Thursday, March 03, 2016

Cancel the fasts—hold feasts of prayer

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TODAY'S SPECIAL: Zechariah 8:13-23

"Thus says the Lord of hosts:
'The fast of the fourth month,
The fast of the fifth,
The fast of the seventh,
And the fast of the tenth
Shall be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts
For the house of Judah.
Therefore love truth and peace.' " Zechariah 18:19

A few days ago we read of Jewish leaders coming to inquire of Zechariah whether they should keep the fast of the fifth month (Zechariah 7:3). Here God answers their question head on with, not only cancel that fast but all the others and instead celebrate with feasts. Why, because "Each fast commemorated a different major event in Babylon's conquering of Jerusalem" - D. W. Shibley, study notes on Zechariah, New Spirit-Filled life Bible, p. 1257. Having returned from Babylon and given themselves to rebuilding the temple and again worshiping there, they didn't have to mourn the old happenings any more.

A sidebar article in my Bible point out four ingredients of the "joy and gladness" feasts of prayer that were to take the place of the doleful fasts:

1. Begin with a spirit of hope and urgency
(Zechariah 8:19 - our focus verse).

2. Focus these continuous prayers on the right thing. The instruction is to "seek the Lord" - Zechariah 8:21. "The literal Hebrew translates 'seek the face of the Lord,'" rather than pray about circumstances. Implied is that their renewed connection with God will move His hand in circumstances.

3. Encourage others to join in prayer with them: "The inhabitants of one city shall go to another saying, 'Let us continue to go and pray before the Lord, …' " Zechariah 8:21.

4. Expect many to come to God:

"'Yes, many peoples and strong nations
Shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem
and to pray before the Lord" - Zechariah 8:22.

- The above four points from "Four Key Ingredients of Any Prayer Movement" by David Bryant, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1257,8.

What a great template for prayer in our generation too!

Dear Father, I love the change in tone from defeat to victory here. I often feel discouraged about the spiritual coldness of my generation. Help me to remember this pattern of prayer as I seek Your face for myself, my family, neighbors and fellow citizens. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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