t is with joy and great delight that I welcome you to this fresh month, the month of March our month of praying and fasting! My prayer for you is that God will grant you the enablement to pray and fast and more importantly that he will hear your prayers, and prosper you in all directions of your prayer and life. By dedicating this month to praying and fasting does not mean that you have not being praying and fasting it is just that God will enable us to pay more attention to this age long spiritual exercise and more importantly to learn more about them and hopefully develop a greater and better attitude towards them and benefit more from this age long spiritual tradition and become a better citizen and Christian.
Seriously speaking I felt a reluctance in writing about prayer because as Pastor for over 30 years , who grew up in a family where we prayed every morning , who has read countless of books on praying and fasting I know I still don't pray as much as I should and I know that many Christians just don't pray! You say pastor but people go to prayer meetings, night vigils, Prayer Mountains, prayer congress , prayer convocations, call it any name and I will not disagree with you, but you will agree with me that peoples prayer lives are more of corporate show off than personal growth and development in the area of prayer. There is so much talk, preaching, teaching, conferences, and seminars about prayer yet so little prayer, and development about prayer. Have you attended prayer seminars, conferences and workshops and in 8 hours they probably prayed for 8 minutes- I have! Don't misunderstand me there were generations of our fore-fathers that have prayed and interceded and has bequeathed to us the legacy of prayer but this generation of Christians are losing it! This is one generation you 'beg' people to come to prayer meetings, this is one generation you beg people to fast, and it need not be so! It simply shows a lack of knowledge in this area and, did the bible not say my people perish for lack of knowledge?
That is why I want us to revisit this issue of prayer. What is prayer? Why is prayer and fasting important to Gods plan on earth? Why do you need to pray and fast? How many types of prayer? What is fasting? How do you pray and fast? What are our expectations? How do we distinguish between praying for wants and needs? How do we develop a life of lasting prayer and fasting? Of course to treat all these and more will be another book. I guess you have a few on your shelf gathering dust! This month I urge you to take those books, particularly the classic books on prayer, those of prayer warriors like E.M Bound, Charles Spurgeon, Watchman Nee, Martin Luther, Paul E. Miller, Oswald smith and many others. My only appeal is that this month you will learn about prayer and fasting and from this month on your personal level you will develop the attitude of prayer and fasting productively for your generation.
What is Prayer?
Prayer is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with an object of worship through deliberate communication. Prayer can be a form of religious practice, may be either individual or communal and take place in public or in private. It means speaking the words within your heart to God, and communing with God having grasped His will and based upon His words. Prayer is not complicated. It could be formal or informal. It is simply a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God .One of the mistakes we make about prayer is to view God as an object, a distant personality or an inanimate object, a force that is not approachable. Despite the fact that God expresses himself as a father, just like your earthly father to simplify things for us, we consciously see him otherwise hence prayer becomes a ding dong affair.
So prayer is talking to our father and our father talking to us. It is a two way process/traffic. Any of the two parties can initiate communication. When you get familiar with this understanding you can expect God to talk to you, send you on errands show you things and get his wishes done. Just as you get God to meet your needs. As a child when we grow up we realise that we want to talk to our parents and our parents desire to talk to us. We ask our parents for money, school fees, clothing etc. and our parent's grant us such requests. In turn as we grow older our parents tells us to wash dishes, clean our rooms send us to get stuff from grocery store.
Let us see it in the bible. The people of Israel were in bondage Exodus 1& 2. Then they prayed (cried) to God to deliver them. In chapter three God called on Moses and said - go and deliver my people. Moses said, 'No dad, they will ask me questions I cannot answer'. What type of questions? God replied. 'Questions like what is the name of my dad?' The conversation continued 'That is not difficult, it is a pity you don't know my name yourself. Anyway tell them "I Am that I Am."; 'Ok' Moses replied. 'You know I am a stammerer I am not the best for this assignment.' 'Ok, I will co-opt your big brother Aaron to join." God replied. That is the trend of prayer. Prayer is a conversation between us and God. Take for example, numerous conversations of Paul with God. (Acts 9). Think of Peter's conversation with God, Acts 10. Jesus conversation with God (John 17) that is what prayer is. Many churches have a legacy of how to pray I guess many parishioners are just beneficiaries of but are not learning and imbibing to their culture. When the GO- Pastor Adeboye his preaching, He will suddenly pause and say- "Daddy says, there is someone here… . He is not' praying' but he has understood prayer to be a way of God communicating with him! Christ Apostolic Church was founded on a legacy of prayer.
Today we look for some special people to help us talk (pray) to God because we do not understand prayer or because we don't want to shoulder the responsibility of prayer. How many of us get a second party to talk to our parents at home? In the Old Testament they have a structure of the Tabernacle or Temple, which consisted of the outer court, the inner court and the Holy of Holies and, the Levitical and priesthood structure. But Jesus when he was on the cross tore the veil that separates the inner court from the Holy of Holies thereby creating a platform and direct access for ordinary people to talk to our heavenly father. When Jesus resurrected remember what he said when Mary Magdalene wanted to touch him; "Do not cling to Me, Jesus said, "for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go and tell My brothers, 'I am ascending to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.'" Prayer is talking to our Father from earth to the heavens.
That leads me to another concept of prayer I want to share. Another way to understand prayer is the telephone concept. You can use your phone anywhere and you can express your wish on your phone to the person on the other line. Today we use wireless phones and we are happy with Alexander Bell invention. But before Bell, God has been talking to us wirelessly and vice versa. I just mentioned Moses. Moses wrote the Pentateuch, the Torah , the First five books of the bible , how was he able to get such detailed information from God. Because prayer is getting God's attention and having a feedback from him.
