Why do we gather for prayer and fasting?

Why do we gather for prayer and fasting? February 1, 2011

As you read this I will be at the Newfrontiers Prayer and Fasting gathering. This event is quite unusual, and few movements have something that replicates it. Matt Chandler seemed quite impacted by his visit last year to this event. Anyone who wants to understand Newfrontiers would be well-advised to make a priority of attending one of these events.

Why do 800 leaders gather for two days, forgo food and devote themselves to praying earnestly for God to act? Because we believe it is only God who can do what we need done! We live in a nation which has largely turned its back on God. In that nation we hear God’s call on us to plant churches, and re-evangelize this once great land. It is a massive job. It is beyond all human organization and management techniques. It requires a work of God’s Spirit. The task is daunting and leaves us often feeling empty and unable to make a difference. We gather, empty of food, to as Piper puts it, demonstrate to God that we are empty without him:

An Offering of Emptiness to Show Where Fullness Can Be Found

Prayer is explicitly appointed for this purpose: “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13). God responds to prayer because when we look away from ourselves to Christ as our only hope, that gives the Father an occasion to magnify the glory of his grace in the all-providing work of his Son.

Similarly, fasting is peculiarly suited to glorify God in this way. It is fundamentally an offering of emptiness to God in hope. It is a sacrifice of need and hunger. It says, by its very nature, “Father, I am empty, but you are full. I am hungry, but you are the Bread of Heaven. I am thirsty, but you are the Fountain of Life. I am weak, but you are strong. I am poor, but you are rich. I am foolish, but you are wise. I am broken, but you are whole. I am dying, but your steadfast love is better than life (Psalm 63:3).”

When God sees this confession of need and this expression of trust, he acts, because the glory of his all-sufficient grace is at stake. The final answer is that God rewards fasting because fasting expresses the cry of the heart that nothing on the earth can satisfy our souls besides God. God must reward this cry because God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him.

— John Piper, A Hunger for God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1997), 180-81.

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