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Why do We Pray and Fast?

by Corregidor Catane Jr.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Have you ever asked something from your parents so desperately that you had to work a lot to get it? Can you share it with the group?

If we investigate the Bible, the characteristic of love is to cherish and nourish (Ephesians 5:29). To cherish entails lovingly protecting someone against anything harmful, and to nourish means providing care so that someone will grow healthy. In other words, when it comes to biblical love, there is no room for spoiling because that can be destructive. Using parenting as an example, instead of gratifying our children with all their desires, in love, we teach them. And good teachers allow those whom they love to go through hardships so they can truly learn.

Having the perfect Father in heaven, we also see this truth in our relationship with Him. God does not spoil us by giving us everything that we need whenever we ask for it. God does not always rescue us from every problem we encounter; instead, God allows sufferings to come for His children to grow in patience, faith, and maturity (James 1:2-4). God is so patient in disciplining us even to the point that we become desperate because He wants us to mature. When we despairingly need the wisdom and presence of God in times of uncertainty, this is where prayer and fasting thrives.

King Jehoshaphat’s Desperation

2 Chronicles 17 describes one of the godly Kings of Judah named Jehoshaphat. Verses 3 and 4 reveal that “The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the ways of his father David before him. He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands rather than the practices of Israel.”

Even in all these, God allowed the Moabites, Ammonites, and some of the Meunites to wage war upon Judah during the reign of Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:1). Again, we see the biblical truth that God does not spoil those He loves but allows trials to come for their faith to grow.

As a result, the people of Judah started to panic and declared to Jehoshaphat the danger of their situation. They said in verse 2, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Dead Sea. It is already in Hazezon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi).”

Unthinkable Response

 Instead of gearing up for an immediate war or calling His generals for strategic defense, Jehoshaphat did two things in verse 3: (1) he resolved to inquire of the Lord, and (2) he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. For any great general of a vast army, this is close to unthinkable. The first action of Jehoshaphat, that is, to pray to the Lord, can be acceptable but for everyone to fast, including the army, is foolishness in the standards of the world. Generals want their troops to be strong during the war and not weak due to hunger. 

We live in a fallen world where many live in selfishness, sin, and constant rebellion against God and His word. As faithful followers of Christ, we are prone to suffer because our desire to live righteously is in continuous friction with the wisdom of the world and the desires of our flesh. When these hardships come, God does not always provide an immediate rescue, but He is patient enough to allow us to go through it and grow in our dependence on Him. Our dependence upon God’s love becomes evident when we respond in prayer and fasting.

The Result of Depending on God

For Jehoshaphat and Judah, God showed His care and protection upon them through the Spirit’s work upon “Jahaziel son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite and descendant of Asaph, as he stood in the assembly.” (v. 14) And yes, he is the only person, but he spoke with godly wisdom giving encouragement and strategy from the Lord on how to defeat the vast army (vv. 15-17). Indeed, the army of Judah, led by Jehoshaphat, rallied towards the Desert of Tekoa to set up an ambush for the enemy while singing and worshipping the Lord. However, something unexpected happened to the enemy because when the army of Judah arrived, all they saw were dead bodies lying around (v. 24). The words of Jahaziel became true when he declared in verse 15, “Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.”

Judah experienced a great victory that day as they returned to Jerusalem joyfully with massive plunder from a victorious campaign caused by the Lord. However, there is a more important truth to note. 2 Chronicles 20:29 declares these words, “The fear of God came on all the surrounding kingdoms when they heard how the Lord had fought against the enemies of Israel.”

As we face desperate moments in our lives, as individuals, as a family, and as a church, our dependence upon God through prayer and fasting will result in victory but not the kind that we always think it would be. We may get what we ask for in our prayer and fasting, or we may not, but true victory comes when God’s reputation is revealed to the people around and to us. The picture of true growth in faith and maturity is this: we understand that we will not always get what we initially asked for and that our desires are constantly being transformed to conform to Christ’s. God desires to reveal His glory and for all peoples to worship Him.

Reflection Questions:

  1. According to this article, why do believers practice prayer and fasting?
  2. What are the benefits of coming to the Lord in prayer and fasting when the desperate time comes?
  3. What will you be asking for the Lord during GCAF’s prayer and fasting? 
  4. What will be your response when the Lord does not give you what you initially asked for? Has this article helped you in reshaping your mind? 

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