A new year has begun with its challenges and opportunities. What might be the best way to launch the year of 2010? How about coming back to radical faith through fasting and prayer.
I first learned about prayer and fasting through my early YWAM training and Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Life Principles. I found it hard to fast at first–my stomach and appetites still had greater control over my mind and body. But the more I persevered–just as an athlete does in intense training–the more I learned to appreciate being with God in this special way.
In the 1990s Dr. Bill Bright challenged the American Church to 40 Days of Fasting and Prayer for spiritual awakening in our nation and world. I took a few forty day fasts during that time, usually sipping on fruit juice only. It wasn’t easy–but it was very good. Your mind is so much clearer when you fast and God seems closer than ever. Sexual temptations are lessened during a long fast because much of sexual desire is related to the foods we eat.
Once when I was finishing a forty day fast I really didn’t want to start eating because I felt good, temptations were minimal and it was easy to hear from God. These are the personal benefits that come from fasting and prayer.
But the greatest benefit is the privilege we have of co-creating with God in the lives of individuals and even nations through extended times of fasting and prayer. Daniel fasted for his nation and the angel Gabriel visited him and showed him a future he was helping to shape. Jesus fasted and prayed, and by doing so, overcame the temptations of the devil and went on to carry out the plan of salvation which would bring blessing to billions around the world.
In 2010 a number of Christian leaders and organizations are fasting and praying for the first 21 days of the new year. I am fasting lunch every day and seeking God’s face. Whether you fast for the entire three weeks, or a meal a day, or one day a week, I encourage you to join in to impact the lives of those you love and re-direct our nation toward Christ.
Let’s “Seek God’s Amen in 2010” by fasting and praying in the new year. The following article by Billy Wilson will help show you the way.
21 Days of Awakening
By Billy Wilson
America’s greatest need is spiritual revival. The United States has seen an awakening in every century of its existence-except this one.
In the 18th century, the First Great Awakening swept thousands of colonists into the kingdom of God, and the courage to break free from Great Britain germinated in the soil of awakened hearts.
The 19th century witnessed the Second Great Awakening, which shook the American frontier with dramatic results. Entire denominations doubled their memberships in just years.
In the 20th century, the Pentecostal-charismatic movement had a global impact. During the last 100 years, nations of the world have been touched, and more than 640 million people now claim to be Spirit-filled.
America’s history has been informed consistently by significant spiritual renewal. However, we are now one-tenth of the way through the 21st century and, as far as we know, the U.S. has yet to experience a fresh awakening.
The ineffectiveness of the American church pushes us to ask some hard questions of God and ourselves:
Have we allowed ourselves to be preoccupied with political, social and peripheral issues more than with the nation’s greatest need? Have we spent billions fighting political and social battles while losing the spiritual battle for the souls of a new generation? Have we chosen the easier way of carnal weaponry while neglecting God’s more challenging way of spiritual intensity?
Have we picketed more than prayed, fought more than fasted and lashed out more than loved? Have we been duped into hoping that righteousness would be installed from the top down rather than recognizing that true awakening comes from the bottom up?
Does the church in America need to experience a fresh grace through repentance? Do we need a deep cleansing and renewal?
I believe that the answer to these questions is a painful and convicting yes.
Today’s church is desperate for a deep and transformational revival that will change the spiritual landscape of our country again.
The question is, what would an awakening in 21st century America look like? What would happen if God shook this nation during the next decade? How would we know if revival and awakening were occurring?
Answers to these questions were discussed several months ago in Northampton, Massachusetts, during a gathering of more than 75 Christian leaders in the city once known as an epicenter of the First Great Awakening. These leaders identified 20 significant indicators of a contemporary awakening-10 in the church and 10 in the culture. You can read their conclusions online at AwakeningAmerica.us
The leaders, who represented a broad spectrum of evangelical denominations and ministries, also banded with several hundred ministries in the Awakening America Alliance to seek God for a new Christ-awakening in the United States.
Now, as a way to pursue the spiritual renewal we need, we have an opportunity to unite at the start of this second decade of the century to humble ourselves through fasting and prayer.
The Awakening America Alliance has designated January 1-21 as “21 Days for a New Awakening” to answer God’s call through the prophet Joel to “declare a holy fast” (see Joel 1:14).
Fasting from a pure heart with proper motives will help lead us into the brokenness required to receive God’s next move in our nation. Fasting brings spiritual benefits because it helps us humble ourselves, presses us toward personal cleansing, focuses our hearts and weans us off earthly distractions.
It allows for heightened sensitivity to God’s voice and positions us to bring deliverance to the captives. Fasting and prayer facilitate a personal renewal of our connection and intimacy with Jesus. His presence and pleasure become our reward.
Ultimately, the renewal of the church and of the nation will depend on people who respond to His call. True spiritual awakening in this century will be a grass-roots movement in which intimacy with Jesus is restored one heart at a time, producing the fruitfulness and freshness we all desire.
Why not let the 21st century awakening start in your church. More importantly, why not let it start in your heart?
Billy Wilson is executive director of the International Center for Spiritual Renewal and executive officer for Empowered 21: Global Congress on Holy Spirit Empowerment.