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Christian Union

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 

Fasting, among other things, is a way of stepping away from this world, a world we are engrossed and often enthralled with, in order to re-focus on the true order of things. We too easily live in a fantasy world where we as individuals are the practical center of our daily universe, a selfish bubble that in turn is floating in a society which views all sorts of inappropriate objects as worthy of adoration. Yet when I get very hungry, or very sick, or very desperate, the true nature of things becomes more clear: The Lord has created us, and sustains us moment by moment.

He is at the center of the universe, and it moves according to His plan. We are fragile, small, and totally dependent upon Him. I know this in my head, but my heart wanders pretty easily over the fence to the ludicrous position that perhaps I'm better off siding with the world on certain issues. God seems to be both outgunned and out of touch with the sophisticated modern world. My hope is that during this fast the Lord will

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

In times of struggle, we long for the intervention of God. Our prayers to Him become heartfelt cries for rescue, and work to express our need for someone greater than ourselves to change our difficult circumstance. Pouring out our hearts with an honest representation of our plight is an important part of the prayer process, but misses the fuller picture if we end there.

The prayers of the Psalmist offer a helpful, more complete conversation model for what it looks like to hope in God in the midst of struggle. In many of the Psalmist's prayers, a pattern emerges in the way he speaks to the Lord about what has gone wrong. While honestly communicating the hardship, he also calls to mind the hope he has in God. The source of his hope is linked to the "steadfast love of the LORD." The phrase "steadfast love" is found in the Psalms 120 times. By infusing his prayers with this truth, the Psalmist is able to both accurately express the weightiness of his struggle and to give an opportunity for the remembrance of the steadfast love of God. The reflection on this hope reforms his thought process and offers change to his perspective

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

Zechariah 8:20-23

20 "Thus says the Lord of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities.
21 The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, 'Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord and to seek the Lord of hosts; I myself am going.'
22 Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord.
23 Thus says the Lord of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, 'Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.' "

Jonathan Edwards identifies Zechariah's prophecy as the most descriptive in the Scriptures of revival. Many peoples shall seek God diligently in order to gain His favor, urgently pleading with others to do the same. They know that God is a faithful God who loves to hear the prayers of His people and loves to respond to them because of the relationship provided for us in Jesus Christ. They know that God has granted them permission to draw near to Him with a holy boldness, and that He will indeed hear their cry. The natural effect of this seeking is the same as always when people energetically seek God: outpourings of the Spirit of God bringing revival

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

Fasting often produces contemplation. When we fast for a period of time, we relinquish our body's need for food and seek to embrace our greater need to rest and find satisfaction in the presence of God. While we fast, we are humbled as our body aches with hunger. One way we satisfy that hunger is through repentance.

Repentance is both the acknowledging and turning away from sin. This requires us to reach deep down into our heart of hearts and uproot any destructive remains of sin, confess them, and rely on God to dispose of the roots no matter how long they are. This can be frightening, embarrassing, and threaten our own self-centeredness. One thing we need to be encouraged by is that God desires our repentance. In fact, the God of the Bible is a relenting God, who desires

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of Him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem. - Luke 2:36-38

We are busy. We have lives that we fill with lots of things to get done. Most seem very important to us and many of those things probably are important to do. I think we might look at Anna and all of her "worshiping with fasting and prayer" as not a good use of her time. So many years of fasting, worshiping, praying, seeking God. Couldn't she have done something more important with her life?

And yet, she is an integral part of God's mission

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

After this He (Jesus) went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And He said to him, "Follow Me." And leaving everything, he rose and followed Him. And Levi made Him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at His disciples, saying, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?" And Jesus answered them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance." - Luke 5:27-32

He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must (it is necessary) stay at your house today." So he hurried and came down and received Him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, "He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner." And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost." - Luke 19:1-10

And when the hour came, He (Jesus) reclined at table, and the apostles with Him. And He said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." - Luke 22:14-15

The Gospel of Luke has a steady theme of what could be called "Table Hospitality." Table hospitality identifies two groups

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

Mention the word idol to someone and they are likely to think of the shrines of old or temples in far countries that still house representations of gods to be worshiped. Yet in our own culture the propensity for idols is no less prevalent, though perhaps far more nuanced.

In his book Desiring the Kingdom, Jamie Smith overlays seemingly arcane language of the shrine on a typical American pastime with striking ease. He describes a "site throbbing with pilgrims every day of the week" entered through "one of several grandiose entrees...[that] channels the ritual observance of the pilgrims." As the faithful "wander the labyrinth in contemplation," iconography consistent with other temples draws pilgrims into "chapels devoted to various saints." Here we are greeted by "acolytes" who guide us through the selection of "holy objects" and eventually to an altar where a priest "presides over the consummating transaction." As you've probably guessed by now, the experience of shopping at our local mall described in this way "unveil[s] the character of what presents itself as benign" (pp. 19-23).

Our forefather Abraham required a reorientation

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

"They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God, saying, 'Can God spread a table in the wilderness? He struck the rock so that water gushed out and streams overflowed. Can he also give bread or provide meat for His people?'" Psalm 78:18-20

We are a wilderness people. If the story of Israel is any indication, we, the new Israel, can be assured that, following on the heels of God's salvific action, we become campers. Wilderness dwellers. In the pages of Scripture, the wilderness is not only a thick, mossy forest with towering trees or a sandy desert with oppressively hot days followed by frigid, windy nights. It is also a controlling metaphor for a barren, in-between place of trial. Thankfully, the wilderness is also an ideal setting for God's presence and provision

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

Our world exists in tension. The public square and our personal experience testify to this every day, reminding us that the world is at once the product of a benevolent, creator God AND the consequence of His rebellious creatures. One of the ways that we feel this tension is that we receive the world as a composite of hungers, thirsts, and desires, each of which can draw us to, or away from, the living God. For this reason, whenever the people of God mobilize in prayer and fasting, we do nothing less than invite God to do Gospel work by bringing about the death and resurrection of hunger, both in and around us.

Scripture gives us a window into this reality through Jesus' own teaching regarding hunger. In John's Gospel, he promises that "whoever comes to me shall not hunger" (John 6:35). However, in Matthew's Gospel, he promises satisfaction to "those who hunger and thirst" (Matthew 5:6). Herein lies another tension. Jesus commends both the absence and presence of hunger. But, how do we resolve this?

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

Perhaps you've heard the following statement spoken by a Christian leader at some point in your Christian journey. I certainly have heard it many times through the years, yet sadly it belies a misunderstanding of God and our relationship with Him. Having a fuller understanding of the dynamics of our relationship with God yields enormous spiritual benefits. The statement you have probably heard many times:

"There is nothing you can do to make God more pleased with you than He already is with you right now."

On the surface, there is an attractive quality to this statement because it affirms so strongly the love of God, as well as the pleasure He has over Christians because of Jesus' sacrificial death. Yet, a more careful examination of the statement reveals its incompleteness. Take a look at

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