Fasting Brings Flood-tides of Blessing
Hudson Taylor wrote the following note to the Editor Of The Chinese Recorder:—
"The following extracts from a letter sent me by Mr. Reginald Radcliffe, the well-known friend of missions, seem to me suited to your pages. If you think so, please give them insertion."—J. Hudson Taylor.
Should not the normal course amongst the heathen in this dispensation of the Holy Ghost be to see multitudes moved and converted, not merely units? Is not the reason we so seldom see multitudes moved and converted now, the unbelief of us at home, and the little faith of our beloved laborers who are bearing the heat of the day among the heathen?
He could not do many mighty works on account of their unbelief. Does not this lack of faith run abreast of a lack of real closet prayer, and of real conjoint prayer, and of real fasting? Will you ponder the texts that follow? And let us see to it that we do not, so to speak, tie the hands of our wonder-working God by our hindering: unbelief.
The more I dwell upon the subject the more I consider God's normal plan of acting, so to speak, in heathen lands would be by "floods," and not merely by units—moving by the outpoured Spirit, neighbourhoods, towns, and even provinces and nations; and converting out of them, not by units, but by flocks and multitudes, if only we would not stay His hand by our hindering unbelief. Then I think (and I am sure I am with you in this) the individual Christian worker must in solitude stir up himself to take hold upon God, or, rather, open his mouth wide to receive of God. He must make time to be alone with God. Furthermore, while Protestants have hated improper fasting—merit-making fasting—they have too generally forgotten Christ's words: "Then shall they fast;" "When ye fast." Again, have we not all been in error in not sufficiently looking and praying for the young converts to be immediately endued with power at once to witness for Christ? But this last, although so important, and an agency which, I believe, was so generally and so vastly used in New Testament times, is not the main subject on which I wish to lay stress. Note the following
"Turn ye even to Me with all your heart, and with fasting. I will no more make you a reproach among the heathen. Be glad and rejoice, for the Lord will do great things. I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy," etc.—Joel ii. 12-28.
"For I will pour water on him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground . . . and they shall spring up among the grass, as willows by the water-courses. . . . One shall say, I am the Lord's ; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob."—Isaiah xliv. 3, 4, 6.
"They were all filled with the Holy Ghost."—Acts ii. 4.
"Three thousand."—Acts ii. 41.
"Many of them which heard the word believed, and the number of the men was about five thousand."—Acts iv. 4.
"In those days when the number of the disciples multiplied." —Acts vi. 1.
"And the word of Goo increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly."—Acts vi. 7.
"Therefore they that were scattered abroard " (say, at least, ten thousand) " went everywhere preaching the word.—Acts viii. 4.
"And the people with one accord gave heed."—Acts viii. 6.
"Then had the churches rest . . and were multiplied." —Acts ix. 81.
"And all that dwelt at Lydia and Saron saw him and turned to the Lord."—Acts ix. 35.
"While Peter yet spake these words, the Holt Ghost fell on all them which heard the word."—Acts x. 44.
"And the hand of the Lord was with them,"—some of the ten thousand fugitives—" and a great numbor believed and turned to the Lord."—Acts xi. 21.
"For he [Barnabas] was a good man and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith; and much people was added to the Lord."— Acts xi. 24.
"But the word of God grew and multiplied."—Acts xii. 24.
"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 when they had fasted and prayed," etc.— Acts xiii. 2, 3. After which Barnabas and Saul reaped multitudes— floods were promised, and floods they saw.
"Many" (evidently believed) . . "Next Sabbath came almost the whole city together to hear the words of God."— Acts xiv. 43, 44.
"So spake that a great multitude, both of the Jews and also of the Greeks believed."—Acts xiv. 1.
"A great multitude believed . . Many of them believed." —Acts xvii. 4, 12.
"And many that believed came and confessed and showed their deeds. . . So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed." —Acts xix. 18, 19, 20.
"Not alone at Ephesus, but almost throughout all Asia, this Paul hath persuaded and turned away much people, saying that they be no Gods which are made with hands."—Acts xix. 26.
Earnest Prayer, And Prayer And Fasting.
"Then shall they fast."—Mark ii. 20.
"But thou, when thou fasteth, anoint thy head and wash thy face, that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly."—Matthew vi. 17.
"These all . . continued steadfastly in prayer."—Acts i. 14. (Revised Version.)
"But we will continue steadfastly in prayer."—Acts vi. 4.
"As they ministered to the Lord and fasted."—Acts xiii. 2. [See this text quoted above.]
"Had prayed with fasting."—Acts xiv. 23.
"Approving ourselves . . . in fastings."—2 Cor. vi. 4, 5.
"In fastings often."—2 Cor. xi. 27.
Great Encouragement To Ask, To Believe, To Receive.
"Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts."—James iv. 3.
"And whatsoever we ask we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in His sight."—I John iii. 22.
"Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it rained not," etc.— James v. 17. "Then (see 1 Kings xviii. 37-39) he prayed, surrounded by the priests of Baal, that the Lord would turn the hearts of the people back again, and the fire fell and at once the multitude was turned back again. Their response came forth, "The Lord, he is the God: the Lord, he is the God."
"Who through faith subdued kingdoms."—Heb. xi. 33.
"Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem?" "Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have separated between you and your God."—Isaiah lix. 1, 2.
To these texts from the word of God, let me add one short sentence from Mr. Spurgeon's Recent Missionary Sermon.
"And, dear friends, we must get up higher still in praying about missions. I know some men can get anything they like in prayer. Oh! for some five hundred Elijahs, each one on his Carmel, crying onto God! and we should soon have the clouds bursting with showers
Oh! for more prayer—more incessant mention of the mission cause in prayer! and then the blessing will be sure to come."
Reginald Radcliffe, The Chinese recorder, Volume 18, (Shanghai: Presbyterian Press, 1887).