Here we are ready to start another year of ministry in 2018. I am excited to start our fast for this upcoming year because I believe this is a year of advancement and harvest for our church. This fast will set the tone for what God is going to do. We are going to focus this fast on intercessory prayer. Intercessory prayer is all about taking territory and that is what God has called us to do in 2018.
Isaiah 58:3-5: ”We have fasted before you!” they say. “Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!” “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord?”
Fasting cannot be about ourselves. We have to go in with the purpose of knowing Jesus more and to help others know Him. We must be all in. We cannot fast half-heartedly. We cannot fast out of obligation. We must fast expecting God to move and transform who we are. Prayer and seeking God must be primary components of our fast.
Isaiah 58:6-9: No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. “Yes, I am here,” he will quickly reply.
This fast must be about seeing lives changed and the Kingdom of God advancing (feed the hungry, help those in trouble)
Promises in these verses:
- The Glory of God will protect us (verse 8)
- He will answer us and reply quickly (verse 9)
- Our light will shine brightly in the darkness (verse 10)
- The Lord will continue to guide us and give us strength (verse 11)
- God will overflow out of our lives (verse 11)
- God will use us to rebuild and restore lives (verse 12)
I. Reasons for Fasting
- Moses fasted before receiving the Ten Commandments (Deuteronomy 9:9-10). He sought direction on how to lead God’s people.
- Esther fasted for the safety of the Jews (Esther 4:15-17).
- Daniel fasted for his people and the state of their nation (Daniel 10:1-3).
- Jesus fasted before being tempted by Satan. He set the tone for His ministry and sought to be the blameless sacrifice for all mankind (Matthew 4:1-2).
- Church elders in Antioch fasted before sending out missionaries. Paul and Barnabas received direction for ministry. They were continually led by the Holy Spirit as they went from town to town (Acts 13:1-3).
- King Jehoshaphat fasted for God’s protection and deliverance (2 Chronicles 20:3-4).
II. Intercessory Prayer
Romans 8:26-27 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
There are times that we don’t know how to pray for a particular thing or situation. God has sent a helper who knows the heart and will of God and will help us pray exactly the way we need to. We must remember that we need to pray according to how God wants us to pray and not how we think we should pray.
Perhaps the best definition of intercession according to the Word of God is to describe the intercessor as “one who stands before God on behalf of persons or situations that either cannot or will not come before God on their own.”
Definition of Intercession
pagah – “to impinge by accident or by violence” This is the Hebrew word for Intercession and it appears in the Old Testament about fifty times. “Impinge” can be defined as “to encroach or to advance beyond the usual limit.”
Immediately evident in these definitions is the concept of taking territory, of forward movement, of pressing into. These definitions lead us directly into a deeper awareness of what the Bible really means when it speaks of penetrating the darkness, shaking up the spiritual realm and seeing the Kingdom come through intercession.
A. Extending our Boundaries
We need to keep in mind the personal significance that just as God ordained boundaries for the tribes and the families of Israel, so He has determined boundaries for your life and mine.
Psalm 16:5-6: O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance.
In these verses, David describes his “good inheritance” from the Lord: He is the Source (You are my portion) He is the One who defines the inheritance (You maintain my lot); He has determined the “quality” of what He intends for us to have (pleasant, good inheritance).
The redemption we have in Jesus Christ provides not just “covering” for our sin and failure, but recovering His intended boundaries. No matter what you face today of limitation, there is always hope for recovering God’s original boundaries of your life. The challenge for us is that rarely do we ever reach the limit of our boundaries, let alone begin to enlarge them.
The term “intercession” occurs about eight times in this sense, indicating that the Israelites would come to a place where they had brought under their dominion the originally established boundary that God intended; but now, that boundary needed to be fully established to secure the fruitfulness and fulfillment of all that the Lord had originally planned for them. (We see this usage of the word most often in Joshua 19, when the boundaries are described as reaching a prescribed limit.)
While the Israelites had their boundaries assigned, the land itself was still unconquered. Though God had defined a set of boundaries for each person, it was left to the individual to press into them… to intercede into them.
B. Justice at the King’s Command
1 Samuel 22:17-18 (NKJV): Then the king said to the guards who stood about him, “Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because their hand also is with David, and because they knew when he fled and did not tell it to me.” But the servants of the king would not lift their hands to strike the priests of the Lord. And the king said to Doeg, “You turn and kill the priests!” So Doeg the Edomite turned and struck the priests, and killed on that day eighty-five men who wore a linen ephod.
Saul was jealous of David at this time and wanted David killed. These priests were struck down because they helped David. The focus of this verse is not so much on the evil deed by Doeg, but by his immediate obedience to the King’s command. God wants us to be ready to hear His will and to do His will.
The Hebrew definition of intercession also carries the concept of extending by violence or by battle. In this case, intercession is translated “to fall upon,” as soldiers do in battle. It obviously links conceptually to the previous definition of extending boundaries and taking territory, when warfare is required for the full extension of God’s intended boundaries of blessing for people.
That “falling upon” describes intercession, and what we are called to do. It is an offensive — not a defensive — action, militarily speaking. It is by falling upon — with faith and the sword of the Spirit — that we strike down the enemy.
This is precisely what Jesus was describing in Matthew 11: 12: “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” How are we to comprehend Jesus’ meaning in the words the violent take the Kingdom by force?
The word biastai is used in this text— the word describing “force or seizure.” It is, however, describing something of the violence when “life is entering” into a situation.
This concept is perhaps best illustrated in the force with which a woman’s travail has come upon her, and the breakthrough that comes as a child is born from one world into another— the realm of the womb into a realm of vastly greater dimensions. When someone comes to know Christ they are instantly changed. They cross over from death to life. They are a new creation!
C. Chance Encounters
The third definition of pagah means to chance upon something, or to encounter something unexpectedly.
Genesis 28:10-12: Meanwhile, Jacob left Beersheba and traveled toward Haran. At sundown he arrived at a good place to set up camp and stopped there for the night. Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.
This is the place where, before the night was over, he would have a vision of angels ascending and descending a ladder that reached to heaven.
This term lighted upon a certain place is pagah— our word intercession— and is used here in the sense of “happening upon” a place, a place where God has arranged “an appointment,” a place when God’s purpose is understood and responded to.
Jacob’s “chance encounter” resulted in his calling the place Bethel, “house of God.” Though this was an unplanned stop, it turned out to be the place of God’s revealed will.
What a great picture of God’s “waking us up” to a situation where He seeks to introduce His Kingdom — His will on earth as it is in heaven. He may alert us to a prayer assignment, place us in an unplanned moment for ministry to someone or stop us in an encounter with Himself regarding His purposes for our own lives.
“When we see darkness pressing down and crowding circumstances, we can intercede in the name of Jesus—because it is only in His name and by His blood that hell has to yield. This breaks down the walls the enemy has erected and presses back the encroaching darkness. Whatever the need— sickness, marital strife, provision, personal discord, mental anguish— we can come before the Father and intercede. The plan that God has in heaven is then worked out on earth because His people are willing to accept full access to all He has provided. His people are able to intercede because He has interceded for us. His people are ready to extend the boundaries of His Kingdom to their fullest extent.”
- Penetrating the Darkness, Jack Hayford
We are going to do our fast a little different this year. Instead of praying and contending for the things that we believe God wants to do in our lives, we will be interceding on behalf of each other. So for the next 21 days, don’t pray for yourself. You will pray for everyone else and everyone else will pray for you. If we truly believe that God works through prayer, then we would pray diligently and with expectancy. Your prayers will help us take the territory that God has already established for us.