Oct 29, 2009

When Prayer and Fasting Meet Face to Face

A few months ago Pastor Joel Johnson of Westwood Community Church, Chanhassen, MN did a series of messages on the book of Daniel. I am listening to one of those messages focused on the subject of prayer and fasting. Since I am blogging about the subject, I thought I would share the link here.

Joel makes a number of observations based on Daniel's season of prayer and fasting recorded in Chapter 9. The first is that breakthrough happens through intense prayer and fasting.

When we come to God on bended knees, there is communication that happens. Fasting communicates a longing, sincerity, and intensity toward God. It brings a different kind of urgency to our prayer that we do not always experience in times of prayer unaccompanied by fasting.

Fasting also helps us listen to God so we can hear the direction that He has for us. In our cluttered and food-sourced culture, there are so many distractions that take away our capacity to hear God's voice.

Getting away from those distractions, declaring our independence from the pervasive consumerism, and listening quietly through a season of fasting and prayer enables us to hear God and gain clarity. Click on this link to listen to Joel:  http://www.westwoodcc.org/Pages/Resources/Message.aspx?ID=196

Oct 28, 2009

Know Thy Season, Know Thy Reason!

Know thy season, know thy reason! That is right...as thou doth fast and pray. 

Several posts ago, August 28th, I shared with you how I approach times of crucial ministry decisions, major personal life changes, or when entering into a significant ministry opportunity. Through the discipline of prayer and fasting, I get to hear God more clearly, draw great strength and inspiration from the Holy Spirit, and focus on the mission or situation that is at hand.

There are times when the situation or circumstance looks so gigantic. Yet as soon as I bring it to the Lord during a season of prayer and fasting, great clarity tends to happen around it. A recent example pertains to our missionary work to Burundi in September when we needed $ 22,000 in ten days.

Although we knew that God's will was for us to go to Burundi, the amount needed looked staggering. But as soon as we brought it to the Lord during a season of three days of fasting and prayer, our faith grew to the point where we had no doubt the goal would be achieved. We were brought back to the place of hearing God rather than look at the circumstance. And in affirmation of that faith, within six days, provision flowed from every direction, little by little, until the whole amount came in ahead of our departure.

In reflecting on the prayer and fasting season undertaken by Daniel in Daniel 9, one thing strikes me. The first key to Daniel's breakthrough is that his season of prayer and fasting is informed and driven by God's Word/revealed Will. Daniel shares in verses 2 and 3 that it is not the need of the Jewish people or his own to be free that drives him to the place of prayer and fasting. It is the revealed Word of the Lord that does.

He knew by searching, what needed to happen and when. So long as it wasn't God's revealed season of restoration, Daniel humbly served in captivity. But when he read what was revealed as God's Word by the prophet Jeremiah and realized that the time had come, he "gave attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes." 

Informed prayer is powerful prayer. I have heard people often pray saying, "Lord, if it is your will, then..." They thus demonstrate their ignorance regarding God's Will in the situation and yet expect to receive answers from the Lord. It is no wonder that we rarely receive answers to such prayers. When we do, it is entirely God showing us His mercy in spite our ignorance.

Clearly, God wants us to know ahead of time what His will is before we fast and pray. Daniel did not pray the prayers of Chapter 9 in Chapter 1 when he had just entered captivity. He knew that captivity was God's Will for that season and therefore prayed for grace to handle the challenges of captivity. God was faithful throughout, preserving him from idolatry, shutting mouths of hungry lions, elevating him to the place of honor among his peers and of great influence over his captors.

But when that season of captivity was done, Daniel changed his way of praying and aligned it with God's revealed will for the new season. It was time to pray for the end of captivity and for the restoration of Jerusalem.

So here is my caveat as we here at SWIM ministries fast and pray regarding the current and next season of ministry: We know that God has called us to take His gospel to the nations. It is not a matter of whether or not we ought to take the gospel. We know so and have faithfully done so throughout the years. Our need is for the resources to continue to do so.

As at this stage of our operations for the year, we have received 75 % of the budget amount the Lord laid on our hearts for 2009. This is amazing given the economic realities of 2009. That said, we need the remaining 25% to come in before December 31st. That is what God showed our Leadership Board and that is what we are praying for.

Secondly, we know that God is calling us to new initiatives in 2010 both local and global. Our need is to know which specific ones they will be, how we will need to carry them out, who we will need to involve, where, when and of course...show me the money.

