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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 to Christians and awakening to non-Christians.

The necessity of seeking God wholeheartedly through prayer, fasting, repentance, and engagement of Scripture is virtually unknown in American Christianity. As I survey the Christian landscape today, I generally see Christians, Christian leaders, and entire ministries/churches in one of four categories.

First is the category of those who do not acknowledge the downward spiral of larger American culture. Like the proverbial frog in the kettle who does not know the water is slowly getting hotter, and therefore never jumps out, these are not aware that American society has been in a general downward drift for at least 50 years. The only improvement in our culture in the last 50 years is race relations, for which we should be thankful, but by other indices of godliness such as sexual integrity and devotion to God, the United States has been in steady decline. This category of Christian wants to keep a positive outlook and rarely, if ever, acknowledges the sad state of affairs.

The second category of Christians consists of those who have the courage to face the persistent decline and sometimes open rebellion of the nation against the purposes of God. Thankfully, they acknowledge and speak about it, however, they have an incomplete view of the solution. The first step in spiritual renewal always begins with Christians seeking God wholeheartedly by praying fervently, fasting frequently, repenting of sin, and taking in the Scriptures with great energy. In response, God gives power, opens doors, and gives strategies to engage the larger culture through organizations, politics, media, and everything else. Many today want to improve culture but get ahead of themselves by trying to succeed apart from the power and wisdom of God. Ministries are constantly employing new initiatives and strategies, but they've only been able to manage the decline. That is, they have slowed the decline, but have not stopped, much less reversed, it. Their programs and initiatives have little-to-no spiritual power, and therefore little fruit.

The third category of Christians acknowledges the problem of continual spiritual decline, and know the solution is to seek the Lord wholeheartedly through prayer, fasting, repentance, and engaging the Scriptures, but do not fully practice this themselves. Oddly, this category contains revival and prayer ministries who teach the great American revivals as examples, hoping to inspire their listeners to pray diligently as happened during America's previous revivals, yet don't practice this themselves. Or, they may believe in prayer, but do not understand that repentance is also necessary. Or, they may think they believe in prayer, not knowing that praying a few minutes a week is insufficient for the task, and a few hours a day is closer to what's needed. They are very close to being agents of God's blessing of America, but are not fully there.

The last category is a tiny percentage of American Christians, Christian leaders, churches, and ministries. They acknowledge the spiritual decline, know the solution is to return to the Lord wholeheartedly, and they practice this lifestyle themselves, calling others to do the same. They are the ones described in Zechariah 8 as those seeking God fervently and actively urging others to return to the Lord. It is this tiny remnant that needs to be greatly expanded if we are going to see God work powerfully across the nation, reversing years of spiritual decline. All the new churches, new ministries, new books, new Christian movies, new strategies in the world will not bring the favor of God upon this nation. God's abundant grace will come as Christians diligently and energetically seek Him wholeheartedly. We must fast, pray day and night, repent of our sins, and respond to the Word of God, doing everything He asks of us. As we seek Him, He is faithful and will bring extraordinary renewal to our individual lives, communities, and nation.

Matt Bennett