Last night God told me that I was to begin a period of fasting and praying.  I have been reading a book called “The Power of Prayer and Fasting” by Ronnie W. Floyd.  This book opened my eyes  for the first time to the power and importance of fasting.  God has been revealing to me, over the past few months, the power of prayer.  I believe that combining these two disciplines will result in amazing growth in my life. 

As I was reading this book, it struck me that in America we don’t suffer.  We have “hard times” but the most we endure when it comes to physical suffering is getting temporarily ill.  Even then, we are surrounded by drugs and medication to alleviate our discomfort.  Why is this important, you ask?  I am beginning to understand that the main reason that American Christians don’t experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit in our lives is because we never suffer. 

In America we lack for nothing.  All of our basic needs are met and we live in the overflow of abundance.  Most of the world is not like this.  To encounter God we must be broken of self-sufficiency, of being satisfied, content, and not hungry.  It is in physical suffering that we are broken and humbled, emptied, and poured out.  Our hearts are exposed and our priorities become aligned with God’s.  It is only when we come to the end of our strength that we can be filled with His strength.  The Bible says that God is near to the brokenhearted (Psalms 34:18). 

As I was in the midst of contemplating the far-reaching implications of this, my brother Mike called and shared a story from the book he is reading, “The Heavenly Man“, about Brother Yun in China.  The story drops in as Yun has been arrested for sharing the message of Jesus Christ and he is in a van being driven across China.  He is handcuffed and the handcuffs are cutting into his arms as the van bounces along the road.  The pain is excruciating.  It is more than he can bear.  He believes he is going to lose consciousness.  The handcuffs cut into his arms and expose the bone.  He is in tremendous pain and is loosing blood.  He prays to God, “Jesus, this pain is more than I can bear.  Why are you letting me suffer like this.” 

The reply from God is that Brother Yun must suffer so that that he can draw near to God and receive the glory that is his reward.  I couldn’t believe the timeliness of Mike sharing  this story with me.  As I got off the phone a verse came to my mind.  I knew I had learned it years ago.  I went and found it.

 “But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” ~ Romans 8:17

What suffering do I share in?  What discomfort in my American life?  I have freedom to share Christ freely.  I am blessed with financial resources and comforts most of the world can literally not imagine.  Do you realize only 8% of the people in the world have a car?  Over 1 billion people in the world don’t even have clean drinking water.  I can take less than 10 steps from where I’ve sitting right now, turn a spout and I have clean, purified, sanitary, tested, safe, water.  In fact, that’s not even good enough for me.  I want it refrigerated.  I like my water to go through a filter first so it “tastes better”. 

“So, what’s your point”, you ask.  “Is that a bad thing”?  No, God has blessed this nation.  But, it has made us forget our true love.  Just like the children of Israel, we forget Him in our times of prosperity. 

But, what God is revealing to me is that it is more than that.  We need to separate ourselves from all these distractions and refocus on Him.  We need the discomfort and pain.  I know of no other way to experience “suffering” in this rich, fat, bloated, country than by deep, serious fasting.  God is telling me tonight that I must be willing to fast until I can no longer do it in my own strength.  Then I must rely on God’s power and continue.  It is this threshold that must be crossed for the blessings to flow.  The greater the pain and sacrifice the more I must rely on His strength, and the greater His reward.  I must share in Christ’s sufferings. 

I know that this is God’s call to me.  Please do not think that I am saying everyone should do this.  You should only fast as you are called and directed to by God.  I know the road ahead is going to be tough.  But, I am also excited because of what I am confident the Lord will be faithful to do.  The author of this book I’m reading says:

“Fasting and prayer have been the gateway through which God has done supernatural things in my life, my family’s life, and in my ministry.  I will go on record as saying I know of nothing more powerful in my Christian experience.”

“Our culture conditions us to obey our every desire, which results in powerless bondage.  But God conditions us to obey His every desire, which leads us to freedom.  That freedom releases God’s Holy Spirit through us.” 

To truly experience God’s power in our lives we must, “renounce the natural to invoke the supernatural”!  In America we want our cake, or pie, our cars, our bank accounts, our houses, our jobs, our stocks and bonds and retirement funds, our steak, our mashed potatoes with gravy, more than we are willing to feast on the riches of our Heavenly Father.  We can’t have it both ways.  The toys have to go, along with everything else that creates this barrier.  Our desires and strength must be cast at the feet of Jesus.  As the author says, “We don’t need God’s supernatural power as an add-on to our own.  That’s the spiritual equivalent of mixing oil and water.”

