Our church was planning an aggressive year of evangelism, and I knew we needed God’s wisdom and guidance more than ever before. I asked our first elder to lead out in a week of prayer and fasting. He looked at me like he wanted to say, “Wouldn’t we all die if we went without food for seven days?”
I told him, “Isaiah 58 tells us that true fasting is more than just going without food. The idea is to ask God what each of us should fast from so we will have more time available to do God’s work. God might impress some to fast from good hobbies and others to fast from bad habits. Whatever it is, God will show them.”
"So what do you suggest since I haven’t ever done this before?” he asked.
“Let’s do this. First, ask God what you should fast from. Then on the first Sabbath of the month, take five to ten minutes during the announcements to let the congregation know what you have done and challenge them to do the same.”
“I can do that. Is that all?”
“Be sure to tell the people that on the second Sabbath we will have time for a few short, spontaneous testimonies of what God has done in their lives during the week of prayer and fasting. Also, you might encourage them to call up or get together with other members during the week to pray together and encourage each other.”
“I’ll do it,” he said with a smile.
The first Sabbath came. The first elder got up and said, “This is a new year. And as church leaders we are calling on each member to observe a week of fasting and prayer. This doesn’t mean you have to go without food for a whole week. . . . You ask God, and He’ll let you know what you need to do. Next Sabbath we’re going to have a short testimony time when people who are willing can tell what God has done in their life during the week. Then phone someone or go see them and pray together.”
The second Sabbath rolled around. After some initial hesitancy, people started to raise their hand for a roving microphone, to share their testimonies.
First was a computer programmer. “Every day when I log onto the Internet to start work, I spend a half hour reading the news online. The Lord impressed me to go without Internet news for a week and spend the time in Bible study and prayer. It was hard to break the habit at first, but by the end of the week I was having some incredible ‘God time.’ ”
A lady was next to raise her hand. “I’m single and live alone. I watch way too much television and eat too much, too. The Lord impressed me to go without television, which was really hard, but I found when I did that it was easier to go without so much food. I called up my friend here, and we prayed over the phone almost every day.”
Another lady on the other side of the sanctuary raised her hand. “God impressed me to give up caffeine for the week. We all know it’s bad for you, but some of us still use it. The third day without it I had a horrible headache, but then it gradually went away. I’ve decided to stay caffeine-free from now on. I’m planning to use the extra time and money to help one of my friends who is going through a tough time right now.”
After several more testimonies, the first elder looked back at me then said “I don’t think we were supposed to go this long. We’d better leave time for the pastor’s sermon.”
I told him, “Don’t worry about me. You are all giving the sermon today about what God is doing in your hearts and lives.”
We can do many things to prepare for soul winning and reaping. But that Sabbath morning in church I was convinced that this was the best starting place for all the other preparation that was to come. God had already claimed the hearts of those who were willing to be soul winners.
“We are living in the most solemn period of this world’s history. The destiny of earth’s teeming multitudes is about to be decided. Our own future well-being and also the salvation of other souls depend upon the course which we now pursue. We need to be guided by the Spirit of truth. Every follower of Christ should earnestly inquire: ‘Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?’ We need to humble ourselves before the Lord, with fasting and prayer, and to meditate much upon His word, especially upon the scenes of the judgment. We should now seek a deep and living experience in the things of God. We have not a moment to lose. Events of vital importance are taking place around us; we are on Satan’s enchanted ground. Sleep not, sentinels of God; the foe is lurking near, ready at any moment, should you become lax and drowsy, to spring upon you and make you his prey”1 (emphasis supplied).
“The Lord has given us the promise, ‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him’ [James 1:5, KJV]. It is in the order of God that those who bear responsibilities should often meet together to counsel with one another, and to pray earnestly for that wisdom which He alone can impart. Talk less; much precious time is lost in talk that brings no light. Let brethren unite in fasting and prayer for the wisdom that God has promised to supply liberally. Make known your troubles to God. Tell Him, as did Moses, ‘I cannot lead this people unless Thy presence shall go with me.’ And then ask still more; pray with Moses, ‘Show me Thy glory’ [Ex. 33:18]. What is this glory?—The character of God. This is what He proclaimed to Moses”2 (emphasis supplied).
“Now and onward till the close of time the people of God should be more earnest, more wide-awake, not trusting in their own wisdom, but in the wisdom of their Leader. They should set aside days for fasting and prayer. Entire abstinence from food may not be required, but they should eat sparingly of the most simple food”3 (emphasis supplied).
What better time is there than now: to call for a week of prayer and fasting—for the spiritual health of the people of God and for the salvation of the many in the surrounding communities who are looking toward heaven for something better?
1 Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1911), 601.
2 ——, Gospel Workers (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1915), 417.
3 ——, Last Day Events (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 1992), 82.