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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

Fasting is often used, both in the Bible and today, as a way to cultivate humility. Today, we will consider one of Scripture’s best examples of humility: Mary.  Her song to the Lord in Luke 1:46-55 (the “Magnificat”) starts like this:

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”

The angel Gabriel has told Mary the mind-blowing news that she will conceive a baby by the Holy Spirit.   She rushes to visit her relative, Elizabeth, who is herself pregnant after decades of barrenness.  After Elizabeth’s declaration of her “blessedness,” Mary bursts forth into a song of praise.   Mary magnifies the Lord—she makes Him “large”—by praising Him for who He is and what He has done (and will do) on behalf of His people. Pastor John Piper says that humility has two parts:  most fundamentally, a trembling love for the majesty of God and secondarily, a trembling sense of our sin and smallness and dependence.  To be truly humble requires both an awareness of who God is and an honest, realistic awareness of who we are.  We see both in Mary’s example.

The world around us, our life circumstances, and our own fears and sins shrink God and make Him seem smaller than He is—not able to help us, not powerful, not in control, not present.   To magnify Him is to affirm to ourselves and others that He is indeed as awesome as Scripture says He is.  

Scripture affirms that God is indeed mighty and exalted above all things.  Yet He delights in those who are lowly, not in those who themselves are mighty and exalted.   Isaiah 57:15: "For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: 'I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the contrite.'"  Seasons of fasting can be prime opportunities to face our sinfulness and neediness—and respond with contrition and repentance.

Humility is not something we strive to achieve so that we can receive the blessings and favor of the Lord.  It is a condition of emptiness before the Lord, so that we are able to receive His grace and favor.  It is a recognition, like Mary’s, of our own lowly estate. The proper response of a humble heart is to magnify Him, to recognize that He has indeed condescended to be close to us through Christ, and to be overwhelmed by how crazy good that is.  Pray that these 40 days would result in greater humility in your own life and in the life of God’s people.

Lorri Bentch
Vice President of Operations