realize that in the end, <baby crying> isn’t that a beautiful sound? I love hearing babies in
church by the way. You know I as thinking that as, sorry to get off on a tangent here for a
minute, but I was thinking that as I was watching the various little babies around here, and I
was thinking, well, that is great. It is great to have a congregation where you have little kids
and bigger little kids and little big kids and you know all the way on up, and I think it’s just
wonderful. Anyway, let’s get back to the subject.
We don’t like to be hungry. When we think of fasting, we think of being miserable. We have
to come away from that. We have to try to come away from that and see what this can and
will accomplish if we do it correctly. I think we all realize fasting is not putting on a hunger
strike to have God do something. You know, that’s not the case. Here we see why it’s
there, and we see the point of going hungry. Is it a fast that I have chosen God said. We
want a fast that God chooses. The type of fast that he chooses.
Isaiah 5:58. "…A day for a man to afflict his soul?" Translated to fast. "Is it to bow down his
head like a bulrush, And to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, And
an acceptable day to the Lord?"
So God is a little bit, he’s playing with Israel, he said, okay, that’s your version of a fast.
Would you maybe possibly consider what I like to see in a fast? What I like to see in prayer.
He says, I realize you have your ideas. He said, would you consider this an acceptable day
of fasting where somebody truly humbles himself, bows his head before his father and
creator God, humbles himself before God. He said, that is an acceptable fast to God. That
is how progress is made. That is how we come away from our sins and that is how we seek
God. Turn with me if you would to Matthew 6.
We’re familiar in Matthew 6 in verses 5-7 how Christ said not to pray and also in verses
16-18, he said, here’s how not to fast. So again, you know it’s a case of realizing the right
way and realizing the wrong way, and so we’re familiar with that. I’d like to have us take a
look at when we pray as far as humbling ourselves before God, of seeking him, putting
ourselves aside. I mean that’s what it means to humble ourselves is that we are putting
ourselves aside. We’re not seeking our own. We’re putting ourselves to the side, and there
are a couple things here in the outline for prayer I would like to have us notice. Beginning in
Matthew 6:9. "In this manner, therefore, pray…"
Where do we start? Where does, Christ said, our focus should be he says…
Verse 9. "…Our Father in heaven…"
That he says when you begin the prayers and Christ was confident that his disciples a)
would pray, and b) would fast, he said your focus should be Our Father. Focus on God, not
focus on ourselves. Not focus on what we want. He says, point your mind to God. He
Verse 9. "Hallowed be Your name." Then he said… "Your kingdom come. Your will be
Again , we haven’t gotten to ourselves yet. There’s no me, my, I that we’ve seen yet in this
outline. So far it’s God centered. That’s how we need to be. It said, your will be done, not
Verse 11. "Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our
debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one."
It finishes by focus again on God.
Verse 13. "For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen".
So the beginning and the end we focus on God. What do we focus on in the middle? I’m
sure all of us realize, it has been pointed out in other messages or you’ve discovered it in
your Bible study. There is no me, my, or I anywhere in that prayer. It starts and ends with
the focus on God and in the middle it is a community, it is other people, not just ourselves.
Yes, we can ask for what we would like, but he says, while you are doing it, at the same
time you are doing it, in the same measure you are doing it, God says pray for others.
So when we talk about in verse 5, back in Isaiah 58:5, humbling ourselves, putting
ourselves out of the picture, putting ourselves aside, the focus then shifts, there’s only two
other entities so-to-speak to look to. Other people and God. So that’s important in terms of
our prayer life that it is God centered, what God wants, what God is doing, his kingdom, his
will, his name and then secondly, other people. That will be an effective, that is an effective,
very effective approach to prayer. Again, our wishes can be in there as well, but it says, us
throughout this whole thing, so that is important to remember.
Let’s go to, back to James 4 if you would please.
James 4:5-6. "Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us
yearns jealously"? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: "God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble."
I think if all of us realize grace means more than just forgiveness. Certainly, forgiveness is a
part of grace, but grace means more than just forgiveness. It means favor. It means help. It
means being by us. God gives favor to the humble.
Verse 7. "Therefore submit to God."
And that’s what we read about it Isaiah 58:5. It talks about bowing our heads, bending our
knees to God that we are submitting to him no matter what it takes, no matter what we
have to leave behind in our lives.
Verse 7. "…Resist the devil and he will flee from you."
