Prayer, Fasting, and Intercession
In Matthew 6:9-15, Jesus Christ teaches his disciples to pray:
Our Father, who is in heaven
Hallowed by your name.
Your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we have forgiven our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
What is Prayer?
Prayer is a two-way communication process that allows us to talk with God. He wants us to communicate with Him, like two people talking face to face.
It is a personal experience and intimate connection with our loving heavenly Father. Jesus set an example for us on how and what to pray. He prayed for His disciples, for every generation to come that would follow Him, and for God’s will to be done (John 17:11-26; Luke 22:42; Hebrews 5:7; Luke 6:12-13).
Prayer is not something we do to impress others or to show how spiritual we are. It is private time to talk with God. We need to recognize that God is our Father, He is our source of everything, and He knows our needs. He is the Father who cares, loves, and provides. He knows all of our needs even before we ask.
We need to pray for His name to be hallowed, His Kingdom to come, and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. These should be our priorities in prayer. We also need to ask Him for our daily bread and for all of the practical needs of our lives.
When we begin to live and pray as Jesus did, we will see God’s power at work in every aspect of our lives and ministries. We need to continually call upon and depend on Him, knowing that He hears and answers prayers (Jeremiah 33:3; Matthew 7:7-11; Acts 1:14; 1 John 3:21-23).
Prayer is not a life jacket we use only when we face problems (1 Thessalonians 5:17). It must be part of our lifestyle.
Praying for what is in God’s heart
God’s Word is full of prayers that are after God’s own heart and are in accordance with His will (Exodus 33:17-19; Isaiah 43:5-9; 1 John 5:14-15; Philippians 1:9-11; Psalm 19:12; Psalm 27:11; Psalm 51:10; Psalm 119:18; Jeremiah 24:7; Mark 9:24).
If we want to pray what is in God’s heart, we need to pray according to His word.
We need to learn from the early Church that there is a direct connection between prayer and submission to the will of God as it is clearly mentioned in His word (John 15:7; Luke 22:42; Acts 1:14; Acts 2:42-47; Acts 4:23-33, James 4:3).
The more we pray according to His word, the more He works in and through us. Before He left, Jesus told the disciples to wait for the promise (Acts 1:4). They prayed for 10 days for the promise He had given them to be fulfilled and that they would be empowered by the Holy Spirit. Then Peter preached for 10 minutes and 3,000 people were saved.
Praying the Word of God first changes us and then the situation for which we are praying.
In prayer, we have an encounter with God—no one can encounter God and go away unchanged (Genesis 32:24-30). Seeking God is the most important part of our prayer and fellowship time with Him (Jeremiah 29:13; Jeremiah 32:40-41; Luke 11:9-11). It’s the only way to know Him, His will and calling for our life, and to be close and one with Him (Psalm 46:10; Ecclesiastes 5:1; Isaiah 30:21). When we pray and ask God, we are exercising our faith in Him which enables us to grow in knowing Him (James 1:17). As we have seen, prayer is not only asking and receiving from God, it is the way we are drawn near God (James 4:8).
Sometimes prayer and fasting need to go together. We should fast and pray whenever we are truly seeking Him and His will for us and for others (Luke 18:1-8).
What is Fasting?
Fasting is abstaining in some significant way from our routine activities and food to focus on God. Usually, it is food and drink but it can also be ministry, cell phone, computer, e-mail, etc. Fasting breaks the habit of always satisfying our own needs; it makes us depend on God to satisfy our needs for us. It must be taken seriously and prayerfully; it must never be a ritual but rather a heartfelt seeking of God’s will and glory in one’s life and the life of the church (Isaiah 58:3-9; Matthew 6:16-18).
Moses fasted during the 40 days and 40 nights he was on Mount Sinai to receive the law from God (Exodus 34:28). King Jehoshaphat called for a fast in all Israel when they were about to be attacked by the Moabites and Ammonites (2 Chronicles 20:3). In response to Jonah’s preaching, the people of Nineveh fasted and put on sackcloth (Jonah 3:5). David fasted when he knew that Saul and Jonathan had been killed (2 Samuel 1:12). Nehemiah had a time of prayer and fasting when he heard that Jerusalem was in ruins (Nehemiah 1:4).
