A Call To Fasting And Prayer
 Elder Wm. Doyal Thomas
Pastor - Philadelphia Baptist Church
Decatur , Alabama
"Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed ..." (Acts 13:1- 4a)
    Fasting and prayer are doctrinal twins, and are to be a part of the preparation that the Lord's people engage themselves in as they make ready to serve Him, and to be used of Him in what ever calling He calls them to. This is a Bible doctrine, and it is applicable in this present age, as evidenced by the instance recorded in the New Testament in Acts as we have cited. It is required that the Lord's people be taught and led to practice these truths, both as individual believers and as members of one of the Lord's true New Testament churches. This doctrine does apply to disciples today.
    Any great or small undertaking must be considered as an assignment that has originated with God, and has been given to His people to perform. "Lord, what would YOU have ME to do?" ought to be on the heart, mind, and lips of every child of God with each waking moment. Immediately on awakening, children of God should, in deep and humble gratitude thank Him for life and breath and for opportunity to serve Him. THEN, the question, "What would you have me to do?"
    Not only as each day begins, but throughout each day we should seek His will. As many things as come to our minds and hearts to consider, each action should be prefaced with proper preparation. No one can properly perform who is improperly prepared, or ill prepared, or unprepared to do what is required. One cannot serve God acceptably who is not prepared to serve Him well and faithfully.
    Why do I fail so often? Why do you fail so often? Could it be that we undertake without adequate preparation? Could it be that we are ill- equipped to do His service? Does He use dull implements to prepare His fields for sowing? Does He bless the workman who disregards the provision that He has made available for the workman's use? Does God give victory over enemies when His own soldiers march to battle in their own strength and do not avail of His arsenal of weapons.?
    The texts that were cited as we began relate to one of the Lord's churches as she received of the Lord explicit command to prepare certain men whom He had called to a certain duty. It was not left to the option or discretion of the church at Antioch, nor to the pastor of that church, nor to the membership of that church, nor to the missionary inductees themselves as to whether, or how they were to undertake this duty and march under these orders. "... the Holy Ghost said ..."  is the final authority behind the specified duty, and that authority is beyond any debate or question. That stated mission assignment was specific, for it was spoken to a specific church, about specific men, for a specific duty.
    So are all other assignments that come to the Lord's churches and to His servants. The directions are not always verbalized, or otherwise articulated as clearly and as unmistakably as this, but specific none the less. And it behooves us as servants and as churches to seek to ascertain exactly and precisely what the Lord intends concerning our actions, or our waitings upon Him as we serve Him acceptably.
    Thus, fasting and prayer are means that God has ordained so that we can better discern His will for our lives. As was evidenced by the church at Antioch, recorded for our teaching and example, we read again: "And as they ministered to the Lord, and FASTED, the Holy Ghost said, ...  (Vs. 2). "And when they had FASTED AND PRAYED ... (Vs. 3).
    Would the church at Antioch have been likely to discern the leadership of the Holy Spirit in this announcement had they not been in a fasting and prayerful mode? Speculation on this issue will not help us to understand. What we have before us in the fact that the church WAS in that mode, and that the Holy Spirit DID speak to them so that they clearly and distinctly knew what He wanted them to do. To ask, "What if ..."  is foolish, for "what if", is not relevant to the Scriptures. The Scriptures speak, and leave nothing to "what if", as verified in this case, and as is true in all other cases.
    It is my belief and conviction that the Lord's children are, generally, in such state of unbelief and / or backsliding until they are much more feeble and weak then they could or should be. It is my conviction that weak and feeble workmen seldom perform well, and seldom receive the blessing of "good and faithful" servants. In effect, when we do not perform our duties faithfully and well, we have done two great wrongs. First, we have dishonored our God who has called us to His field, and secondly, in doing so, we have forfeited the blessings that we could have received, had we been obedient and faithful.
    I stand amazed at the number of times that I have witnessed, or heard others confess the many empty days, weeks, months, and years that have gone by when their lives did not seem joyous and happy. But even more amazing to me is the fact that so often these same individuals ask anyone with whom they are in contact, "Why do problems continue in my life? Why do these things happen to me? I am a Christian, and yet my life is so unfulfilled. I am so empty and confused. Does God not love me anymore? If He does, why does He let these awful things to happen in my life?"
    Oh, dear professing Christian, do you not read in God's Bible His directions for your life? Do you not hear His messengers tell you that you are to submit to His ways and conduct your life according to His precepts and principles? Do you not have enough interest in God's ways to lead you to study, fast, and pray? Do you not hear God?
"Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." (Isaiah 40:28-31).
    Our weakness is compensated by His supply. And it is not a matter of "me and God". Rather, it is a matter of His children drawing on His strength, as we are enabled to realize that He alone is the source of all good things. He alone supplies our need as we lean hard on Him and drink at His spring, and feast at His table. "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13) "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:13)
    Please consider now what James says as he writes to the scattered saints of God among Israel's race whom God had scattered abroad at the dispersion. God had sent them abroad, that is, to far places, to spread His word and to teach them that even in their goings, they must rely upon, and trust Him for their needed strength and enablement.
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed." (James 1:5,6)
And then, he brings this charge against them:
"Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts." (James 4:2-3)
    Jesus Himself, said to His disciples, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." (John 15:7) Clearly, Jesus is instructing His disciples in faithful abiding. He is assuring them that if they abide in Him, and His words abide in them, THEN, they may ask what they will, and they shall receive accordingly. The implication is also crystal clear that where there is no abiding, there is no assurance of receiving. Disciples are responsible to abide (continue) and to keep the teaching of His words, if they are to expect any blessing. "And why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46)
    Is there success when God's people obey Him? Is there connection between proper preparation, which clearly includes fasting and prayer, to the successful discharge of the duty and obligation that God assigns? Let's remember the attitude and the action of the church at Antioch that attention was called to as we began this treatise, and then let's look to the record of that church and her God called and sent missionaries.
    Paul and his companions were used of the Lord in mighty ways for a number of years in the spreading of the gospel of the grace of God to the regions of the world heretofore left untouched. Multitudes of God's elect were called by the gospel unto salvation. Many churches were established, strengthened, and caused to function faithfully for many years. In fact, the entire Gentile world, as well as Israel still bear the glorious effects of this church at Antioch and the faithful disciples continuance in fasting and prayer as they labored those many years. And always, the missionaries returned at the conclusion of their separate
journeys to rehearse with their church the mighty ways in which the Holy Spirit had sustained them and blessed their work.
    I now call upon the Christian people of America and the world to come back to God's way, and prepare for service the Lord's way, by fasting and prayer.
"Hear, 0 Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shall talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates." (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land." (II Chronicles 7:14)

(The Baptist Herald - July , 1995)

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