To me this has always been just an extremely encouraging verse that if we are doing this
correctly, if we are submitting to God correctly, if we are praying, if we are doing what God
wants, Satan will flee from us. Not because we are anything great, but because of who God
is. You know it reminds you of sometimes you see in a movie or at least I’ve seen in a
movie, you know, here’s this, you know, little kid standing here and all these bullies are
running up to him and unbeknownst to the kid this big strong guy stands up in back of him
and all of a sudden all the bullies are about to beat him just runs away, and you know, he’s
flexing his arms thinking they’re scared of him, while in reality they saw the guy behind him,
okay? Well, Satan, that would be the same case as Satan and God. Satan sees God
because God has drawn close to us.
Verse 8-10. "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you
sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your
laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the
Lord, and He will lift you up."
I think we all realize there is a time for mourning. There’s a time for weeping or lamenting.
There’s a time to be concerned about world conditions, about our nation, about friends and
family. God said, if he sees that, he will make sure we are lifted up. I do want to go II
II Corinthians 12:7-9. "And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of
the revelations…" this is Paul writing "…a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger
of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with
the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient
for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness."
Now that’s an important element or concept to remember that just like Jehoshaphat or just
like Israel crossing the Red Sea, sometimes we have to just draw ourselves out of the way
and watch God work. And watch God work. And he was saying to Paul here, he says,
you’re not going to be, you know, big strong tough guy, although Paul was never a big
strong tough guy, but he says, you’re not going to be, you know, necessarily, you know, as
physically strong as you would like to be. He says, I’m going to take some of you out of the
way so that I can work, so that I can show my strength and that’s exactly, and Paul realized
that. He said at the end of verse 10…
Verse 10. "…For when I am weak, then I am strong. "
Our concept of strength for us as human beings may be one thing, but God says when we
are weak, when we think we are weak, we think we are, you know, not all there so-to-speak
in one sense, God says I will be strong, and so when we talk about humbling ourselves
before God this is what we are going to realize. This is what we are going to see. All right,
let’s go back to verse 6. Isaiah 58:6. Try to go a little quicker through the other verses.
Isaiah 58:6. "Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To
undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke?"
Part of what we need to accomplish when we are praying, when we are fasting, when we
are seeking God, one of the purposes is is that we break the yoke of sin on us, the burden
of sin as it’s called in Hebrews 1. That we lay aside those weights, that we break or undo
the heavy burdens. We break the yokes that may be upon us. You know, if we are truly
seeking God, God will reveal to us what we need to change, what is holding us back from
spiritual victory. Let’s go to Daniel 9 if you would please. Daniel 9. You know not only
individually, but we can pray about collective problems. We can pray about collective sins.
Daniel did that, he said, throughout this whole chapter, I’ll just try to paraphrase a little bit,
but Daniel was saying here, he’s saying, God we have sinned as your nation. We have
departed from you. In Daniel 9:3, he says…
Daniel 9:3. "Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and
supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes."
And when we are seeking God, let’s say the next step is is that we acknowledge that in
comparison to God, we are nothing. In comparison to God, we have things that we need to
change. Anyway, in this chapter, Daniel goes on, he says, we have not heeded what you
have told us. We have ignored your prophets; we have ignored your law. And it hasn’t
worked. We’ll read verses 17-19.
Daniel 9:17-19. "Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his
supplications, and for the Lord's sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is
desolate. O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations,
and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before
You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. O Lord, hear! O
Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city
and Your people are called by Your name."
And very quickly then Gabriel came and gave Daniel another prophecy, but part of fasting
in prayer is that we look to see what do we need to get rid of. Again, as we are seeing here
throughout these scriptures, we need to get rid of ourselves. We need to take ourselves out
of the way. We need to take our pride out of the way, our ego out of the way, take just
having our own will done out of the way. We need to take our sins out of the way.
All right, let’s go back to verse 7. All this is a part of prayer and fasting. If we simply, when
we choose to fast and when we choose to pray, simply go through some repetition, some
nice words or simply go hungry, but yet we do not do the things that we see here, that’s all
we’re going to be is at the end hungry. Okay? And we will not have accomplished what we
could have accomplished. So God is saying here, humble ourselves in verse 5. In verse 6,
to get rid of sin to really put it aside, make that decision that it is going to go. Verse 7 gives
us another aspect. Verse 7…
Isaiah 58:7. "Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house
the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide
yourself from your own flesh?"
