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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 America, 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 the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live…I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.” -Deuteronomy 30:6,19-20

Every morning I face a real choice.  Do I spring out of my bed at 6 am when the alarm goes off to meet with the Lord in His Word and prayer before work, or do I hit ‘snooze,’ enjoy the weight of my down comforter and drift back into sweet slumber for another hour?  This has been no small matter for me over the past year, and sleep has regretfully won out more times than I would like to admit.  But when I immediately throw off the covers at the sound of the alarm, I have the sense that “today I win!”

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

Matthew 9:1-8 reads:

And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city.  And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”  But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?  For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.”  And he rose and went home.  When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

I have been thinking a lot about what must have been going through the mind of John the Baptist when he was in prison and sent a messenger to ask Jesus if He was the Messiah:  “Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:2-3).

I’m imagining the feelings of deep loneliness, despair, and fear in his heart as he sat in prison with his death sentence approaching.  It’s fascinating that he, the greatest prophet, the forerunner of the long-anticipated Messiah, the one who stood at the dawn of the inaugurated Kingdom, had heavy doubts about Christ skipping frantically through his mind.

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

I recently returned to Princeton, New Jersey, from a trip to Nepal where I spent one week serving in Kathmandu and one week sharing the Gospel in a region called Sarlahi with a team of native Christians.  I returned home with tears in my eyes, as I had to say goodbye to a group of people that I came to love so deeply. Even now, I find tears running down my cheeks when I think about how long it might be until I get to visit that beautiful land once again.  Regardless of the attachment I formed with the people and the nation, my experience there was marked far more by discomfort and unease than it was by enjoyment and excitement.

It didn’t take much more than a day for me to recognize my deep desire for familiarity and to be in a place where I could predict the cultural, social, political, and religious climate.  Nepal definitely is not a place where safety is a guarantee or where Western norms are particularly welcome, and for these reasons, fear crept increasingly into my heart as the days progressed.

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

There are no atheists in foxholes.

This common adage speaks to one of the clearest misconceptions of life, especially life in the modern world. That is the misconception of security. We fancy ourselves the masters of our futures, the controllers of our fate. We think that modern medicine promises us long lives, that the American economy promises us comfort and prosperity, that the moral scruples of the educated elite promises us freedom from consequences. Reality begs to differ.

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

“When I came to you, brothers, I didn’t come with excellence of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. My speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith wouldn’t stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” - 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

What is power? In our world, a world of corporate takeovers, multi-million dollar political campaigns, and relational manipulation, we are no strangers to the quest for, and the procurement of, what we perceive to be power. As participants in this world, we feel the temptation to pursue authority in various forms and numerous guises; God’s Word confronts all of these quests for power.

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

In his book, The Revival and its Lessons, Dr. James W. Alexander is careful to point out that every work of revival has its own “peculiarities…arising from acknowledged diversities in the sovereign dispensation of the Spirit.”  In the case of the revival which took place in New York, it “was not the result of human project, concerted arrangement, or prescribed plan.  It was not an excitement foreseen, predicted, and made to order.”

Day Four - Morning Devotional

“Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?”  - Psalm 85:6

Between 1857-1858, one of the great revivals to take place on American soil occurred in the city of New York.  Revival soon spread to countless locations throughout the United States. A number of eyewitness accounts of the revival were published.  One of the earliest came from the pen of Dr. James W. Alexander, Pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church.  A graduate of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University), Alexander had served his alma mater as a tutor in mathematics and classical languages and subsequently as Professor of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres.  Having taught at Princeton Theological Seminary for a brief time, most of Alexander’s public life was spent in pastoral ministry.  At the time of the New York revival, Alexander was considered one of the great preachers of the nineteenth century.

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.”

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

“When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit.  ‘You deaf and mute spirit,’ he said, ‘I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.’. . .  After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why couldn't we drive it out?’ He replied, "This kind can come out only by prayer.’” -Mark 9:25, 28-29

In this passage, the disciples are faced with a situation that proves to be too difficult for them.  Jesus tells them that prayer is the solution. Surely the disciples had prayed as they tried to cast out the evil spirit. So what was the problem? John Piper suggests that the disciples had probably “been caught in a prayerless period of life or a prayerless frame of mind.” Their prayerlessness impeded their ability to be used by God against the forces of evil that confronted them that day. How often have we regretted our own prayerlessness?