Daily Devotional with Dr. Charles Stanley @ InTouch.org
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
The Powerful Practice of Fasting
Read | Nehemiah 1:1-11
Nehemiah’s brother arrived from Judah with some bad news: the Israelites living in Jerusalem were in great trouble. After hearing about their plight, Nehemiah fasted and prayed to the Lord for several days. During this time, he discovered God wanted him to ask the king of Persia for help.
Fasting is a spiritual discipline that helps us center our attention on the Lord and discover His will so we may act according to it. People fast in different ways: some abstain from food while others refrain from various activities. The period of time can vary as well. But the focus in each case is to be the same—to seek God and know His will.
When we begin to deny ourselves, several things happen. First, the Holy Spirit will enable us to set aside earthly matters. Relationships, work, and pleasure will take a lesser place in our mind as we concentrate on Him and His purposes. Second, our attention will shift from ourselves to the Lord. Thinking will become clearer, and our ability to understand God’s plans will sharpen because we are not distracted by other things.
Third, the Lord is probably going to do some spiritual housecleaning in our lives. His Spirit will convict us of sinful attitudes or behavior. Upon confession of our sin, we’ll be forgiven and cleansed (1 John 1:9).
When unexpected news greets us, we—like Nehemiah—may find our emotions in turmoil. He wisely sought the Lord through fasting and prayer. This powerful practice can also help us to hear clearly from our heavenly Father, who knows the best way through every situation.
Nehemiah’s Grief for the Exiles
1The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah.
Now it happened in the month Chislev, in the twentieth year,
while I was in Susa the capitol, 2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, and some men from Judah came; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped and had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem. 3 They said to me, “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire.”
4 When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. 5 I said, “I beseech You, O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, 6 let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father’s house have sinned. 7 We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor
the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses. 8 Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples; 9 but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the most remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell.’ 10 They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand. 11 O Lord, I beseech You, may Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delight to revere Your name, and make Your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man.”
Now I was the cupbearer to the king.