I have been feeling lately that I should fast and pray. I am not in a regular practice of fasting though I know it is one of the disciplines of a Christ follower. I believe that God is bringing me into a new season of prayer. I also see this parallel the pursuit of prayer happening in my church. We are doing Jim Cymbala's DVD series on When God's People Pray, which I have just finished watching myself. It stood out to me that the church is to be a house of prayer. It also reminds me that nothing should be done without first praying about it. I believe Christians and churches have moved away from the practice of bathing issues in prayer. We must pray and we must repent of our individual and our corporate sins as God's people and as a nation.
I have recently been going through a painful time in a close relationship. In the midst of this I had been on my face in prayer crying out to the Lord and in the process asking Christ for more of Himself. He showed me through the painful relationship that in repentance of my sin and in forgiveness of other's sin do I receive more of Christ. I am made more like Him only in my willingness to forgive --as He so willingly did as He suffered immeasurable pain while hanging on that terrible cross for each of our sins. If He could sacrifice Himself for me and for all of us and love us and forgive us, then surely I can forgive. If Brother Yun, Pastor in China, author of The Heavenly Man, who has suffered unbearable torture and persecution for his faith in Christ Jesus can forgive, then so can I.
In talking with the Lord today, I felt God was telling me that it is time to fast and pray. As I continued dialoging with the Lord, He told me to pray that there will be an outpouring of prayer amongst His people and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit amongst us. I am to fast and pray for healing; healing for our nation, our government, our relationships, our churches. He told me this should be the focus of my fast today. He showed me that the wisdom that I ask for will sometimes come moment by moment, bit by bit. Healing and blessing will occur. I will fast and pray for this day. Today's devotional from Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Life email tells how to have a quiet time with the Lord. To begin with Psalm 46:10, "Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth." I will be still before you Lord. I know that you alone are God. I will exalt you. You will be exalted among the nations and in the earth. Then in Isaiah 30:15, "This is what the Sovreign Lord, the Holy One of Israel says: 'In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.'"
As I'm reading in Jeremiah 5 today, I see as I saw in Isaiah the book of the prophet, that God has given us guidelines, rules, boundaries, that we have not followed. I read Jeremiah 5:27-31 that speaks of God's people "like cages full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; they have become rich and powerful and have grown fat and sleek. Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not plead the case of the fatherless to win it, they do not defend the rights of the poor. Should I not punish them for this? declares the Lord. Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this? A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?" It seems God is talking to our nation and to our churches--to Christians who have fattened themselves up but who aren't doing the real work of the cross--pleading the case of the fatherless and defending the rights of the poor. I am encouraged to not just read the Word for knowledge and information to build up myself, but that as Rick Warren says, I must feed on His Word to know Jesus more--to be more like Him. As I look at the story on the MSN homepage today about the obesity of people in our nation--and see which states are the most obese--I see that we have done as the prophet Jeremiah spoke of many years ago--we have grown fat and sleek physically and spiritually as a nation. We are all guilty of this. We must confess our sins of pride, lust, envy, greed. We must repent and turn from our sin. We must be in prayer for healing. First comes confession and repentance. Then comes healing.