Lent | Fasting: Day

Fasting as interceding

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Today's Text: Nehemiah 1:1-2:8, Psalm 35:13, Mark 2:1-12

Text: Nehemiah 1:1-2:8, Psalm 35:13, Mark 2:1-12

“Is fasting ever a bribe to get God to pay more attention to the petitions? No, a thousand times no. It is simply a way to make clear that we sufficiently reverence the amazing opportunity to ask help from the everlasting God, the Creator of the Universe, to choose to put everything else aside and concentrate on worshipping, asking for forgiveness, and making our requests known – considering His help more important than anything we could do ourselves in our own strength and with our own ideas.”
- Edith Schaeffer, The Life of Prayer

Do you remember the story of the four men in Mark chapter 2 who have a paralyzed friend and want desperately to get him to Jesus? They heard He was in town and carried their buddy on a stretcher to where Jesus was, but when the house was so crowded with people that the door was completely blocked, they were not deterred. The men wanted healing for their friend, so they carried him up onto the roof, cut a hole in the roof, and lowered him into the center of the room.

First of all? I want friends like these guys! And second – their persistence paid off! Jesus forgave the man’s sins (because only Jesus knew where his greatest sickness was), and then told the man, “rise, pick up your bed and go home.”

The four men were willing to put aside all earthly sensibilities because their friend needed Jesus! And what could be more urgent than that?

Roughly 400 years earlier, I think Nehemiah was a similar friend with a similar faith. He was living a solid 800+ miles from home, selecting wines for the king of Babylon. Even though he was in exile, he was enjoying a life of prestige and influence until he received word that his people and his city had suffered a great devastation.

Like the four men in Jerusalem some 400 years later, Nehemiah’s compassion compelled him to seek the Lord on behalf of his people at any cost:

“As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven… let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants…” (Nehemiah 1:4-6)

When I think about the men who pursued Jesus tirelessly on behalf of their friend, and Nehemiah who petitioned and fasted and repented before the Lord on behalf of his people, I don’t wonder to myself, Well, sheesh, what kind of a friend am I? Instead, I remember what kind of a God I (and Nehemiah, AND the four dudes in Mark) serve! I remember that however compassionate those men were, HIS compassion is greater still! And if I serve a God of compassion who answers the persistent petitions of His people (did you see what the King let Nehemiah do in chapter 2?), I remember that I can approach the throne just as boldly, just as reverently, and with the same discipline, and be heard by the Almighty God upon whom no prayers are wasted.

Sisters, your God hears you. Let’s seek Him more and more and more today. Let’s petition Him with persistent prayer and fasting for good things for ourselves and others! Like Edith Schaeffer said, let’s “reverence the amazing opportunity to ask help from the everlasting God, the Creator of the Universe.”

He is listening. The Bible tells me so!
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  • Late commenter here– I had a busy morning! But wow. I love how Nehemiah's mourning, fasting, and seeking the Lord in all these things helps do something as big as rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah pours out His whole heart before God: He mourns, fasts, confesses, He remembers how badly He's broken His covenant with the Lord, and He repents with His whole heart, relying on the Lord to take Him back and make not only Him, but his whole community new. He loves and cares about these people so much, and I think I've come close with how I feel about the school I'm currently attending. I'm praying for huge revival there, and praying for the students involves my whole heart and soul, because I've realized how much we really need it. This has shown me just how I need to submit myself fully to God so that He can use me more in this area, however he so chooses.

    PS- Today, I skipped the meal that I was supposed to for my fast… but when I got home, I basically pigged out on dinner, and then on chocolate and whatever else was in the house. I didn't have the heart I should've, and it's been hard for me to come to grips with 1) The Love of our God (just how much he LOVES me, loves us), 2) The Sovereign nature of God, and 3) Just how much I need Him. Sisters, if anyone sees this, please pray for me. It's hard to keep my heart in check, but more so, it's hard to realize that I need to trust GOD with my heart and not myself. It's hard to know the line between complacency and just trusting him; I'm over complicating it. I'm sure. Pray I'd learn to lean on Him more and more. I need Him. Goodnight, sisters.

