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Anyone remember that fun little tagline from the McDonald’s commercials years ago? ((It may still be their tagline, I don’t know.))

My favorite use – hands down – of the perky little jingle was when McDonald’s brilliantly ‘sported’ Olympic Gold Medalist Mary Lou Retton as their spokesperson. ((Like that pun??)) Mary Lou’s bubbly and contagious personality coupled with that ear-to-ear smile of hers made you feel the same exuberance for a double cheeseburger that she seemed to feel when she uttered those now famous words, “Double double cheese cheese burger burger please.”

On days like today, my craving for a double cheeseburger reaches its peak!!

As most of you are well aware, today – September 28, 2012 – began a forty day period of fasting and prayer for revival in our nation. Thousands of Christians across the United States of America have determined within themselves to seek God in a more passionate and determined way, asking Him to forgive our negligence and complacency and to heal the sick and diseased heart of the American people. If done with a pure heart and a right motive, this forty day humbling of ourselves will prove to be a history changer.

The question has arisen, “Why do I need to fast? Isn’t prayer enough?”

The answer to that question comes straight from the book of Joel:

“Gird yourselves and lament, you priests; wail, you who minister before the altar; come, lie all night in sackcloth, you who minister to my God; for the grain offering and the drink offering are withheld from the house of your God. CONSECRATE A FAST, call a sacred assembly; gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord (ch 1:13-14) …. Turn to Me with all your heart, with FASTING, with weeping and with mourning. So rend your heart and not your garments; return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm (ch 2:12-13) …. Blow the trumpet in Zion, CONSECRATE A FAST, call a sacred assembly; gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children and nursing babes…….let the priests, who minister to the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar (ch 2:15-17) ((emphasis added))

Fasting has always been an important part of the repentance process. Over and over again throughout the word of God we see God’s children humbling themselves through self-denial when they were truly sorry and repentant for the sins they had committed. (Sorrow and repentance are NOT one and the same.) Denying the flesh of its pleasures has always been a sign of sincere remorse and grief.

God not only is moved by our willingness to deny our flesh of pleasures in order to seek Him, He commands it and expects it. ((See Matthew 6:16)) Prayer coupled with fasting is really not an option for the believer who desires more of God. Several times throughout the scriptures God beckoned His people to draw near to Him with FASTING; when they obeyed, He moved on their behalf.

Most of us can quote Joel 2:28- 29 from memory and are looking for the fulfillment of it, “I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions, an also on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” But how many of us realize that this promise will come only AFTER a time of FASTING and prayer.  This passage follows the aforementioned call to fasting in Joel chapter one.

I firmly believe with all of my heart that we are living in the days prophesied by the prophet Joel. In order to see the “Outpouring” we are so desperately longing for, we must usher it in with FASTING and prayer.

The next question I often hear is, “What do I fast and how much should I fast.”

Well, the long and short of it is: IT’S UP TO YOU. Only you can hear from God about the specifics of the fast you have chosen – or that He has called you too. I do believe however there are some guidelines all of us can follow:

1. I believe there is evidence that we should cooperate with our spiritual leaders and obey what they have asked us to do as a corporate body. ((Esther 4:16)) If a leader has declared a certain type of fast, we should cooperate and join them in unity of purpose and heart.

2. I believe that the Bible clearly shows the FAST should include some food – be it a total fast or partial fast. Almost every fast mentioned in the scriptures includes the words, “neither ate” or “did not eat”. It is common practice now to abstain from other pleasures such as television, computers, sports activities, etc in lieu of abstaining from food; however, I do not see any evidence in the Word of God that that is considered a true fast. Although I Corinthians 7:5 talks about sexual abstinence, the denial of sexual union accompanied the food fast, it did not replace it.

****note**** There will be times God draws you away from pleasurable activities and entertainment as a “fast of sorts”. When He does, obey Him. He will reward your faithful obedience. This may or may not be in conjunction with a food fast. Again, no one can answer that but you.

3. I believe the fast should “cost us something.” King David said, “Nor will I offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with that which costs me nothing.” – II Samuel 24:24. You should FEEL your fast. If you choose to fast one meal a day in obedience to the Lord then by all means do so, but if you are fasting one meal a day because fasting more than that would be unbearable for you (excluding health reasons) then you are no longer offering the Lord that which cost you something. Your flesh should FEEL the fast! It is that uneasy feeling that reminds you TO pray and that reminds you of WHY you are praying.

****note**** Please consult your doctors for the best way for you to fast if you have medical conditions.

4. I believe our motive and our heart must be right before God or the fast prophets us nothing. Click here to read my previous blog, “Fasting, The Right and Wrong of It.”

Friends, if you have decided to participate in this forty day prayer initiative, be encouraged. God will hear you and will reward your sacrifice. His answers may not come in the form we would like them to, but they will come none-the-less. Be encouraged and stay true to the course. God has called you out for such a time as this!  ((FOR WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER YOUR FAST, CLICK HERE:  AFTER THE FAST))