I do not know how many fasts I have been on in my life. I am not by any means an avid faster, nor am I a complete novice. I have done all of the big fasts, each more than once: one-day, three-day, seven-day, twenty-one-day, and forty-day. I have begun a couple fasts that I did not finish, and I have never gone over the amount of time I had set to fast.
I began walking with Jesus when I presumed doing things like fasting would cause God to respond favorably to my requests. This was a foolish venture that rendered dubious results. By dubious, I mean good things from God would happen after my fasting, which I attributed to my fasting, but were instead blessings provided by God's grace, not necessarily in response to my intense petitioning.
With believing God somehow loved those who performed difficult, spiritually-charged actions for Him more than He loved those of lesser spiritual sacrifice, I fasted mostly to get something in return, although I was too sophisticated to realize it.
As I was learning to fast, I began from a "my request” perspective, thinking if I added a fast to "my request," it would amp up God's sense of obligation to fulfill the request.
For a few years, I prayed with a couple of men for over an hour every morning. We would pray, cry out, and get really serious about our requests. One day, I began to write down everything for which we had been praying. Some of our requests indeed had been answered, but some not. Here came my difficulty: I could not tell if the answers had been in response to our prayers, or if they had just happened over time by God's personal and providential care.
I then considered the really big things we had earnestly prayed for, things requiring huge miracles and God-intervention-level praying—not one had been answered.
I talked to some major-league prayer practitioners on the subject, and their advice was to keep praying, don't give up, and hang in there.
Obviously, I was not convinced. Something was off, but I just couldn't put my finger on it.
I knew other pastors who, along with their churches, were receiving blessings they had not even really been praying for.
These pastors wanted the things to happen that did happen, and they may have even thrown up a prayer or two for God's help, but they were not praying like my friends and I were praying, all hot and energetic-like, yet they were seeing “answers” to unspoken prayers.
Here is what I learned the hard way: Although Christ empathized with my requesting (He Himself pleaded with His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane), my prayers, or more accurately, my requests, would not change the Father's mind. My requests do submit my heart to His will and welcome what the Father was going to do anyway. These requests sow obedience and dependence into our lives and into the heavens.
Fasting is not a more intense form of requesting, nor is it a way to put on a better form of “clean” and paint myself with pure motives to coerce God into answering my requests.
When I began to realize all the miles I had rattled up in prayer and fasting were without much impact, my first response was, "Why pray?”
Here is the confusion: we have thrown praying with “my requests” together in the same practice.
So, let me stop right there and insert this point: just because I did not get answers does not mean great things did not happen. During all those times of praying or requesting—“Jesus, would you please do this?" — Jesus was there, Jesus was teaching, and Jesus was present. Jesus was taking the burdens of my heart. This is what Paul meant when he wrote, "Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Philippians 4:6 CSB). Notice that Paul states “prayer" and “petition" separately. Both are done with thanksgiving, and both are essential to moving worry and anxiety from our hearts to God's.
So when I obey the word and make all my petitions known to God, there is no doubt that I exchange my fretting for His peace (Philippians 4:7). The word for petition in Philippians 4:6 means "urgent request." I could not deny Christ was with me and would reveal things to me, but would He fulfill every one of my requests? Not so much, thank God. I think we should dump every request on God, not because He fulfills them all, but because, in doing so, Jesus heals the angst and brings us to peace, so we can hear Him more clearly and then pray according to His will.
At some point during any fast you engage in, Jesus will be seeking to accomplish something: closeness. Prayer mixed with fasting fulfills one critical purpose: it creates an environment where intimacy can be deepened. When intimacy is deepened, God reveals His heart to us and our hearts to ourselves.
Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows He will also reap, because the one who sows to his flesh will reap destruction from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith. Galatians 6:7-10 CSB
There is a God-directed care over creation that is universal. Jesus described it this way, “Consider the ravens: they don’t sow or reap; they don’t have a storeroom or a barn; yet God feeds them. Aren’t you worth much more than the birds?" (Luke 12:24 CSB)
There is a provision and a care from God that is common to all people. Jesus made that claim to a people under the oppression of Rome, afflicted with a great many hardships, including poverty. Yet in the middle of the madness of such a crushing power and lack, Jesus announced that there was a provision from God available to all.
To make a request for things God naturally and lovingly provides is still necessary because it creates a heart of humility and dependence. It will not, however, as a general rule, bend His will as to whether to provide it or not.
I pray daily, "Give me this day my daily bread," knowing I have food aplenty for the day. Why then ask for such provision? It is to remind my heart that the food came from God, and I am a soul more precious to Him than the ravens. So whether I am one in a famine-stricken nation or I live off of the bounty of America, I make that request for provision, so my spirit remains aware that, "God is my Provider.”
I can pray for rain and it will come; perhaps not because I prayed for rain, but because, as Jesus said, "He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:45 CSB).
I am not suggesting we eliminate “my request” from the praying experience because we will get things anyway. As we continue to present our requests to God, we will keep our hearts fully aware of His great providential, but personal, care of our lives, which is essential to humility and an intimate relationship with Him.
When I pray “my requests” while also praying for His will, I am saying, “Father, You are the ultimate Provider of all my needs. I am looking to You. Even though You may not fulfill all my specific requests today, You are providing for all my needs over my lifetime, within Your bigger picture." In that sense, God is very much answering every request-prayer, even though He might not, thank God, be satisfying every specific request.
God encourages, “Cast all your cares on Him, because He cares about you" (1 Peter 5:7 CSB). To cast your care on God is a prayer that will always be answered. God will care for you. He just might not do so to the exact order of your prayer.
All of this should be known and understood before we come to comprehend the Galatians 5:7-10 passage.