    • tina

      AnnaLee, bless you girl, you are so God filled….trust Him……
      As I was praying for you I asked for a verse to give you so you would know that our Lord is there and nearer than you think….Isaiah 54:10 says "the mountains and hills may crumble…..(you may have a blip in your fasting) but MY love for you will never end……I will keep my promise of peace…." So says the Lord who loves you…..AnnaLee God knows you by name, He knows your heart, we mess up, But God is always always there to pick us up, into loving arms of forgiveness…..trust as you lean……please stop kicking yourself, you are so God blessed….
      Praying you know that promised peace…. with love dear friend…. x xxx

  • jaustin35

    Just beautiful!!!!! I love reading about Nehemiah and the story about the four men who dig a hole in a roof to help their friend be healed by Jesus – but I have never heard the two stories be compared together…….. Very motivational to be more bold before The Lord with your prayers to Him just like Nehemiah was and I hope I can be like those four men with my friends – be that courageous and bring my friends to the feet of Jesus like they did in Mark 2……..

  • wiscogurl

    See a problem, move into action. This describes Nehemiah to me. In many ways, I identify with Nehemiah where I am moved to take action on an issue whether I stand alone or among others. I suppose that's why I decided to pursue a career in public service.

    No matter if we are helping ourselves or others, we are to rise up and move! Walk boldly with the God given skills and talent to… [fill in your blank]:

    1. Volunteer to teach Sunday school.
    2. Share your faith with a friend.
    3. Eliminate a few commitments to free up more time with yourself/family.
    4. Encourage a family member to join you for weekly Bible study.

    These are just a few examples I could think of. We all have that short list of things God has been waiting for us to do. The walls He's waiting for us to rebuild, the burden He wants us to dig a hole through the roof to deliver. Whatever your mission is, He's waiting for you to jump-start it and bring it to life! Don't have something in mind? Be persistent in prayer and fasting… Soon He will reveal it to you!

    • AnnaLee

      Amen sister! Your words completely resonate. We all have a short list of things God has been waiting for us to do. Will be praying that the Lord would show me what those things are.

  • rightpurelovely

    As I read through the old testament more and more, I fall in love with it. For so long I thought it was boring + dry (forgive me Lord!) I was so wrong! To read the boldness that God's followers had is inspiring and convicting. They were bold in their prayers, bold in their belief and bold in their action. So often I find myself acting "meek" in front of God. In prayer I'll find myself saying "Lord, if you can…." IF?! Of course HE can! He is the great I AM.

    I am learning to be bold in Christ.

    • AnnaLee

      Yes! Girl, me too. You are not alone. I let my own pre-concieved notions about God (and about myself) get in the way of who He truly is all the time. I find myself praying "Lord, if you can…" or "Lord, if you'd like to…" all the time! As if, when I am praying according to His will in a biblical, honest, real way, that He doesn't delight in me coming to Him. Time to stop tiptoeing timidly around His throne, half afraid and unsure; time to start to come to it boldly, letting Him see all of me! I'm praying for you sister, that the Lord would reassure and affirm in you that you are His Beloved and that He is THE sovereign, powerful God, redeeming you for bold, beautiful things.

      • rightpurelovely

        "As if, when I am praying according to His will in a biblical, honest, real way, that He doesn't delight in me coming to Him"
        EXACTLY! It is so beautiful. I am amazed every time I am reminded that I am HIS beloved and He desires that I come to Him with my pain, requests and concerns.

  • Steph_Lilac

    There is something so liberating about asking God to provide a blessing, healing, our breakthrough for someone else. When we pray for ourselves there is a slight opening for the enemy to trick us into believing that we possess some ability to make the things we prayed about happen on our own. Nehemiah knew that there was nothing he could do but pray for the desolate state of his city because a) he was too far away to do anything and b) it was just too much work to do on his own. He had no choice but fall back completely onto God who then opened doors and poured out His favor. When we fast and pray for others the beauty lies in leaving it at the altar and then watching God outdo Himself.

    • AnnaLee

      "When we pray for ourselves there is a slight opening for the enemy to trick us into believing that we possess some ability to make the things we prayed about happen on our own." How true that is. I've come to realize that I've subconsciously fit God into this box of "how He's always been towards me"– I get into a pattern of seeing God a certain way, even when He's so much bigger than anything I could ever think about Him, and I end up thinking that I need to carry some of the weight to bring about what I'm praying for! So foolish. Lord, Help me– help all of us– to really just fall back on you and, as Steph says, "leave it at the altar to watch You outdo Yourself"– to outdo the God who I've foolishly made you out to be. Amen.

      • Steph_Lilac

        AnnaLee, I also try and put God (whom simply thought about creating light and it appeared, whom created man from dust, and separated the sky from the sea) into a box or try and "assist" Him in fulfilling a prayer I asked for. How lovely it is just to fall into His embrace and simply abide.

  • Elizabeth

    Bless you for introducing this generation to one of the great women of the faith, Edith Schaeffer! She is enjoying heaven now but her books still are mentoring many.