Very simple principles between verses 6 and 7. Verse 6 is that we avoid the wrong, verse 7
we do what is right. We do what is right. And when we talk about prayer and fasting, when
we are doing that, we need to consider are we putting this into action? Are we doing what
verse 7 says? Let’s go to Matthew 25. I’ll just have you take a look at that as we discuss it. I
think we’re familiar with the end part of Matthew 25. The difference between the sheep and
the goats. And we see here that it was those people who put it into practice, who did good
in practice, okay, they just didn’t say, oh, you know, be warmed and filled, go your way.
Certainly praying for people is a major way that we can help, but Matthew 25 talks about
those who actually did something, those who actually did something. Instead of saying
what I don’t have, we could be saying, well, what can I give? What can I give? And the key
here is in Matthew 25 is that we put ourselves in positions to help, is that we think about in
our spiritual preparation am I in a position to help somebody else? Have I done the
necessary preparation that I can be of service. Instead of somebody who needs help. Have
I put myself in a position where I can provide help? Colossians 4. This is just a great
But prayer and fasting, the point is, prayer and fasting is just not prayer and fasting. Prayer
and fasting has to be a part of the whole picture. It’s just not something that we pull out as
the emergency button. It has to be a part of our entire life of what we do because if these
other parts that we’re talking, that we’re reading about in Isaiah 58 are not there, then it’s
going to be like the prayers or the fasting that Israel did back then. They did it for their own
purposes. The Pharisees did it so they could appear righteous. Israel did it so, you know,
they could appear good as well, but in reality it didn’t work because they didn’t have all the
pieces there. Colossians 4:12-13. And Paul is at the end of his letters, which he often does,
he asks to greet certain people. In verse 12, he talks about a man named Epaphras, he
says, who is one of you. In this case, he is sending greetings to the Colossians.
Colossians 4:12-13. "Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you,
always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all
the will of God. For I bear him witness that he has a great zeal for you, and those who are
in Laodicea, and those in Hierapolis."
Well, Paul said here’s an example of a person who labored fervently in prayers for his
home congregation so-to-speak, the people back that he knew. It was a part of his doing
good. All right, let’s go back to Isaiah 58:8. You know, when we look to do good for others,
you know, unfortunately, we live in a, I say unfortunately a little bit tongue and cheek,
unfortunately, we live in a very rich society, and the problem with living in a rich society is is
that we’re constantly told what other things that we can have and how actually we would be
miserable if we didn’t have these other things. You know, Madison Avenue with all their
advertising has done a beautiful job on us, you know, thinking that, you know if we don’t
have this new car, if we don’t have this new piece of clothing, this new game boy, this type
of thing, you know we’re going to be unhappy people. Unfortunately, it’s created a little bit
in our society a culture of whiners. You know? We complain when our washing machine
breaks down, and I think it’s a disaster, a few months ago when my washing machine broke
down, and I had to go out and go through all the labor, the whole hour it took me to go and
get a new one. I just thought, man, there’s a major trial on me.
Unfortunately, that’s the case and it’s generated a culture of looking out for ourselves.
When we don’t have our washing machine exactly fixed, the carpet is not perfect, we think
we got a miserable life, and it’s tended to take our minds away from how much other
people are really a whole lot worse off than what we could be doing for them. Okay, let’s go
to verse 8.
So God has described for us in verses 1-4 what a fast should not look like, what prayers
should not look like. He says in verses 5-7, here’s what it should look like. Here’s what it
should be doing, here’s what you need to be doing, he tells Israel. Here’s what we need to
be doing as Christians. And then he says, here is what are going to be the results, and this
is, I think this is just beautiful in scripture that God not only tells us what we should avoid,
tells us what we should do, he also tells us it’s not just the stick principle, he also uses the
carrot principle on us. He says, here is what’s going to happen. Here is what the result is
going to be, and that’s what we get in verse 8. He said…
Isaiah 58:8. "Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring
forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be
your rear guard."
Remember when we talked about the big guy behind us. This is what God said is going to
happen. He said, your light, you are going to be a light. You will be healed, spiritually,
physically, I think it’s predominantly meaning here spiritually. Your righteousness will go
before you. We see many scriptures about favor with God and man if we are seeking God.
And the glory of God will be your rear guard. Turn with me if you would to Matthew 6. This
is what is going to happen. This is why we should not just regard fasting or prayer as only
for times of emergency. And I don’t think we do. But perhaps sometimes subconsciously
we might tend to think that way, but that’s not the case. Fasting and prayer must be used
constantly and diligently, and we will be there for the victory and for what God promises.
