Revival and How to Promote Them
"Private Fasting For Friends"
Key Thought: "Fasting and praying should be preceded by a faithful talk with the one prayed for, or a kind letter written with a humble confession if need be. Without this, the fasting and praying will be of but little use."
“Howbeit, this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”
Matthew xvii. 21.
I have often found in my meetings desperate cases, like the one in my text, that no ordinary means could reach; and which have lingered nearly through the revival, and yet have been brought into the kingdom at last by extraordinary means. In such cases where wives or parents have asked Christians to pray for them, and the unclean spirit is not cast out, and our prayers remain unanswered, I have recommended the disappointed wife or parent to set apart a day of private fasting and prayer; and this course has often been attended with very extraordinary and marked success. Joshua, by fasting and prayer, found out the cause of the defeat of his army before Ai, and had the accursed thing removed.
So others by fasting and praying have been able to discover the hindering cause why their prayers remained unanswered, and. the indifference of their friends continued. Fasting brings the heart into a sacred nearness to God, and enables the soul to obtain a purer and stronger hold upon him than on ordinary occasions.
The one who appoints a day of fasting and prayer has full time for reﬂection and self-examination, and by this prolonged visit with his Maker is led to that importunity and unyielding, Jacob-like wrestling with God that takes no denial, and which is so much encouraged by Jesus Christ in those extreme cases he has given, - of the woman and the unjust judge; and the man who went to his friend for bread to supply the traveler, who has turned aside to tarry with him for a night.
The father ﬁrst took his lunatic son to the disciples, and they tried in vain to effect a cure. The agonized father, not willing to cease his efforts, or to give up his hopes, goes to Christ, and tells his story. Christ says, “Bring him hither to me;” and the reason assigned why the disciples could not cast out the unclean spirit, was a want of faith on their part. More faith by them might have accomplished the object; and Christ intimated to his disciples that this was a desperate case, and the faith to accomplish it was obtained only by prayer and fasting.
The friends who linger in a revival, and are not reached by the ordinary means, which affect others, are generally taken to Christ’s disciples ﬁrst, and they are prayed for and talked with; and yet they oppose, or linger in unconcerned stupidity. Then Christ says, “Bring them hither to me;” and Christ’s power, which never fails, subdues their enmity; and they are seen at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in their right mind. In the season of private fasting and prayer, the petitioner brings his friend right to Jesus, who alone can help.
The fasting and praying should be preceded by a faithful talk with the one prayed for, or a kind letter written with a humble confession if need be. Without this, the fasting and praying will be of but little use.
The philosophy of this is, that the person prayed for knows that the wife, parent, or friend, is then praying for him. The husband who knows that his wife is fasting and praying for him, will think more in forty-eight hours than he has thought under the preaching of sermons for years; and if his wife were lying dead in the house, his feelings would not be more intensiﬁed..
He knows she is right, and that it is her strong love for him, and anxiety for his welfare, that makes her torture herself on his account. A general fast in a church will not produce this effect upon an individual, as this is so common an institution of the church, like a communion season, that sinners care nothing about it.
Taken from The Fire and the Hammer: or, Revivals, and How To Promote Them, by Orson Parker