Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Beautiful Sacrifice of Prayer & Fasting

Another absolute favorite story of mine from His Word comes from 2 Chronicles 20.  It is a story of angst, danger, desperation and deliverance. It is a story of prayer, power, community,  and perseverance. It is love story sacrifice and deliverance.

A summary of the story goes something like this:
King Jehoshaphat of Judah was told that his enemies were coming to make war. Jehoshaphat was terrified and begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting. So people from all the towns of Judah came to Jerusalem to seek the Lord’s help.

Jehoshaphat stood before the people.  He prayed before the people giving the Lord all the praise honor and glory. He also took claim to God’s promise of protection for his people. He said, ‘We can cry out to you to save us, and you will hear us and rescue us.’ In humility, Jehoshaphat prayed, “ We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.”

Then the Spirit came upon Jahaziel, a man in the crowd.  He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.  Then King Jehoshaphat bowed low with his face to the ground. And all the people of Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping the Lord. 

 Early the next morning the army of Judah went out into the wilderness to face their enemies. On the way Jehoshaphat stopped and said, “Listen to me, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm.

(And, here is the best part!) After consulting the people, the king appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang:  “Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!” (Can you imagine singers leading you into battle?!)

 At the very moment they began to sing and give praise, the Lord caused the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir to start fighting among themselves. The armies of Moab and Ammon turned against their allies from Mount Seir and killed every one of them. After they had destroyed the army of Seir, they began attacking each other.So when the army of Judah arrived at the lookout point in the wilderness, all they saw were dead bodies lying on the ground as far as they could see. Not a single one of the enemy had escaped.

 King Jehoshaphat and his men went out to gather the plunder.  It took the people three entire days to gather the plunder! It is still called the Valley of Blessing today.  When all the surrounding kingdoms heard that the Lord himself had fought against the enemies of Israel, the fear of God came over them.  Jehoshaphat’s kingdom was at peace, for his God had given him rest on every side.

Valley of Blessing

I love this moment in history because it memorializes the beauty of relationship with God Almighty.  The king loved his people and his people loved him. The king loved God and God loved him. The people loved and worshiped God. There was beauty in the sacrifice of prayer and fasting and coming before God with surrendered hearts.

Jehoshaphat had a sense of urgency in approaching the Lord; rather than trying to solve the problem himself, Jehoshaphat went straight to the Creator of the Universe. He approached the throne with humility before God and his people, relying on God alone. The king seized God’s power in collective fasting and prayer demonstrating his trust, reliance and dependance on Him alone. His prayers and demonstration through fasting with his people were answered, he gets an added bonus of peace on every side during his reign, and God gets the glory!

The sacrifice of prayer and fasting, with a yielded heart, can move mountains. It is a beautiful way to demonstrate our love and trust in the Living God. It is one the most powerful tools of spiritual warfare yet one of the least used.

May we grasp the power of prayer and fasting, may we seize the opportunity to gather together in coming before Him to offer this sacrifice in submission, worship, trust, and dependence. And, may we utilize this tool in our toolbox of faith often just as we put on our armor to face each day!