Foundations: Prayer and Fasting
We began this series highlighting the sovereignty of God as a key foundation for planting a church. While the sovereignty of God is essential for church planting, one could be tempted to ask, “If God is sovereign, why pray?” The short answer to this question is that while God is sovereign, and he does what he pleases, he has also chosen certain means by which he accomplishes his purposes. One of those means is prayer.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus speaks of this very purpose: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing…If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (15:5, 7-8).
Prayer is foundational to church planting because it is in prayer that we acknowledge that we can do nothing apart from Christ. In prayer we call upon the sovereign God to do what he has already promised to do. In this way, God is glorified when we bear much fruit because we have prayed and God has answered. It is also in this light that we affirm not only the importance of prayer, but the importance of fasting as well.
The church at Antioch is a great example of how prayer and fasting go hand in hand, specifically in seeking to fulfill the Great Commission. Luke writes, “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off” (Acts 13:2-3). The first implication this text has on church planting is that it sets a biblical precedent for “engaging in worship-fasting-prayer in the earnest pursuit of God’s will for our lives and the life of our church” (John Piper, A Hunger for God). In other words, God will provide clear direction and guidance to Redemption Hill Church as we earnestly pursue him in worship, fasting, and prayer.
The second implication this text has on church planting is that this prayer and fasting in Acts 13 changed the course of history. John Piper notes: “This moment of prayer and fasting resulted in a missions movement that would catapult Christianity from obscurity into being the dominant religion of the Roman Empire within two and a half centuries, and would yield 1.3 billion adherents of the Christian religion today, with a Christian witness in virtually every country of the world. And thirteen out of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament (Paul’s letters) were a result of the ministry that was launched in this historic moment of prayer and fasting. So I think it is fair to say that God was pleased to make worship and prayer and fasting the launching pad for a mission that would change the course of world history” (see A Hunger for God, 105-107).
It is our firm belief that God will only use Redemption Hill Church as a launching pad for a mission that will change Medford, Greater Boston, and the world, when we come to him in earnest worship, prayer, and fasting. We believe that the gospel will not be proclaimed in power to all nations without prevailing, earnest, and faith-filled prayers. God’s sovereign plan will not happen without prayer. Will you join us?