Matthew 6, again, you are familiar with these scriptures, so just refer to various sections
here in Matthew 6:19-21, of course, we’ve already talked about that our focus needs to be
towards God. Verse 23 talks about making sure that we are indeed focused and that is
probably a problem or let’s say a potential problem that we do need to be aware of as far
as our lives as Christians in this society, is that it is easy to become distracted.
We have so many things that we have to do, so many good things that we could be doing. I
mean I have stacks of books at my house this high that I would love to read. Good books.
They’re not just novels, not that there’s a problem with novels per se, but so many good
things that we could be doing, so many things that we have to do. Our lives are extremely
busy. The problem is is that we could lose focus on making sure that God is number one
and everything else comes behind that. And we just have to be aware of that. And
sometimes we simply have to force ourselves to say no to things that we either like to do,
sometimes even good things if it means that our focus towards God increases and that is
vital when we are talking about our prayer life, when we’re talking about fasting.
Matthew 6:24. "No one can serve two masters…"
It’s just we have to make sure that God is number one. He says…
Verse 25. "Therefore I say to you, do not worry…"
Don’t worry. Now that’s nice to say, but how easy is that to do sometimes? Sometimes not
very easy to do, but the thing is if we connect this verse with verse 8 in Isaiah 58, the thing
is God, he’s saying in a sense you won’t have to worry. You, worry will actually, you will get
to the point where you don’t worry. Not because bad things still couldn’t happen, not
because there are uncertain times ahead, but because our trust is fully in God. We have
come to that point in our spiritual development that our trust is fully in God, that one way or
the other it’s going to work out. One way or the other it’s going to work out. Again, national
events or personal events.
That’s one lesson, I was talking with the Williams before church a little bit, talking about my
wife and the lessons that we’ve learned during this time and certainly lessons that all of us
learn during trials, but one of the lessons, it’s a very tough lesson in some ways that we’ve
had to learn, is that one way or the other no matter what happens, it is all going to work out.
If for some reason my wife should die at some point prematurely, it’s still all going to work
out. Now that’s kind of hard to say. In some ways you don’t want to believe that. You want
to tell God, no, the only way it’s going to work out is if you heal her, but, no, we have to get
to the point where we can say, it’s going to work out either way because God is in charge
and he knows what he’s doing.
Again, sometimes it’s hard to say that, but he’s saying here that if we are close to him, he
says, we’re not going to worry about our life, what we’re going to eat, what we’re going to
drink, and he says, you know, put those things on the back-burner, seek first the kingdom
of God and his righteousness, the other things will take care of themselves. Let’s go back
to Isaiah 58:9. Anyway, I just find verse 8 here pretty much in the middle of the chapter, just
an extremely encouraging verse.
Isaiah 58:8. "Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring
forth speedily, And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the Lord shall be
your rear guard."
It will be a case that we’ll be able to take trials, use them as opportunities and rise to the
occasion whatever that occasion may be. In verse 9, perhaps most importantly, perhaps
the biggest benefit, the greatest encouragement
Verse 9. "Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say,
'Here I am.' "If you take away the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger, and
God said I will answer. He says, you don’t have to worry about me answering. And again
there are numerous scriptures we could go to about that, certainly the Psalms we could go
to about God responding. Verse 10 it repeats our need to look after other people.
Verse 10. "If you extend your soul to the hungry And satisfy the afflicted soul, Then your
light shall dawn in the darkness, And your darkness shall be as the noonday."
This is the victory. This is people who are going forth on God’s strength. They’re not going
forth on their own strength, and God said he’s going to be there for them. As a reference
scripture if you want to write down Philippians 2:1-7. Again, scripture we’re familiar with. It
talks about Jesus Christ, how he humbled himself and became as a servant for us. Again, if
we’re looking out for the needs of others.
Verse 11-12. "The Lord will guide you continually, And satisfy your soul in drought, And
strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water,
whose waters do not fail. Those from among you Shall build the old waste places; You shall
raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the Repairer of the
Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In."
This is not just not mere survival. God is saying here that if we are putting him first, if we
are seeking him. If we are using, in this case, prayer and fasting as a part of the whole
picture, we are going to be people who can really be there and serve God as well as our
fellow brethren. Let me just read that again. Let’s just allow it to sink in.
