“While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’” (Acts 13:2). In telling us this, it seems that Luke wants us to learn that one way to know the mind of the Spirit at crucial junctures in ministry is to spend time in worshipful fasting.
Loren Cunningham, general director of Youth With a Mission, described his experience in praying and fasting for three days with 12 co-workers in 1973. As they prayed, the Lord revealed that they should pray for the downfall of a demonic force identified to them as the “prince of Greece.” The same day in New Zealand and Europe, YWAM groups received a similar word from God. All three groups obeyed and came against this principality. Within 24 hours, a political coup changed the government of Greece, bringing greater freedom for mission activity in the country.
If this seems foreign to our experience, could part of the reason be that fasting is foreign to our experience? And could fasting be foreign to us because we are so far from the whole New Testament pattern of living in and by the supernatural power of the Spirit of God?
Test yourself: Jesus said to his disciples, “When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites…” (Matthew 6:16). He did not say if you fast, but when you fast. In another place, he was asked why his disciples were not fasting, and he said, “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast” (Matthew 9:15). In other words, he fully expected that fasting would be part of our spiritual warfare when he was taken away from us.
How are you doing? Let us beware lest we pass judgment on the experiences of others who are pressing in on God for all his fullness, when we may not even be doing the ordinary things appointed in the New Testament in pursuit of the Spirit’s power in our lives.
Consider this: if you are not fasting, it is perhaps because you do not feel any fervent longings for God’s power in your life. In other words, you are pretty content with the way things are going in your fruitfulness for God and the way his glory is manifested through you. This contentment with present experience, this lack of strong longings for more of God, and more spiritual power, and more breakthroughs for his glory is one reason God withholds his greatest blessing. He has told us, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). The absence of fasting probably means the absence of deep longings for God’s power. And the absence of deep longing is one reason he waits.
This is why I have asked some of you—those who feel drawn from the inside, not pressured from the outside—to fast all day on Wednesdays for the next four weeks. Our aim is simply to give heart and body to the prayer: “Lord, show us your glory.” I am praying for many of you to feel the expectant joy I do in these days of looking (with Stephen) “into heaven” for the glory of God.
Hungry for what Stephen saw,