If we don’t pray, how will we really know what God has for us?
Passionate spiritual zeal is one of the most important, evident qualities of having an authentic relationship with God. It is key to our witness. It is vital to moving His church forward. Passionate Christianity should be the norm for every believer—not the exception. Our spiritual passion should be something we fight to protect.
It has been through times of drawing closer to God through prayer and fasting that I have received some of the most precise, specific direction for my own life, my family and our church. Without fail, each time I fast I look back in amazement at what God has done in my heart and what He has revealed to me, and I wonder, What if I had not fasted? I would have missed out on what God had for me and our church.
The first 10 years of my ministry at Celebration Church felt like life with Jesus in the fast lane. I ran so hard and so fast. My relationship with God was great, but the church grew so rapidly I had to sprint to keep up. I suppose it’s OK to be in the fast lane, but it is so important to ensure we are making regular stops along the way to get alone with God. If not, the other voices, business and pressures of ministry crowd out the voice of God.
The other “voices” we hear are not always negative things—some of them may be very good things. But unless we are tuned into God and can hear His voice clearly, we may end up saying yes to the good, and miss what is God. And when we miss what God has in mind, we will miss out on our very purpose, both as His followers and as His church.
I have discovered that prayer and fasting are key practices in tuning out these voices and cultivating passionate Christianity. These practices should periodically be done together—in other words, corporately. After experiencing it and being so passionate about the results of prayer and fasting in my own life, and then seeing the impact it made in our staff, leadership and church, we opened it up to the body of Christ and launched Awakening: 21 Days of Prayer, Fasting and Personal Devotion that takes place each January.
Prayer and fasting is more than a program for us. It is embedded deep in our culture. And I firmly believe that we will see believers and churches everywhere have the greatest impact for the kingdom of God as we seek Him through prayer and fasting.
We simply should not draw our own conclusions based on fear or lack of understanding and close the door to such a beneficial experience. Fasting for health and weight loss is very popular in the secular world right now, and unchurched people neither fear it nor think it extreme. Fasting is a spiritual discipline God designed for us, and fruit will always come from it.
There are great churches around the globe that start every year with prayer and fasting and have even been doing it longer than we have. There are other churches that have never tried it but want to. By uniting with these churches and providing fasting resources and tools, we want to help churches develop a culture of prayer, fasting and seeking God in their congregations. Most importantly, we want to do this together.
A church may pray and fast for a big event, cause or outreach, but it is another thing entirely to develop a culture of prayer, fasting and seeking God. When this is embedded into your culture, you see a sustained newness and freshness in people’s relationships with God, as well as throughout each ministry area and the church as a whole.
I encourage you to build a culture of fasting and prayer in your church. You will be amazed at what God will show you through your own Awakening experience. Once you experience it—there’s just no going back.
Stovall Weems is the founder and lead pastor of Celebration Church in Jacksonville, Fla., and a member of Association of Related Churches. He is the author of Awakening, about fasting and prayer.