Verse 11. "The Lord will guide you continually…"
We won’t have to worry about whether we’re making the right decisions or the wrong
decisions. If God is there, he will guide us to, if we are seeking God, he will guide us to the
Verse 11. "…satisfy your soul in drought…"
How often do we have that empty feeling when a crisis hits? Well, God will make sure that
that is filled.
Verse 11-12. "…strengthen your bones. And like a spring of water, whose waters do not
fail. Those from among you Shall build the old waste places."
We will be able to be there to help others and to meet our own challenges as they come.
Verse 11-12. "…raise up the foundations of many generations; And you shall be called the
Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In."
Let’s go on and finish up the chapter. It’s interesting that he connects and puts together this
whole chapter in terms of Israel seeking God also in connection with the Sabbath. And we
have seen that when we talk about prayer and fasting it has to be a part of the entire
picture in terms of our lives of how we lead our lives. And again, the Sabbath is a major
part of that. And he says here…
Verse 13-14. "If you turn away your foot from the Sabbath, From doing your pleasure on
My holy day, And call the Sabbath a delight, The holy day of the Lord honorable, And shall
honor Him, not doing your own ways, Nor finding your own pleasure, Nor speaking your
own words, Then you shall delight yourself in the Lord; And I will cause you to ride on the
high hills of the earth, And feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father. The mouth of
the Lord has spoken."
So God is saying here especially on his Sabbath on his holy days we can really use that
time to make sure that we, our spiritual condition is prepared. It says if we will put aside
what we would like to do, whatever that may be, doing our own pleasure and we call the
Sabbath a delight, we delight in God, what he would want us to do on that day. Be it
fellowship, be it extra prayer, be it extra Bible study. All it requires from us just like what
we’ve read throughout the rest of the chapter is a decision. Are we going to do that? Are we
going to do that? Not speaking our own words, not finding our own pleasure, but honoring
God, and again, we have the promise. You shall delight yourself in God and he will reward
This concluding scripture, please turn to Philippians 4. You know brethren if this is a time
coming, you know upon our nation or upon this world where Satan is going to have a little
bit more freedom to do what he wants to do and apparently, he’s already been given some
of that or he’s taking some of that or upon us individually, whatever the case may be, we
are going to need to be prepared, we are going to need to be prepared, and we have the
opportunity. Hopefully, some of what has happened to us has been a bit of a wake up call.
Hopefully, it’s been a wake up call to our country as well. But at the very least to those
people that God has called, hopefully, it’s been a wake up call to us that these things are
bad. These things were horrific.
The personal trials that many of you have had to go through have been terrible, have been
tremendous stresses, yet it could always be worse. Yet it probably will get worse, and we
need to make sure now that we’ve had a bit of a wake up call, a little bit of cold water
thrown on us, that we are prepared for what Satan might throw at us. Remembering the
scripture that says, this type of demon cannot come out, but by prayer and fasting.
At the end if we are doing what we read in Isaiah 58, God says, you know, we’re going to
emerge triumphant. We’re going to emerge with a victory. It’s not just going to be a case
that we crawl in with the last ounce of strength, although at times maybe that’s the case,
but he said, if we are doing this, the victory is going to be tremendous. The victory is going
to be like what we read about Jehoshaphat or we could read about many other examples in
the Bible where we just stand back and watch what God does. And so I hope we will take
the words that we read today to heart and that we will take these situations as wake up
calls and become very prepared. We’ll have that confidence and that courage to meet
whatever challenges come our way.
Philippians 4:6 talks about other results that we can have and certainly piece of mind is a
great blessing of that. It says…
Philippians 4:6. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with
thanksgiving…" we heard about that earlier today "…let your requests be made known to
If we are close to God, if we are doing and if we are following what we read in Isaiah 58, we
won’t be anxious, or as anxious as it’s obviously a process, but if we are letting things,
talking to God in prayer with thanksgiving be known to God.
Verse 7. "…and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your
hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
And so to me that’s one of the biggest blessings of all.
Verse 8. "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever
things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of
good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy--meditate on these
And that’s important as well. We can’t always focus on the problems. We have to rise
above that and be able to see the things of God.
Verse 9. "The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do,
and the God of peace will be with you. "
And he goes on…
Verse 10-11. "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has
flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in
regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content."
Verse 12. "I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all
things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need."
Verse 13. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
I certainly hope for all of us 2002 is whole lot better than 2001. That would certainly be nice.
But you know whether it is or whether it isn’t it’s all going to work out. And whether it is or
whether it isn’t, the point is for us is that it does offer us an opportunity for growth.