    • AnnaLee

      Just did a quick 20 minute google study session on the Schaeffers and L'Abri… I think I'm in love. Our God is so good!! The things He works for His glory are indeed so beautifully glorious. Wow. The beauty of what He's done in the world, modern and ancient, so inspires me.

  • Another thing that struck me about Nehemiah's prayer was that he quoted the Word back the Father. He said (my paraphrase) "Father, remember when you said that you would bring judgment against us but when we repented you would show us mercy and restore us?" Reminded me how important it is for me to be faithful in my time in the Word! And Father, I am in desperate need of Your restoration. My walls are crumbling. I need Your healing – inside and out! Coming before You in full confidence that You will do what You say You will do! I love You! In Jesus Name.

    • AnnaLee

      Praying for you Brandi! May God lead, speak to, comfort, and love on you from head to foot. His Truth is such a healer of all wounds. Praise God.

  • Steph_Lilac

    Ashley, I am praying for justice in Terry's death (some questionable things are going to surface soon) also, that God's peace, love, and comfort would surround his family in this trying time. I hear ever so loudly Marvin Sapp's "He Has His Hands On You" in my head while thinking about this situation.

  • Praying for you Dearlyl0ved. And Ashley I lift up Terry’s family in prayer.

  • Karenewart

    I serve a God of compassion who answers the persistent pet ions of his people…I can approach Gods throne boldly and be heard by the Almoghty God, upon whom no prayers are wasted…..love that!

    • AnnaLee

      "I serve a God of compassion who answers the persistent petitions of his people… no prayers are wasted…" I love those phrases and they really stick out to me. It's easy to lose sight of just how compassionate and generous our Lord is, to answer with wonderful faithfulness all of our prayers– not just the well-worded or super duper focused, spiritual prayers. The prayers of confession and petition we pray on the way home after a hard day of work are just as heard as the ones in church or during bible study. Praise you, father God.

  • Janee White

    So many things jumped out at me today. The fact that Nehemiah asked God to forgive not only himself, but his family and his country men. He prayed before he went to the king, and before answering the kings request, he prayed again.

    But this stuck out to me – he prayed to God that He would give him success by granting him favor in the presence of the king. I have asked for God's favor in a situation, but never have I asked God for success by granting me favor in the presence of another. I was stricken by how bold this prayer was, but at the same time, asked God to cleanse my heart of any desire for me to have success that is outside the boundaries of His Will. I want His Name to be the crux of my success – not my name. Does that make sense?

    • Steph_Lilac

      Janee that makes perfect sense and is the reason I'm not posting for tomorrow's activity. Oh that He alone would be exalted through us in ALL that we do. I share your prayer of asking Him to cleanse my heart of any desire to have success for my personal gain. With a pure heart we receive freely the favor of God.

    • AnnaLee

      Yes. Lately, I've really been seeing which places in my life have been for my own pride, and I'm grossed out by it. Lord, give us all pure and steadfast hearts, that our prayers of favor would be for your glory alone. Amen.

    • LizSann

      Janee, that really resonates for me too! As we go through our days, and ask God to use us for His purposes, I have added another prayer – "Father, if you choose to let me know that I was a blessing, that is great! But I don't need or want to know if I will be tempted to take credit. May YOU be glorified and recognized".

      • Steph_Lilac

        "Father, if you choose to let me know that I was a blessing, that is great! But I don't need or want to know if I will be tempted to take credit. May YOU be glorified and recognized". Wooooooow!! That is such a powerful humble prayer. Truthfully, it's better if we don't know so we don't base our helping on how many people sing our praises. Thank you for this Sis, I know it was straight from God.

      • Janee White

        That's a great prayer Liz. My the knowledge of the blessing be gift for Him alone to give. God bless you sweet lady!

  • Thank you for your time to put into words what God has called us to do, seek him and ask because we will find and he will answer. All glory and honor to Jesus our God almighty !

  • I know my God hears my cry. And answers me. Fasting helps me learn to deny the cravings of the flesh and focus my hunger solely on the only true source of satisfaction – My God and Savior!

    Beckey http://www.etsy.com/shop/queenbsbusywork http://reallyreallyrealhousewives.blogspot.com

  • Praying!

  • dearlyl0ved

    Sisters, could I ask you to pray for me? My morning has not started out well. I am a biology teacher in a very challenging, low socioeconomic school district and I am feeling very attacked. I am facing some potential conflict between parents and students and I don't always get the support I need from my administrators. I would appreciate a little prayer and encouragement… I'm under a lot of pressure and just trying to do the best I can, even if I am not perfect. :/
    I know God hears me. The same way He heard Nehemiah and the 4 friends. I know although my situation is not favorable, God is still on the throne and He is listening.
    Thanks in advance..

