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A Note from Christian Union President Matt Bennett

This note went out via email to friends and supporters of Christian Union, and is published here for all to read.

Dear Friends,

I hope you had a merry Christmas and that the upcoming New Year brings blessings and the joy of Christ to you and your family. I am grateful to you for your financial gifts and your prayers for the cause of the Gospel in the Ivy League. We praise God for all He is accomplishing through your generosity. More students are involved and being blessed than ever, and I think it's safe to say that never in the history of the Ivy League has a greater number of students been receiving in-depth biblical teaching and encouragement. Praise His name!

As you consider what 2014 holds for you, I would like to invite you to join with me for a special season of fasting and prayer beginning Monday, January 13 and ending Friday, February 21. I'll explain some of the details below, but first I want to communicate why such an extended time of fasting and prayer should be considered.

Why Pray and Fast?
Jesus tells us that the source of our spiritual strength is He Himself as we abide in Him:

John 15:4, 5: "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."

As Christians, when we need spiritual strength for our lives, communities and nation, the source of our strength and fruitfulness is God Himself, and we tap into His divine power as we abide in Him, that is, as we draw close to Him and walk with Him and love Him. God has given us unprecedented access to Himself through the blood of Jesus Christ, and then invites us to draw close to Him to experience Him and His grace in all its fullness.

Our nation and churches desperately need the grace of God at the present time. You are probably aware that the church has been experiencing decline for decades, even as there have been periodic blessings through a number of anointed initiatives. Increasing numbers are turning from God to other ways of life, and we see this reflected in the national polls on religion, but also in our local churches and families. There are more who identify themselves in America as having no religion than at any point in the nation's history. Straying from God has terrible consequences, bringing the removal of God's blessings and protection.

While there have been numerous regional revivals in America's history, there have been three that have hit every corner of American society which historians call "Great Awakenings." The first was in the 1730s to 40s; the second was from 1800 to the 1830s and the third is called the Businessmen's Revival which lasted from 1857-58. This third "Great Awakening" began through a prayer movement in New York City when businessmen stopped to pray every day from noon to 1 pm, and often also in the mornings and the evenings. Hundreds of thousands in New York and across the nation joined the movement and in a year's time, out of a U.S. population of 30 million, over one million came to faith in Christ. It's absolutely incredible what God did during that time. It didn't mean that society became perfect by any means, but it's worth noting that just about every social justice movement in the history of the West has come as a result of a revival. This matters to us, because it has always been a massive increase in prayer which has preceded Christian awakenings. All of this makes sense because praying is communicating with God which is part of what it means to abide in Christ. As we abide in Him, He gives us great fruitfulness!

As Dr. A.T. Pierson once said, "There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer." God uses prayer as part of His means to help us draw close to abide in Him, and also as His means to bring blessing to us. Some may have questions about whether we can cause God to respond to our prayers, but church historian James Edwin Orr explains: "Whether your interpretation of revival is Calvinistic or Arminian, it's a very simple thing, you must pray."

More is written about fasting on our website, but briefly, fasting helps us draw near to God and abide in Christ all the more deeply. Going without food (and the word "fasting" in Hebrew means going without food in particular, and not refraining from other things that God may or may not want you to give up) has a humbling effect on us, and humility helps attract the presence of God to our lives. Throughout the Scriptures people humble themselves by going without food for an extended period of time, and from personal experience I would like to tell you that it's absolutely true. Going without food deepens your realization of your need for God. This induced humility then attracts God's blessing and power to your life. As it says in James 4:6, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

Unknown to most American Christians, fasting has always been intended as an important part of the Christian life. Jesus gives instruction about how to fast in a godly way (Matthew 6:16-18), and in the first century the universal practice of Christians was to fast Wednesdays and Fridays (Didache 8:1-3). Fasting isn't everything, of course, but it's part of what it means to live a godly life.

Would you consider joining with me and others for a special season of 40 days of fasting and prayer from Monday, January 13 to Friday, February 21? Please make this a special time of crying out to God, cultivating your relationship with Him and asking Him for mercy for yourself and our country. If you've never fasted before, 40 days may be too much, so consider fasting one day a week for the 40 days, or perhaps for a stretch of three days at some point during the 40 day focus. Ask God what He would have you do during this time. Also, consider stretching your prayer time to be longer than usual, asking God for His mercy.

To see a one-minute promotional video click here.

Also, consider recording your specific commitment during the 40 days as a way to inspire others. As the Scriptures make plain (Matthew 6:16-18), we shouldn't let others know what we are doing as a means of boasting about how godly we are. Rather, if that thought comes to your heart, I encourage you to repent of it, but I would still like you to consider recording your plan so that others can be inspired by what you are doing. It's not wrong to let others know how much you are praying and fasting, but it is wrong if you are boastful about it. The only way we know that Jesus, Paul and others fasted and prayed in the New Testament is because they were open about it, and it's helpful when we do the same to encourage and inspire others.

Thank you for considering joining the effort! It would be a blessing to have you!

Yours in Christ,