Why We Fast & Pray
This coming Saturday is our quarterly day of Fasting and Prayer at Prism Church. Since our inception (quite literally) we have made these days part of the DNA of our church life. On October 2-3, 2010 (the weekend before our official launch) my wife, Carolyn, I and the couple others who were part of our church plant at its inception spent the day hiking and praying over Pasadena. It’s almost unfathomable (in terms of how fast the time has flown by) that when we fast & pray on September 29 of this year, that will mark our 9th year of doing so as a church.
To set the stage for this coming weekend (and give insight into why we fast and pray) I’m going to attempt to summarize the Old Testament book of ESTHER in 400 words or less.
Here we go…
The 5th Century B.C. King of Persia, Ahasuerus, had a falling out with his wife. He then held a beauty contest to see which of the young women in the land would replace her. The winner was a young Jewish woman named Esther, who was raised by her adopted father, Mordecai (who was actually her older cousin). He advised her to keep quiet about her Hebrew nationality; counsel she wisely followed.
After Esther was named Queen, Mordecai literally saved the King’s life by reporting to Esther a murder conspiracy planned by two of the King’s guards. This act of intervention wouldn’t get rewarded until much later, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
King Ahasuerus’ chief Lieutenant was an egomaniacal man named Haman. The King commanded that the palace gate staff bow down to him…something that, as a Jew, Mordecai was forbidden by God to do. Haman took the perceived lack of deference personally (as do all megalomaniacs), but he wasn’t satisfied to take out Mordecai alone - he went after the entire population of Jews.
Haman’s service to King Ahasuerus provided so much comfort to the King that he never questioned his subordinate. This was how Haman was able to dupe the King into decreeing the death of all Jewish people [Leadership side note: if you allow the chief subordinate who makes your life easier bully those who are less central to your comfort, everyone else will lose respect for you. But this is a different subject for another blog post. I just realized that I wasted 40 words telling you that. Now it’s 54. Sorry, I can’t help myself…60].
Weeping and fear came over the Jewish people in each region, so Mordecai challenged Esther that she was in a unique position in history to intervene for her people. Meanwhile, God intervened by reminding the King that he never rewarded Mordecai for foiling the assassination attempt. In an ironic twist made possible by Haman’s gigantic ego, Haman was required to lead a parade for Mordecai through the city streets.
Additionally, through her shrewd preparation, Esther carefully disclosed her heritage to the King, raising his ire toward anyone who would harm her. She revealed that Haman plotted to kill her people and by implication the Queen. Finally, in another ironic twist that highlights the sovereignty of God, Haman was hung on a gallows he built for Mordecai.
401 words. Argh!
Where am I headed with all of this? Well, smack dab in the middle of this story (the very fulcrum of the narrative), Esther calls the Jews into a season of fasting. While Mordecai is attempting to persuade Esther to risk her life by approaching the King on behalf of the Jewish nation, the Scriptures describe her directive as such:
Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him. - ESTHER 4:13-17
On the front side of God’s intervention on behalf of a persecuted people in a Kingdom where they’d been taken as exiles, the people turn to God in fasting and prayer. Their Queen called them to spend three days without food or drink to physically demonstrate what they all knew to be true spiritually; they were helpless without God. Fasting and prayer was at the heart of this story.
We live in a culture that is increasingly hostile to Biblical, orthodox Christianity. Apart from a move of God to help our friends acknowledge His existence, their need for forgiveness, and Jesus as the atoning sacrifice for their sins, they won’t believe. And then there is still the need for them to actually call out in faith to be saved.
Prism’s Mission is to REVIVE BELIEVERS, REACH FRIENDS and RENEW CULTURE. This is a spiritual work that can’t be manufactured or managed by human effort. Our desire to see people we love come to faith and see the compassion and justice of Jesus manifest in our world won’t happen apart from God’s power.
So, we fast and pray to that end. If you want God to revive you, reach your friends and renew your culture so Jesus will be glorified, you’ll need to pray. And if you’re hungry for God to move in your life, consider going hungry for 24 hours this weekend as a means of calling out to God.