How was Moses able to get such volume of discussion and we cannot get tit bits of conversation with God? The point here is that we can pray anywhere anyhow (used with caution) in your car, in your toilet, in the open field, in the church, etc. and God will hear. Praying is talking to God as if you are talking to your best friend, parents, and relations all the time as though he was there right beside you. If you believe that God lives within your soul, communicating to God all the time becomes easy.
Another concept is to see prayers as a business meeting. We lay the docket of our prayer list before God and adjourn to the rest of our day. But prayer offers more than that. Prayer is more than asking God for things, more than texting Him with a "need this" or "thanks for that." It is communion with our God in the splendor of His glory and the expression of His care. One of our goals in prayer is to grow to know our God, to reflect on His revelation in His Word, in His creation, in His providence, and in His Son.
Why is prayer and fasting important to God's plan on earth?
Every corporation has an organogram ranging from complex ones to simple ones. But all corporations operate on simple philosophy, the management that makes the decisions and the staff that implement the decisions. The means of interaction is called communication. Heaven and earth operates the same way. God made us Gen 1 & 2 and put us on earth for his purpose. That is why God gets offended when we behave as if he has no plan for us or we think we have no purpose on earth. No employer of any company will employ anyone without any job description. God did not make a duplicate of anybody and God has different assignments for everybody. People say today there are many churches; there are many pastors, I just laugh. Maybe in Africa or Western world. We have over 7 billion people on earth and only one third has anything to do with God through Christ. Meaning we only have 1/3 of churches, we assume we have reached the peak, and yet have only 1/3 of pastors. Simply put we need more. So God put us here on earth and expects us to fulfil purpose- For instance - God said- Then God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground." Gen 1:28
Jesus said- 'And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature;' Mark 16:15. The question I want to ask is this; 'will God expect us to communicate with Him over these projects?' Will an employer expect the employee to communicate with him? The answer will be, yes. Christians are soldiers. Christians are ambassadors for God. God expects us to face challenges. God knows the type of challenges- "And when you pray, do not babble on like pagans, for they think that by their many words they will be heard. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him". Matt 6:8. Two things are worthy of elucidation in that scripture, God knows what you NEED, before you Ask. It means God established prayer and prayer is important to God because he desires to meets your needs in the process of you executing His agenda. Where we miss the focus in prayer is that our prayers are more of WANTS than NEEDS. We need shelter, food and clothing. Basic needs but we focus on wants. Let us take the issue of child bearing. God wants you to have children. In the bible we have many accounts of people who petitioned God for children starting with Father Abraham. But God needed Abraham to pioneer a peculiar generation. So God has no choice than to give Abraham children. But Abraham thought he needed that child more desperately than God. Is that so? Hannah thought she desperately needed a child, but God needed to replace Eli? What is my message, prayer is important to God , because it is to achieve his purpose on earth and you are the agent he is depending on. He will meet that need. Listen- "And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: 15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him." 1 John 5:14-15. If your request is in tandem with God's will and purposes you don't need to be desperate with God. Just ask your father. He already knows what you need. You want to pay your children school fees, he will give you, because he says train your children. To pay your mortgage, house rent those are basic needs. Where we run into trouble is wants- separate your needs from your wants and see how much peace you have with God in living your life and getting answers to your prayer.
Why do you need to pray and fast?
We pray because we know God loves us and has given us a prayer platform. We pray because we know that God wants us and wants to hear from us. In some places God will say "Ask Me" Psalm 34:17, Psalm 18:6, Jer 29;12 We pray because we need God to reveal things to us, we need revelation about our future who to marry, careers to pursue, where to live, Jer 33:3. We pray because we are encumbered, weary, despair with a lot of things and we need rest, we need relief from burdens and pressures .Matt 11:28. We pray because we want to be relieved of our anxieties, Phil 4:6. We pray because we want confidence, we don't want to live with low esteem, depression and so on. Heb 4:16. We pray because we need healing. Ex 23:25. We pray because we don't want a miscarriage, we want to have children, we want to live our full days. Ex 23:26, 15:26, Psalm 118:17. We pray because we need strength and energy beyond what food and drinks can provide. As Ministers, Pastors, Evangelist, Prophets, Apostles we pray to receive power to perform miracles in our lives and our parishioners' lives.
We pray because God commands us to pray (Philippians 4:6-7). Prayer is exemplified for us by Christ and the early church (Mark 1:35; Acts 1:14; 2:42; 3:1; 4:23-31; 6:4; 13:1-3). If Jesus thought it was worthwhile to pray, we should also. If He needed to pray to remain in the Father's will, how much more do we need to pray?
Another reason to pray is that God intends prayer to be the means of obtaining His solutions in a number of situations. We pray in preparation for major decisions (Luke 6:12-13); to overcome demonic barriers (Matthew 17:14-21); to gather workers for the spiritual harvest (Luke 10:2); to gain strength to overcome temptation (Matthew 26:41); and to obtain the means of strengthening others spiritually (Ephesians 6:1819).
A lack of prayer demonstrates a lack of faith and a lack of trust in God's Word. We pray to demonstrate our faith in God, that He will do as He has promised in His Word and bless our lives abundantly more than we could ask or hope for (Ephesians 3:20).
In summary we pray because we want to change our test to testimonies, we want our trials to become triumphs we want our mess to become miracles. And we know that God has supernatural power that we do not have. God is mighty, God is the maker of the universe, and God can do whatever he wants to do. God has done what we are asking for before in the life of people and he will do it in our lives. Prayer is our primary means of seeing God work in our lives and in the lives of others. This month I encourage you to develop a new attitude to prayer and fasting don't just talk about it, fast and pray. That is what we are doing individually and corporately this month in Christ Apostolic Church Bethel Toronto. You are welcome to join us!
Watch out for Part 2.