I want to wrap this up with these comments by Dr. Ronnie Floyd:

“I honestly feel this enormous, almost indescribable freedom cannot fully be grasped in any other way.  It is fervent prayer and fasting that reaches into the heart of God, motivates us to adjust to what God is doing, moves heaven to action, and changes what we see and do on earth.”

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I had what for me was a very unusual encounter with God tonight.  I decided to act on my conviction to simplify my life and remove some of the countless distraction that keep my focus off God.  My wife was at a women’s bible study.  So, instead of watching TV or playing a video game, I decided to read the word.  I read through Colossians, Psalms 139, and 78, but I really didn’t feel any communion with God.  This has been a reoccurring theme for me lately.  I prayed to God asking him why I found the scriptures, and the profound truth contained in them in them, so dry?  Why did it seem like He is so far away?

I decided to play some worship music and praise God.  I frequently have an easier time drawing near to God in worship.  I did this for almost an hour.  I worshiped God deeply, loudly, passionately and genuinely.  Many tears flowed, and I poured out my frustration and longing to be close to God in prayer and song.  After I was done, I went back and read the word again.  It was easier, but I still felt so distant from God.

My frustration was really beginning to mount.  What was missing?  What was I not giving over to God?  I knew of no sin that was unrepented.  I came before Him ready and willing to sacrifice everything for His name.  Why then, was He distant?

After I finished reading, I ran a bath and opened up a book I’ve been reading off and on called “The Power of Prayer and Fasting” by Ronnie W. Floyd.  The words on the page just seemed to jump out at me.  It seemed like he was writing just to me, describing my desires and longing, my frustration and desperation.  I will write more about what God showed me through this book tomorrow.

As I was finishing chapter one, I was having an internal struggle.  I desperately wanted to believe the testimony that was written in front of me, that prayer and fasting is the key to unlocking an encounter with God, but it just seemed too simple.  I wasn’t sure it was really biblical.  I don’t know too many men of faith who cite fasting as their key to a deep encounter with God.  So I was internally wrestling with this. 

Then something happened that I can’t describe or explain.  I have never experienced anything like this before.  It will be hard to put into words, but I will try.  I was attacked.  Not from without, but from within me.  I suddenly had a tightness in my chest, I couldn’t hardly breath.  It wasn’t like an anxiety attack.  It was spiritual, but in a physical way.  I sat there barely able to breath.  Emotion welled within me, washing over me.  This emotion was not happiness.  It was closer to forcefulness.  It was like someone was pushing me down and forcing their will upon me. 

At first I thought I might be under spiritual attack from a demonic force.  I prayed and commanded it to depart in the name of Jesus Christ.  But, it became clear to me that it WASJesus.  I began to sense that it was forceful, but not evil.  The pain would subside for a while and come on again in full force.  The emotion was so intense I began to feel like I would be sick to my stomach.  I kept thinking and praying, “God why are you doing this to me, what are you trying to show me.  I can’t take any more. let me go!” 

This went on for about ten minutes.  It finally got so intense that I did get physically sick.  Then, as suddenly as it came, it was gone.  I was left completely clueless and totally uncomprehending of what had just happened. 

I got back in the bath and finished cleaning.  As I finished reading that chapter I thought came into my mind.  God reminded me of a chapter I had read in Genesis a few days ago (Genesis 32) where Jacob wrestled with God.  Instantly I thought, that’s exactly what that was like.  I just wrestled with God. . . But why? 

I realized that I didn’t even know why God had wrestled with Jacob.  It seems like a strange thing for the God of the universe to do.  I got on line and read a commentary about the incident in the bible and apparently God initiated the physical struggle with Jacob because he was trying to get his attention.  Jacob had been struggling with his brother Esau and his uncle Laban, but God was trying to show him that he had really been struggling with Him all along.  Jacob’s heart was not fully devoted to God, and God needed to break him and show him that He was greater.

I think that maybe God was trying to get my attention.  I think that He was trying to answer my internal struggle about the power of prayer and fasting.  I fully know that God is bigger than me.  If he wants to He can cause me to cease breathing right now.  So, I won’t struggle against him.  I will commit to start praying and fasting and I will believe that it is the missing element that will drawn Him near to me again.  Further, I believe that it is the missing element in God filling me with the Holy Spirit. 

I’m sorry if this post is a little strange and doesn’t make much sense.  It is very hard to articulate this experience.  But, it is another part of this adventure God has me on, and I feel it needs to be shared.