Prayer is communicating in intimate conversation with God. Regardless of the different ways God communicates with is, He often speaks to us in response to prayer. Psalm 91:15 says that when we call on Him, He will answer. Although we have been been discussing prayer indirectly in each of the ways that we can hear God, let’s take a closer look at how it affects our everyday lives.
God speaks to Cornelius in the book of Acts in response to his sincere prayers. “And Cornelius said, “Four days ago, about this hour, I was praying in my house at the ninth hour, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. Send therefore to Joppa and ask for Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea’” (Acts 10:30-32).
Cornelius, a Gentile, who was not yet a believe in Jesus Christ, had a generous heart. He prayed and God noticed and spoke to Him. He sent an Angel to tell Cornelius to invite a Jewish stranger to his home who would tell him about Jesus. God loves to answer us when we pray sincere prayers to Him.
The parents of John the Baptist, heard God speak in answer to their prayers. “And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John” (Luke 1:11-13).
Jesus tells two stores in the book of Luke that emphasize the importance of continuing a determined perseverance in prayer. In the first story He says:
“‘Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs” (Luke 11:5-8).
Just as this man gave in after repeated requisitions from his friend, so Our God will reposed after persistent prayer. Jesus went on to say:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11:9-10)
We must ask in order to receive an answer. When we seek Him, we find Him. When we continue to knock, God will answer. The Bible tells us that we do not have, because we do not ask (James 4:2).
If we feel we seldom hear from God, perhaps we have stopped asking. If we draw near to Him, He will draw near to us (James 4:8). He is waiting for us to make the next move. He already made His move towards us when He sent Jesus to the cross over 2,000 years ago.
Jesus told His disciples a second story:
“In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night?“ (Luke 18:1-7)
Prayer and fasting go hand-in-hand. Fasting is a discipline of intercession that carries the potential of answered prayer and hearing the voice of God more clearly and accurately. Then we fast and intercede, we pray and expect God to answer clearly.
What is fasting exactly? When we fast, we are abstaining from daily nourishment for a period of time. We “starve” our bodies in order to feed our spirits. The essence of a fast is self-denial in order to turn our thoughts to God. We can hear God’s voice more clearly when we fast because we find in Him a sustenance beyond food. When prayer and fasting is combined, powerful things happen.
In Mark 9, Jesus healed a boy with an evil spirit. The disciples came to Jesus afterwards and…
“His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9 28b-29). Jesus was challenging His disciples to be prayed up and maintain a life of prayer and fasting so that their faith remained firm.
The Full Life Study Bible states: “Jesus does not mean that a time of prayer was necessary before this kind of an evil spirit could be driven out. Rather, a principle is implied here: where there is little faith, there is little prayer. Where there is much prayer [and fasting], founded on true commitment to God and His Word, there is much faith. Had the disciples been maintaining as Jesus did, a life of prayer, they could have dealt successfully with this case.
Maintaining a life of prayer and fasting is paramount to hearing from God. Fasting is not an option for Christians who are serious about their walk with God. One time as Jesus was teaching on prayer and fasting, He used the term “When you fast…” (Matthew 6:16) and went on and made His point. Notice, he did not say, “If you fast…” Jesus knew that fasting would open up a whole new realm of revelation for Christians and make it easier for them to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit.
In addition to increasing our capacity to receive from the Lord, fasting has a way of quieting all the background noise of life so we can tune in to His voice. In the book of Acts, we find the early church receiving direction from the Lord as they were fasting. In Antioch there was a group of church leaders who were worshipping the Lord and fasting when the Holy Spirit spoke to them about commissioning Barnabas and Paul and sending them on a trip to preach the Gospel (Acts 13:3). This trip later became known as Paul’s first apostolic journey that took Christianity to areas that previously had not heard the Gospel.
On this trip, Paul and Barnabas experienced many miracles, saw a large number of new converts, and planted new churches. When it was time to appoint leaders for those churches, how do you think they heard from God about who the leaders should be? It was through prayer and fasting (Acts 14:23).
Leadership selection is a major decision in a church. If fasting should be involved in major decisions in the church, then it should certainly be involved in major decisions in our lives. If you are considering marriage, changing jobs, changing careers, or other significant life decisions, it is to your advantage to include fasting in your decision-making process.
I love the story of Daniel. He had fasted for a period of three weeks when an angel appeared to him and said, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words” (Daniel 10:12). Daniel had a question that he was asking the Lord, and the answer came as he was fasting. I sometimes like to call this the missing piece of the puzzle. God showed Moses the pattern for the tabernacle on the mountain while fasting. Queen Esther instructed her Jewish brethren to fast for three days and three nights before she appeared before the king in order to plead for the livers of her people. God answered by giving her favour with the king. The Bible is filled with examples of godly men and women receiving direction from the Lord as a result of fasting.
Although I believer we are all called to fast at certain times, we must avoid the legalistic approaches to fasting. God gives grace for some individuals to fast for longer periods of time and others for shorter times. If you have never fasted before, ask God for His grace to experience His blessing of fasting.. Start by missing a few meals or fast for a day or two. Some Christians fast for a few meals or a day each week. Be sure to drink water or juices when you fast.
What if you fast and the Lord does not speak to you in a significant way? This really is the wrong question to ask. What if you fast and He does speak to you? We know it is His will for us to fast, so we can trust that He will honour our obedience as we seek His voice through prayer and fasting.