"The word of God sets a high mark before you. Will you, through fasting and prayerful effort, attain to the completeness and consistency of Christian character? You should make straight paths for your feet, lest the lame be turned out of the way. A close connection with God will bring to you, in your labor, that vital power which arouses the conscience, and convicts the sinner of sin, leading him to cry, “What shall I do to be saved?”
"There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape." 1 Cor. 10 : 13.
In all ages, the people of God have been tempted and tried. Some have failed and finally given up, but all who have followed the method of the Master, prayer and fasting, have come forth with victory and praise to God for the way of escape.
The book of Esther is descriptive of the calamity facing God's people. "Both young and old, little children and women" were to be ruthlessly slain. "There was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping." At last in desperation Queen Esther commanded the people of God to fast; for three days and nights they were neither to eat nor drink. In response to this soul-chastening experience, God marvellously worked on their behalf. The way of escape came; sorrow was turned into joy and gladness. But the song of triumph and victory did not come without strenuous effort on their part to bring their lives into harmony with God. Fasting chastens the soul.
When perplexed, Daniel set his face to seek God by prayer and fasting. And in answer to his prayer Gabriel was sent with the message, ''Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard." Dan. 10 : 12.
In the early church, workers were raised up for foreign fields in answer to prayer and fasting. ''As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." And these workers were endued with power for their work by the same means. "And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away." Acts 13 : 2, 3.
We are told in the book of Revelation that prior to the coming of Christ there would be a time of "temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." Calamity is now facing the world. Dear reader, are you by prayer and fasting chastening your soul to be favoured of God, to escape all these things that are to come upon all the world? May God awaken us to chasten our souls, so that there will be nothing in us to hinder the working of the Spirit. Ps. 66: 18. Instead of lifeless, spiritless prayers, our petitions, accompanied by fasting, will become the highest exercise of the soul, and filled with power.
"How can I get victory?" asked a young man who came to our mission. His past record was indeed a dark one, and he was still bound by the chains of evil habits. "I have made resolutions again and again, and failed every time, I want to be a Christian and an overcomer; but how can I obtain the victory?" This young man was given a study on prayer and fasting. Finally he said, "If a woman could fast and pray for three whole days for victory and succeed, so can I."
The first day passed without question from his parents; the second day brought a good deal of questioning, and the third day proved too much for them. At first they feared their son had a serious attack of sulks, but his continued absence from the meal table awakened their alarm, and on questioning him they were astonished to find that he was fasting. The father paid a hurried visit to my home. I invited him to come to church on Sabbath to hear the subject of prayer and fasting presented. This he did, and he has been attending ever since. The son gained wonderful victories, and is a living example of the power of Christ. Both of his parents were baptised with him.
The prophet Joel calls for the people of God to fast and cry unto the Lord. "Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry unto the Lord, Alas for the day! for the day of the Lord is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come." Joel 1 : 14, 15. The second chapter repeats the warning. "Blow the trumpet in Zion [the church], sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: gather the people, sanctify the congregation." Are we letting these warnings pass unheeded?
Notice these statements from God's messenger to this church:
"The Word of God sets a high mark before you. Will you, through fasting and prayerful effort, attain to the completeness and consistency of Christian character?" —"Testimonies for the Church," Vol. 4, p. 400.
"There is need of fasting, humiliation, and prayer over our decaying zeal and languishing spirituality. The love of man is waxing cold."—Vol. 4, pp. 535, 536.
"With fasting and earnest prayer, with deep heart-searching, stern self-examination, lay bare the soul; let no act escape your critical examination. Then, with self dead, and your life hid with Christ in God, offer your humble petitions." — Vol. 2, p. 158.
"Those who profess the truth for these last days, above every other class of professed Christians, should imitate the great Exemplar in prayer."—Id., pp. 202, 203.
May all of God's children chasten themselves through prayer and fasting, and at last sing the song of victory of Moses and the Lamb.
E. H. Parsons