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Devotionals

For several years, Christian Union called on Christians to join us two times per year in seeking God through fasting. These sorts of fasting initiatives are now part of Christian Union Day & Night, but the devotionals that were written for those fasts have continued to strengthen and encourage believers, so we have made them available here.

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

And Jesus said to them, "Can you make wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days..."
- Luke 5:34

If we have never experienced what typically are the collective symptoms diagnosable as an eating disorder, then at the very least, we have certainly experienced the effects of being in a culture that is preoccupied with food, body image, and control.

Within the ministry at Harvard when a student takes the initiative to call a fast, it has become quite common for a student or two to inquire whether fasting is a good idea for them considering they formerly struggled, occasionally, or regularly struggle with a preoccupation with food. These students genuinely want to experience God through fasting but feel that their motives are "tainted" or that fasting might trigger the urge

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

2:1 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. 5 For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.  - Colossians 1:24-2:5

Located on an important trade route in what today is modern Turkey, the ancient city of Colossae became home to a congregation of new believers who were facing the challenge of learning how the distinctive doctrines of Christian teaching differed from the pagan religious philosophies that surrounded them. Receiving news of the troubling teaching infiltrating

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional 

6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  - Philippians 4:6-7

Here in Philippians we see a remarkably simple contrast: do not be anxious! But pray! With little to no explanation on Paul's end, we are left wondering what prayer has to do with anxiety, and the answer may surprise us. We can find our clue in the type of prayer that Paul commands. He instructs us to make requests. Petition God. Ask Him for things.

An anxious life is focused on the uncertain. We worry about our bank account precisely because its nature is perilous. When we put our hope in money, or our family, or our positive disposition, we have placed our security in what is fundamentally insecure. Real security eludes

Knowing and Experiencing Jesus Christ 

7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ... - Philippians 3:7-8

According to one scholar, Philippians 3:7-8 is one of the "surpassing moments in the Pauline corpus."1 Paul just finished listing his sociological, biographical, achievement and performance-oriented credentials, a "resume of all resumes" in verses 4-6. By referencing his inherited ranks and privileges along with his compelling achievements and credentials, he shows that he possessed everything, pre-eminently so, about which early religious Jews could boast. Clearly his heritage and accomplishments with regard to Jewish identity were impeccable and second to none -- Paul need fear no competition. Prestige, power, rank, wealth, influence, comfort, authority, recognition, fame, pleasure, security, luxury, popularity, national identity, and retirement goals and dreams (!) were all his to be had.

Why is this important? Because it sets the stage for an unbelievable, almost incomprehensible value exchange

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

Notice how our story starts. 1 Chronicles 21:1-2 says: “Satan stood up against Israel and incited David to count [the people of] Israel. So David said to Joab and the commanders of the troops, ‘Go and count Israel from Beer-sheba to Dan and bring [a report] to me so I can know their number.'” After God has caused David to become successful in the eyes of both his enemies as well as the nation of Israel, Satan then comes and tempts David to take ownership of something that is not rightfully his. In other words, just as Satan tempted Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, he also successfully tempts David to distrust God by putting down the mantle of stewardship and putting on the mantle of ownership of the nation of Israel via a census and thereby denying the provision of God.

Nevertheless, notice God’s mercy through Joab, despite David’s sin

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

We don't know for sure King Hezekiah's age when the prophet Isaiah announced to him that he would not recover from his illness, and that he should therefore put his affairs in order. He probably was about 39 years old because he died at age 54, and had no heir at the time. The King of Judah had not been perfect, yet had generally been a good king, but took the news hard. The Scriptures record that he lay on his bed, turned toward the wall, prayed and wept bitterly.

There are three accounts of this episode in the Scriptures (2 Kings 20:1-11, Isaiah 38: 1-22, 2 Chronicles 32:24-26), but none explain in detail why Hezekiah reacted the way he did. Perhaps it was indeed because he was relatively young and had many dreams he desired to see fulfilled. Perhaps he saw the word as a sign of God's disapproval on his life, and he wanted another chance

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

Fasting is part of the heartbeat of a seeking-God lifestyle. As we are all well aware, we rest on the promise that God will draw near to us as we draw near to Him (James 4:8). Thus, as we seek God through humility and fasting, we eagerly expect that the Lord will speak to us and that we will commune with Him in sweet and powerful ways. Seeking the Lord for His power and presence is wonderful. But, we talk about another promise less often, even though it is embedded in the same text. It's not as if we deny this promise, but it is not as much a part of our everyday vocabulary. This promise has become dearer to me as I continue to minister here with Christian Union. James encourages his audience, "Resist the devil and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). What a good promise from a gracious God.

Thus, as we fast, may we seek the Lord for fruitfulness in our individual ministries, our families, and the nation at large. May we seek direction for how the Lord is directing us to fulfill our calling on each of our livelihoods. May we seek blessing for ourselves, our friends, our families, our coworkers, and those whom we serve. But may we also ask the Spirit of truth to reveal to us the devil's schemes

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

Shortly after the LORD defeated the 450 prophets of Baal in a remarkable display of His power (1 Kings 18), Elijah fled the scene in order to escape the murderous threats of Jezebel, King Ahab's wife. Elijah was literally running for his life and after a day's journey into the wilderness near Beersheba, he collapsed beneath a broom tree in such a state of despair that he asked that his life might be taken, praying: "It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers" (1 Kings 19:5). Elijah laid his head down to sleep, hoping that his eyes might never open again.
Rather than grant his dying wish, the LORD, in his providential hospitality, sent an angel to attend Elijah and twice provided him with freshly baked food and water. This nourishment sustained Elijah for forty days and forty nights.

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

Let's consider again what we're doing with this fasting business, and the role of hunger within it.

Fasting or not, we all constantly operate from within a state of multi-plexed hunger. We're hungry for food, for air-conditioned comfort, for sleep, and so on. As such, it can often feel like our lives consist of little more than the habitual oscillation between hunger > satisfaction > hunger > satisfaction, etc., on these various fronts. The problem is that being in a state of hunger so constantly has the effect of skewing our perspective:

Undue Significance a starving man attaches
To Food—
Far off—He sighs—and therefore—Hopeless—
And therefore—Good—

Partaken—it relieves—indeed—
But proves us
That Spices fly
In the Receipt—It was Distance—
Was Savory—

(Emily Dickinson)

Dickinson is here reminding us of a fact that our own repeated experience would certainly verify:

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

We live in a culture dominated by fear. At its best, fear can be a helpful and beneficial thing, but at its worst fear can become a cruel and unmerciful slave driver, dominating and dictating what we will do and what we will not do; what we will say and what we will not say.

One of the clearest examples of this can be seen in the fear of man. The fear of man is characterized by a willingness to do just about anything in order to avoid pain, shame, disgrace, and the disapproval of others. It has been said that "the excessive need for approval and fear of rejection is the opium of our age." That is, it is the thing that subtly creeps into our lives and enslaves us. Like a drug, the more we give in to it, the greater grip it has on us.

In Matthew chapter 10, we find the disciples on the verge

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