What happens when the largest country in the world with the second largest military invades the second largest European nation creating the largest European conflict since WWII and one of the greatest international crisis since that time, which will have ripple effects around the world? God’s people pray.
While many leaders throughout the world speak vaguely of prayer it is nothing like what King George VI, King of Canada, issued in WWII at the fall of France and before the ‘miracle of Dunkirk”:
“We must pray…This next Sunday, I’m calling for a national day of prayer…Let us with one heart and soul, humbly but confidently, commit our cause to God and ask his aid, that we may valiantly defend the right as it is given to us to see it.”
Today is not May 1940, however, and so we shouldn’t expect our leaders to lead in the area of prayer—that is the responsibility of the Church:
1 Ti 2:1–2 says, First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
Remember how King Hezekiah, facing the Assyrian advance, looked the LORD alone for deliverance (Isa 37).
And so as many of us have already begun to do as news of this conflict has reached us, let us unite our prayers together as MBC for peace. I encourage everyone to pray for this conflict each mealtime until we gather this Lord’s Day.
What specifically might we pray for?
-that God’s will be done
-that peace and diplomacy may still prevail
-for wisdom for world leaders
-for Christians and missionaries in Ukraine, Russia and surrounding countries, for them to be a light
-for the many refugees [potentially millions] this will create
-that the conflict may be contained
-for the international fallout
-that peace and freedom may be preserved in Canada
-that wars and rumours of wars may shake the world’s spiritual lethargy and that people may see today as the day of salvation
In the face of this conflict may we be a witness to fellow Canadians:
What is it? Isn’t it Catholic or something eastern mystics do?
We’ve come acrossed it in our C2C journey through the Bible, most recently in relation to Ezra and Esther. Both these Biblical figures called God’s people to fast.
On Feb 1, 1793 the Republic of France declared war on Great Britain. The dangers of revolutionary France, not least of which was its godlessness and explicit anti-Christian tenor, troubled Europe. So Britain led other European nations in the 1st coalition which sought to contain the spread of this movement.
The trouble was that France was powerful and Britain did not emerge the leading power until 1815; at this point British triumph was not a forgone conclusion. France was a larger country, with more people and a larger military. Only 50 miles separated the two countries. On the other side of the English Channel was a bunch of riled up Frenchmen with guns!
As part of the war effort King George III immediately declared a national fast day for April 19, 1793. The populace was to abstain from food and attend religious services with “Fasting, humiliation, and the imploring of divine intercession” to be the aim of the day. Churches everywhere and of all stripes took up the Kings call, including Baptists.
It is a great tragedy that today no government would do such a thing (for Covid!); instead we seek to lean on our own ingenuity and strength instead of imploring/seeking/fasting.
Numerous Biblical characters fasted:
Moses fasted before receiving the 10 Commandments (Dt 9:9–18); David fasted in repentance and for his child’s life (2 Sam 12:1–23); Elijah fasted when he fled from Jezebel (1 Ki 19:4–8); Esther fast for the safety of the Jews before going to King (Est 4:15–17); Darius fasted or Daniel’s safety when he had been thrown to the lions (Dan 6:18–23); Daniel fasted that God might help him to understand a vision (Dan 10:1–3); Jesus fasted before His temptation by Satan (Mt 4:1–2); Paul fasted after his conversion (Acts 9:1–9); the early church elders fasted before sending out missionaries (Act 13:1-3); on & on the list goes. It is a great theme of the Bible being mentioned 132 times!
The exemplars of the faith fasted; do we?
Rather than some foreign or optional spiritual discipline, Jesus expected His followers would practice this spiritual discipline of fasting. Speaking of fasting without great fanfare and self-attention, He said:
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Mt 6:16–18
Notice Jesus said, “when you fast;” it was an expectation. What Jesus took issue with was not fasting but why and how people were fasting.
Jesus expects we will pray and fast (in secret, or at least—in the case of a public fast—in humility) and when we do there will be great benefit.
At its heart, and why it is associated with prayer, is that it symbolically and spiritually is an act of humility, or entire dependence upon God. It reminds us of our need of Him and working with faith is a something the Lord is pleased to bless (Isa 66:2b).
Fasting is not a form of weight loss!
However, there are many and a variety of reasons to fast: for protection (Ezra 8); in distress and grief (Jud 20:26); in repentance (1 Sam 7:6, Joel 2:12–13); for spiritual strength: to overcome temptation or to dedicate yourself to God (Mt 4:1–11); to strengthen prayers (Mt 17:21); to encourage love and worship (Lk 2:37); for guidance/ help in important decisions (Acts 14:23); to help build intimacy with God (James 4:8); to develop spiritual self-discipline (1 Cor 9:27).
If you have never fasted before, allow me to offer a couple practical considerations:
When not to fast? (these are not meant to be excuses)
How to fast…
The spiritual discipline of prayer & fasting have been hallmarks of great and godly Christians and times of great spiritual revival in churches and across nations.
Before crossing the Jordan, Joshua told the people, “consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.”
Spiritual complacency and mediocrity stand in the way of God doing great things among us. It is only when we set ourselves apart to humbly seek His face, intentionally & systematically imploring the LORD’s favour, that we can reasonably expect the LORD to do great things amongst us!
Fasting is of paramount importance to the Christians toolkit to facilitate this great and noble aim. May the Spirit empower us to rise to this challenge and be obedient to Christ’s words, “when you fast”.
Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you. (Isa 49:15)
Prayer is an interesting thing; wrongly we often think it depends on our works (however anti-works we may be in our theology). Prayer can sometimes go like this: we pray, pray, pray for a situation but time and circumstances bring new things to pray for. Maybe that old prayer is forgotten, or at least doesn’t receive the attention it deserves. Works would say God will not hear or answer that prayer because we haven’t been conjuring up enough pray effort for Him to hear it.
God is a gracious and infinite God; we are fallible and finite. We cannot possibly remember every prayer request or to pray for every situation. There are just too many! However, being infinite, almighty, omniscient, etc, the God of the Bible remembers. He does not forget the prayers of His saints. In His marvellous grace, long after we had ceased praying, He often graciously answers prayers—beyond what we asked—and it is then that we remember a pray of a month, a year, a decade, a lifetime ago, that He was pleased to hear and honour. May we praise Him for this and remember that even though we may forget, God never does.
Author: Chris Crocker
Pastor, historian and beekeeper.