Anna “worshipped night and day, fasting and praying” at the Temple (Luke 2:37). Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights before His temptation by Satan (Matthew 4:2). The Antioch church fasted (Acts 13:2) and sent out Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:3). Paul and Barnabas spent time in prayer and fasting for the appointment of elders in the churches (Acts 14:23). Prayer and fasting have to be part of our life. In Global Disciples, we believe that everything we do has to be conceived in prayer, birthed in prayer, and carried on in prayer.
What is the purpose of fasting?
The main purpose of fasting is to strive for a deeper fellowship with God. Through prayer and fasting, we are able to take our eyes off the things of this world and focus on Christ (Matthew 6:16-18).
However, spending time in prayer and fasting does not automatically accomplish our desires. For example, in the prophet Isaiah’s time, the people fasted yet God did not answer in the way they wanted (Isaiah 58:3-4). Isaiah responded by saying that the external show of fasting and prayer without the proper heart attitude was in vain (Isaiah 58:5-9). Whether we fast or not, God will not give us what we ask for if it is not according to His will. In general, the primary reason for fasting is to express our devotion and service to God, not to twist the hand of God for our gain. The length of time for fasting can vary. The most common is to skip two meals, to fast for 24 hours from lunch or dinner one day to that meal the next day. Some people fast for three days. On some special occasions, people can be led by the Holy Spirit to fast for 21 days or 40 days (Daniel 9; Matthew 4:1-10). Fasting is a matter of the heart; the length of time does not increase the spirituality of the act.
What is intercession?
Intercessory prayer (Job 42:8; Isaiah 62:6-7; Jeremiah 29:7; Ezekiel 22:30) is a prayer made on behalf of others as Job prayed for his friends. Intercession is a time of prayer when we remove all of our own agendas and cry out for the Holy Spirit to invade every situation for which we are interceding, whether it be for people, churches, cities, or nations (Ephesians 6:18-20; 1 Timothy 2:1-4).
It is standing in the gap between God and any situation, as is mentioned in Ezekiel 22:30. God is the initiator of intercessory prayer—He is always looking for intercessors. Intercession is recognizing that His ways are greater than our own while simultaneously requesting either His interference or His altering of a situation. Intercession focuses upon the beauty of the Lord while powerfully changing the circumstances of the world (Ezekiel 22:30-31). God reveals what He is going to do for those who intercede to be co-laborers in His Kingdom (Genesis 19:16-21).
Jesus is our great model for intercession (1 Timothy 2:5). He prayed for those in need, for His disciples, and even for us (John 17:20; Luke 22:31). When Satan wanted to sift Peter as wheat, the prayer of Jesus shielded him from losing his faith. He also continued His ministry of intercession after His death and resurrection and is serving us now as our intercessor in heaven (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:23-25; 1 John 2:1-2). He also gave us the Holy Spirit to intercede for us and through us (Romans 8:26). As Jesus is interceding for us, we also need to intercede for those whom we are discipling and for those who are without Him. If we are not interceding for people, how do they come to know Him (Matthew 9:38; 1 Timothy 2:1-4)?
Abraham interceded for Sodom (Genesis 18:23-32) and Moses for the people of Israel (Exodus 32:7-14; Psalm 106:23). Jeremiah wept for his people (Lamentations 3:48-50). The early Church also interceded for Peter (Acts 12:5-12). God is looking for persistent intercessors who regularly intercede for a third of the world who have yet to have heard the Good News of Jesus.
How often do we intercede for our unbelieving family members?
Intercession fills our hearts with hope, thanksgiving, worship, praise, conviction, holy anger, and, most importantly, love for all lives, circumstances, and the world. Intercession ministry is not a place to be recognized but a place where the deep love, sorrow, hope, and joy of the Lord is revealed. When we intercede, we are collaborating with God, and He responds to us.
What motivates you to pray, fast, and intercede?
What might be one activity, one priority, and one attitude that you need to change in your perspective on prayer, fasting, and intercession?
Global Disciples Canada is a Christian mission organization that trains local leaders living near least-reached communities to multiply disciples for Christ. One-third of our world hasn’t heard the Good News of Jesus. Yet. Global Disciples refers to these as “least-reached” people, and fewer than 10% of all missionaries work among these groups. We live in a time where many of these people are within reach of a local church. Through our simple and effective training and coaching strategy, believers share the Gospel in their own nations and cultures. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” and we’re committed to doing just that. If you are looking for a Christian mission organization to partner with to become a better disciple and help make disciples, connect with us today!
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