Fasting and prayer for the right reasons

Oct. 13 is set aside as a Day of Fasting and Prayer for the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Every year since our founding, the SBTC has observed such a day. Usually, it has been used to prepare for the annual meeting. We have asked God to bless us with His presence in a special way and give us a spirit of revival.

A few years back, fasting was a hot topic. People were going on 40-day fasts. Preachers wrote books on the subject. Even a Pastors’ Conference of the Southern Baptist Convention emphasized the practice. Yet, few believers actually practice fasting. There are some reasons for its absence in the American church.

When a person thinks he is humble, he isn’t. It is like writing a book about humility and titling it, “10 Ways I Know I’m Humble.” Humility is difficult to explain and practice while retaining it. Fasting is sort of like humility. It is a hard topic to address. However, we need to understand what fasting requires.

First, fasting is not a lot of things we think it is. Fasting is not trying to impress God. He cannot be impressed. Fasting is not bargaining with God. God will not make deals. Fasting is no magic path to spirituality. Many religions have fasting as a tenet but the adherents do not even know God.

Column space won’t allow me to write a doctrinal study about fasting, but briefly, here are some reasons to fast. Isaiah 58:1-7 is an excellent study about fasting. Verse six of that passage expresses my heart in the matter.

A fast is to “loose the bonds of wickedness.” Sin in our lives keeps us from God’s blessings. We become more aware of our sins and develop a desire to do something about it when we have a true fast. Fasting should produce holiness.

The world and even good personal interests often obscure a glimpse of glory. We allow the weight of the temporal to pull us down. By fasting we are able to “undo the heavy burdens.” Fasting helps us through difficult times.

Only Jesus can save. We know God wants to save people. If we get serious enough to let nothing come between us and seeing people saved, God will honor our fasting and prayer. Our cry will be to “let the oppressed go free.” Fasting places us in spiritual warfare for souls.

Holiness, life direction and soul winning can all be enhanced through fasting.

There are several types of fasting: Supernatural (no food or water for an extended time like Moses and Jesus), Scriptural (abstinence from food, but with liquid intake?the most common in Scripture), and Selective (“no pleasant bread” like Daniel, eating only sustenance amounts of food).

I remember seeing people weep at altars. I remember seeing Holy Spirit conviction fall upon unbelievers and believers alike. May we seek God as a convention of churches to see revival fire fall. It must start somewhere. I want it to start with me. Will you join me on Oct. 13? Fast and pray. Ask God to send a spiritual awakening. Ask for it personally, congregationally, and convention wide. Pray that we will see God show Himself mighty.

Your servant in Christ,

Jim Richards

Executive Director Emeritus
Jim Richards
Southern Baptists of Texas Convention
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