Oct 27, 2009

When Your Habit of Prayer Gets You in Trouble and the Trouble is turned on its own Head

Sixteen years ago I worked for an airline catering company in Nairobi.  This was my first job after graduating from High School and while attending college (Wow, it has already been that long!).  Every lunch hour, the working area would shut down and everyone would go to the cafeteria for lunch. 

Instead of going to eat, however, I often took that lunch hour and would spent it in fasting and prayer.  I would find quiet space, mostly in one of the empty coldrooms and there I would spent 30-40 minutes on my knees in intense prayer.  It was a habit I practiced most of the two years I worked there.

One day as I was tacked away praying, unbeknown to me the company's Chief executive and his personel manager were going round inspecting the facilities.  When they came to the area where I was, I was praying with such deep intensity that I did not notice or sense them.  They saw me praying and chose not to interfere. 

They continued to inspect the facility and returned about ten minutes later.  They waited for me to finish my praying.   It just happened that that day I had purposed to pray for all the leadership of the company, and the workers and they heard me whispering their names to God.

Twenty minutes later I stood up to leave the prayer room but as I turned around to exit, lo and behold the personel manager was standing at the door.  He looked furous.  He asked me to follow him to his office.  As soon as we reached his office, without saying a word he picked up the phone and summoned the trade union representative who arrived about five minutes later.  For a moment it looked like I was getting fired.

He asked me whether I knew this was company property and not a church.  But then before I could answer, there was this calmness that came over him.  Suddenly he said that sometimes he prayed too.  But rather than pray for thirty or forty minutes, the length of time he had waited for me to finish my prayer, he normally looked around and if there was no one looking, he would bow and pray for about five minutes.  The initial tough exterior was replaced by a struggle to keep back the tears. 

During that same time, a word had already gone out among the 800 employees that I was being fired.  Most of them knew that I was born again.   They had noticed my personal values.  In fact a few of them mocked me for it.  But still, there were several others that were Christians too and wished we had a work-place Bible study.  But the environment was so intimidating for something like that.

To make the long story short, to the trade-unionist's surprise, the manager's own, and everybody else's I wasn't fired.  God was giving me my own 'Daniel in the Lion's Den' moment.  Sensing the change in the tone of the manager and knowing that God had come to my defense and help, I took the opportunity to boldly and formally request for a room for me and other believers in the place to meet regularly for Bible Study and prayer. 

Until that time, the employee's culture was one of dishonesty and thievery.  I had been praying for a change of these that afternoon and I took the chance to persuade the gentleman that there would be benefits to the company if Christians would be given space to be who we are in the company without intimidation. 

After a couple days' consideration, our request was granted and a small group of us, about 20 in number, started meeting openly for prayer and bible study.  Since the story had reached all the other employees, many were curious to know about my faith which I gladly shared with them.  To the glory of God, many of those who were previously dishonest began to give their lives to Christ and to transform in their attitudes toward God, life, and the company.

Three months later, I left the company to become a manager with Air France.  But the culture was on its way to transformation.  Infact my last day of work I had two colleagues give their lives to Christ.  They then insisted on taking a picture with me after seeing what God had done.  I still retain that picture to this day and pray that they continued on in their faith.  On our way home on the company bus several others demanded that I address them and tell them about my faith.  Of course I was glad to do so.

Interestingly in my new role as the airline manager and representative, I got to work directly with both that general manager and personel manager as a client to their company.  Sometimes when I dropped in at their offices they got tense thinking maybe I had a complaint about the quality of service or something...strange how tables can turn so quickly at times.

Anyway, I am sharing this to emphasize the impact of prayer both in our private lives and public.  Having a healthy habit of prayer is essential to living lives of breakthrough.  No one illustrates this better than Daniel, the Statesman prophet.  Throughout the book of Daniel, we find him fasting and praying.  Infact it is his prayer habit that gets him in trouble with his colligues in the first place (Daniel 6:5, 10-13).  But it is also his praying that shut the mouths of the Lions and elevated him to the place of honor and authority in the empire of medo-persia (6:20-28).

This week here at SWIM ministries we are taking time to fast and pray for breakthrough in regards to our ministry budget for this year and plans for next year.  Due to the tough economic times, giving has been slow and at this point we stand nearly 25% behind what we budgeted for 2009.  But we believe that God is capable  of openning the doors that need openning and to allow us to close this financial gap before the end of 2009.

I will be reflecting on this subject of prayer and fasting based on Daniel and the impact it can have over the next few posts.  Hope you are inspired as you read along and pray with us.