18The concept of Fasting in Fayetteville evolved from a conversation between two old seminary buddies last year. Sporadically, my former Oral Roberts University classmate, Saundra Blair, and I would check-in with each other to share updates. As is consistent with Saundra, she mentioned praying for some family members to “come to know the Lord.”

Saundra went on to mention several specific concerns and passionately declared that she was still praying for them. My thoughts went to a cousin of mine who had died a few months before. I told Saundra that I had been praying for my cousin for years, and he still died at age 67 from a drug overdose.

My lamenting to my friend included admission that my prayers for my cousin had come and gone. I found myself somewhat disheartened because his slow decline was observable. I asked my friend, “How do we walk out James 5:16b? How does ‘the effectual fervent prayer of the righteous’ get results”?

The first part of James 5:16 states, “Confess your faults one to another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” Unintentionally, my questions became a confession that I had not been consistent in prayer for my now deceased cousin. I had become discouraged in praying for him because there was no observable change over the years.

As our conversation lengthened, we discussed the discipline of prayer and expectancy, and our responsibility to trust God for results. Being seminary graduates we automatically began to review Jesus as our model for prayer.

We pondered, “What gets in the way of hearing from God? How do we foster a more disciplined, focused prayer life?”

The Bible informs us that Jesus consistently lived in prayerful conversation with the Father. He completely humbled Himself before God with prayer and fasting before beginning His public ministry. The light bulb came on for us! As we began to look through multiple Hebrew Scriptures and pull out notes from our seminary days, the difference became clear.

At times, we had “fasted” with and for others regarding a particular need within families and communities. However, we began to see that Biblical fasting and prayer with our lives yielded to God is completely different from us setting the agenda for time with God. I said aloud, “Hey wait a minute! I haven’t been fasting, I’ve just been skipping meals!” So, we began our journey of humbling ourselves in fasting and prayer.

In Isaiah 58, God calls a fast to put a stop to wickedness, lift heavy burdens, and for you to break every yoke. This got our attention!

He promises outcomes of such a fast that range from healing and spiritual growth to rebuilding deserted ruins of our cities and restoring streets in which to live safely.

We have been so exhilarated and inspired that we want to invite others to join in discovering the possibilities of how God fulfills His word through believers who humble themselves in fasting and prayer.

Fasting in Fayetteville is a 12-week targeted Bible study and community dialogue with the goal of integrating healthy holistic lifestyle choices which are sustainable. This certificate symposium includes community wellness and fitness providers, nutritionists, local farmers, meal-prep restaurant and health store owners. Biblical perspectives will be shared by pastors, rabbis, theologians and participants.

First Baptist Church, located at 201 Anderson Street, is hosting this interactive seminar which will meet in person and by Zoom on Thursdays, beginning June 1 at noon.
Sessions will be recorded and uploaded to the Fasting in Fayetteville YouTube channel. To register, go to www.FastinginFayetteville.org There is no charge for this event.

Editor's note: Saundra Blair, DMin, Ed.D., is a retired college professor and former associate pastor. She is a nutrition and health enthusiast. Denise Merritt, DMin, is a retired Army Chaplain and currently serves as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Fayetteville. She attends First Baptist Church on Anderson Street with her husband, Karl.

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