In the Galatians passage, God warns us not to be deceived by how our lives are turning out. Meaning, don't think just because God meets, in a providential way, your common needs, there is no need for sowing in order to reap.
A fixed spiritual law governs the entire scope of God's creation: the cosmos responds to the law of sowing and reaping. When those God has made to govern His created world sow seed, they reap a harvest of the kind of seed they have sown.
If we, those called to govern this creation, sow to our selfish nature to please ourselves and satisfy desires, we will reap destruction.
Here comes the big promise: if those called to govern creation sow to the Spirit and seek for what pleases God, they will, at the right moment, reap something eternal in this life (Galatians 6:8).
If we rarely make requests to God, then we are sowing into our lives the sense that God does not provide and God does not care, which will affect our reaping downstream. In the same way, if there are other prayers we do not pray, will-of-God decree kinds, it will affect our reaping downstream.
What I have learned is that God provides many things common to all: "Give us this day our daily bread." When in crisis and need, I make my requests known to God, aware He will be with me and take me through. More than that, at the exact proper moment, He will do what He has determined to do through what I am experiencing.
I also know God seeks to intervene in my life, so He calls me to pray, beyond a “my-request” kind of prayer, a more specific prayer— a decree, or declaration: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.”
When I pray “Thy Kingdom come," I am not making “my request,” but I am declaring God's personal will over a specific issue in my life or the life of another. I am bathing that issue in the words of God's will, thus His word in due time will come to pass. I have sown God's Word in the Spirit by prayer, and His Word will reap an eternal harvest in the temporal now.
I know we spoke of building decrees earlier in this fast, and it is my hope that you will build several over your lifetime. This is a different kind of decree in that it is a daily declaring of the Lord's Prayer. Today we want to encourage you to pray the Lord's Prayer, especially the phrase, "Thy Kingdom come,” everyday.
The hope is not that you would simply recite the words, "Thy Kingdom come," but that you would declare His word and His will into circumstances and the lives of people you care for.
It would work something like this. I read a passage in James. "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (5:16 NKJV).
Of all the passages I read this morning, this passage really gripped me. It was like Jesus was saying into my heart, "I want to make this more true of you then it has ever been." So I began to use that phrase and build a prayer out of that verse. I prayed it something like this: "Your Holy Spirit fervency come upon me. Your will be made known clearly to my mind so I can pray from a heart of allegiance. Heart and soul, become fervent and effective in prayer. Heart, soul, and spirit, become an Elijah-kind of prayer, in the name of Jesus. Fervency, break forth; effective, will-of-God actions come to my mind with clarity, so I can declare God's will and be the effective prayer I am called to be. Do this in Jesus' name.”
This is not merely a request. This is not something everyone can pray. This is something personal, something God moved and inspired me to pray. This is something the Holy Spirit is seeking, by God's word, to do in me and with me. This is a "Thy-Kingdom-come" moment.
Let me repeat: this is not a “my-request” kind of prayer. This is a declaration of what I am certain God wants to do. I am sowing this prayer into the cosmos. I am raining this prayer into my world, especially my heart.
To take a few minutes to work through this part of the Lord's Prayer every day, after you have spent time in the Word, can have amazing results.
You might ask, isn't praying, “Thy Kingdom come," a form of request? No doubt, to pray, “Thy Kingdom come," is a form of requesting. Think deeply, however; the form of requesting is not built on my own need, but it is built on God's determined word, what He will do. When I pray a “my-request” prayer, I am centering my prayer around myself, and I am not certain of His will. I can always know this, however: He cares for me, and He will not leave me, whether I know specifically how He wishes to fill a need or not. This allows me to echo Jesus’ own prayer to His Father: “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42 KJV).
Daily Journal Thoughts
On your "Prayer and Fasting Commitments” page, write down the date.
Next, write your commitment. It might be worded something like this: “Jesus, help me today to pray Your prayer, "Thy Kingdom come.”
Then go to your "Daily Journal," and write the date at the top of the page.
Consider everything you have read in Scripture today or yesterday. Does one passage have some prominence in your mind, standing out and saying, "Look at me”?
Take that verse and begin forming from that verse a personal, will-of-God, "Thy-Kingdom-come" statement. Be careful not to make a “my-request” of it, but let the Holy Spirit guide you to be specific.
The prayer meeting I had with those men many years ago yielded few results because we were asking God to do things He was going to do anyway. Yes, we should have made those requests, but God was looking for "Thy-Kingdom-come" kinds of prayers, issuing from what we knew was absolutely His will.
Since then, my prayers have changed and yielded far more success. Once we lock into God's will and declare it in complete allegiance, only one outcome is possible: fulfillment.
When you write your prayer, begin with, "Thy will is ... " Remember this prayer; it is directed toward God, but it is also a declaration aimed at the creation.
Capitalize the "T" in "Thy" every time, so you will know this is “not my will, but Thy will.” Because it is God's will, you, through prayer, are sowing His will into time and space. When we sow His will into time and space, we will reap eternity.
One last caution: I often adjust my “will-of-God prayer” as God refines and shows me more clearly what to say. I do not write my prayers in granite. I am finite. I do not see everything clearly at once. I let Jesus adjust my "will-of-God prayers" so they are aimed straight at what He wants to do. It can take time to dial in a prayer, but once we have attached ourselves in spirit to God's will, and once His will is unleashing in a "Thy-Kingdom-come" kind of prayer, then heaven and earth will be moved to fulfill it.
You might ask, won't God do it anyway, whether I pray or not? Yes, He will. He just won't do it through you nor will you reap it, nor may He do it at this time. God is patient to wait for others to pray if we are negligent or unwilling. Don't make God wait or look for another; be the follower, the believer, who will pray.