    • Candacejo

      He is listening and we are praying! God is so able to turn things around and protect you in the middle. ♥

    • Steph_Lilac

      Your once smooth roads have turned rocky for His sake and glory. I pray that God endows you with sustainably and the ability to abide in His perfect peace. The testimony that you are going to have after coming out of this is going to be AMAZING!!

      Ephesians 6:10-11 "Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."

      Philippians 4:11-13 "Not that I speak in regard to need for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content. I know how to be abased and how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned to be both full and hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me." (capitalization mine.)

  • Amen. Absolutely amazing. Im fasting today and I know God will hear me as He always does. Of myself im nothing and so im seeking His help to sustain me and take me through it all.

  • nafisara

    God is so awesome! He listens. I love the SRT studies. I don't think you guys (the writers) know how transforming the studies are. Praise be to God.

  • justemmahh

    I'm desiring to be like Nehemiah this morning; he prayed before he acted. Often times I tend to act then pray for it to work out. That's backwards; praying to be spirit led and fervent in prayer about all things. Oh, and how I wish to be that type of friend from Mark 4 whose faith allows for my friends to be healed, delivered, etc. Loved this devotion this morning <3

    • AnnaLee

      Me too, girl. I usually make decisions and then take a step back and go "wait… was that really what God wanted?" It's caused a lot of unnecessary trouble to make things right once God shows me how i tripped up because of not asking Him in the first place. Praying that He'd really write that truth, that practice, on our hearts. it's so important.

  • justemmahh

    Keeping that family and yourself uplifted in prayer today <3

  • Britteny Rollins

    Thank you so much for This daily devotion. It really Is a blessing :-)

  • Would I be one of those friends, so dedicated in my faith that I would tear a hole in the roof to get my friend before the Lord?

    I also appreciate how Nehemiah prayed before answering the king… That our words would be guided by Him.

  • I lost my BIL, whom I have known since we were eight, to suicide 1.5 years ago. Prayers for the family and for those offering comfort, that their words would be upbuilding and kind.

  • JessicaLoves___

    While Nehemiah and these guys in Mark were able to get gratification for stepping up and presenting the needs of another for restoration and healing — they knew their intercession worked, we are also called to pray for others even when we aren't directly involved or able to see the outcome. To pray privately and committedly for something or someone God placed on your heart, believing that he has the power to bring change. To take on another's burden when they aren't strong enough to ask for help themselves. Because sometimes there isn't a big powerful action to follow-up on an interceding prayer. Sometimes it is the prayer itself that works the miracle.

    • AnnaLee

      Amen, Jessica. Too often, we get caught up in the big powerful actions. They are incredibly awesome, amazing testaments to our faith, but it's also the quiet prayers, the silent yet hopeful waiting, and the precious daily trust in God that works a miracle in our lives. God is good; when we trust in Him, especially in prayer and petition, it's beautiful just how wonderfully He works in/through us, big and small.

  • Nehemiah did not skip the mourning of his loss, he grieved, but in that grief he reached out to God, and when he went to the King, again he prayed before he made his request. It is ok to grieve a loss,to ask the whys, and to feel hopeless. Nehemiah felt all of that, but he also knew where his hope and his strength would come from, so he went there, he went to his Heavenly Father, and God HEARD his heart, God FELT is faith, and God blessed him.
    I praise God for this study, he is drawing me nearer and nearer to Him.

    • AnnaLee

      Amen. Our times grief and mourning are important. Times like those, when we turn to God in such anguish, are truly precious. God is so good, for not only understanding our pain but also creating us with emotions like grief– He knows us, He loves us, and He wants to be there and be strong for us. Praise His Holy Name.

  • Sarah Keller

    I love that Jesus vindicates Himself by going one step farther than forgiving the man on the stretcher- as if that wasn't miraculous enough on its own, He commands him to be healed and walk for the sake of the witness to those who doubt! "And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name…And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when THROUGH YOU I vindicate my holiness before their eyes." {Ezekiel 36:excerpts of 22-23}. It's amazing that God sometimes uses US to vindicate His Holy name! Not for our sake {see verse 22}, but His. Awe inspiring, humbling, miraculous… Praise God and thank you so much, SRT, for these wonderful daily devotions!

    • AnnaLee

      "It's amazing that God sometimes uses US to vindicate His Holy name! not for our sake, but His." Wow. Lord, I only pray that I would get out of the way more, and let you do your work in me, so that you may use me to glorify and vindicate your Holy name with all that I do.

  • Help me Lord to be a friend such as these, and to know and have assurance in you careing and hearing my concerns.

  • Joanne Sher

    Putting everything else aside – that is what struck me this morning. To be honest, I had never really “got ” fasting as part of prayer. But now I do. Lord, help me to focus so fully on my petition to You, that everything else is secondary – for i trust You to answer in Your good will.

  • From the book "The Rhythm of Prayer," by Mark Moore: "Most holy and gracious God, we confess to you that we don't always get it right. We don't always love as you have called us to love. We don't often enough answer your invitation to serve. We don't continually seek the lost. But Father, you get it right with us every time. Accept our humble confession, and sanctify us by the power and beauty of your Word, that we may live in the light of your goodness, serve with the warmth of your gentleness, and love with the passion of your grace. Forever and ever let it be so."

    I love this passage in Mark 12. We see four friends who love with the passion of grace, and I find it interesting that they bring a paralytic man to Jesus, no doubt expecting a physical healing, but Mark doesn't record any sign of them asking for one or Jesus acknowledging it. He simply sees their faith and tells the man his sins are forgiven. As one of the friends, I would have been confused, for sure. It's not until the scribes question His authority to heal sins that Jesus unveils His glory and heals the man. Seems backwards, right? But here Jesus stakes His deity and proves that He is God by both a spiritual and physical healing. Of course, priests could have been providing lip service of forgiveness, so in their hearts they knew to simply say, "Your sins are forgiven" was easier than performing a physical miracle. But even more, by Jesus claiming to be God, he is accused of blasphemy which is ultimately by what the high priest charges and condemns him to death (Mark 14). And Jesus KNOWS this even as He heals this paralytic, showing yet again what a great savior we serve…that He knew everything that would lead Him to the cross and still did not shy away from it! Praise the Lord for His great love and compassion for us! May we love Him and people with such steadfastness!

    • Geri

      Love that quote! Thanks for sharing.

    • AnnaLee

      Yes Morgan! Woah. I love that. "But even more, by Jesus claiming to be God, he is accused of blasphemy which is ultimately by what the high priest changes and condemns him to death… He knew everything that would lead him to the cross and still did not shy away from it!" In wonder of our holy, gracious, good God right now. That he knew everything that would bring him to that death, and yet he did everything wholly and passionately always, always being the bold Truth for others. I only pray, just like you, that we can love him with such steadfastness and willingness to be living sacrifices. Wow.

      • Morgan

        I know…I think that's one of the most mind-boggling things about Jesus and His ministry…that he foreknew everything, that his closest and most loved friends would betray him, that everything was leading to the agony of the cross.

  • Though I didn't hear about the story I would take time out to pray for those affected including you Ashley.

  • I have always loved the story of Nehemiah. He was persistent and prayerful and really cared about his people. Today's reading shows us the importance of persistence in prayer and fasting. Just as the friends of the paraplegic did not give up when they noticed the door was blocked, we are not only to pray and fast when doors are already open for us. We can use fasting as a way to strengthen our normal prayers.

  • Ashley, holding the family and all that are affected by this news in prayer…..God be with you all….x

  • I love coming back to stories that we have studied together as #srt the whole nehemiah study transformed my view of so much. But today, looking at persistence it is a great example. It took courage and strength, which like Candacejo said, was given by God to ask of the King for so much. In exactly the same way the friends in marks story must have needed so much strength and courage to approach Jesus amd to them also so much was given.

    What a challenge to fully lay down everything to

    Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
    Philippians 4:6 NIV

    I think fasting can be part of that petition

  • Candacejo

    Nehemiah was heartbroken at the news he had received of his homeland.

    He sat down.

    He cried.

    He mourned.

    For days.

    He fasted.

    He prayed.

    He asked for mercy when he went before the king for permission, for caution and wisdom. Then he headed to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls! The king gave him permission but God gave him the strength and wisdom he needed to carry out the task.

    Satan would love to keep us in the dark concerning the benefits of fasting! Lack of knowledge of the power of fasting keeps us from experiencing the rewards that come with it!

    When you pray it is powerful. But when you pray AND fast, you are releasing power from on high to do the miraculous. What an "amazing opportunity"!

    • Morgan

      "When you pray AND fast, you are releasing power from on high to do the miraculous." LOVE!

  • Cheremere

    Beautiful! Love your thoughts :)

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