Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Power of Prayer and Fasting – Ronnie W. Floyd

© 2010 Nashville, B & H Publishing Group

Ronnie Floyd is the pastor of a large and growing church in northwest Arkansas. The church actually exists in two campuses (First Baptist Church of Springdale and The Church at Pinnacle Hills). His most recent (as of last month) accolade is to be the newly elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

When I received this book from the North American Mission Board, I thought, “This will be good. I’ve been wanting to study a little more into fasting.” Within the pages of this “Revised & Expanded” edition, I found many challenging and worthy reminders of the call of Scripture for God’s people to be not only a people of prayer, but also a people who fast. Floyd includes a number of heart-touching testimonies of how prayer and fasting have become essential in his own life and ministry as well as that of his church and other people he has had influence with.

One of the most mind-numbing challenges I encountered as I read this book was the call to bring the local church into a corporate time of fasting. Floyd defines fasting as the “abstinence from food with a spiritual goal in mind.” (see page 4) And his encouragement to the body of Christ to fast is based on that definition. I can agree with him, that this is the basic definition of fasting. I think that the process can be expanded to abstain from other things (like media), and that the purpose of the fast is spiritual in nature. While there is such a thing as a fast for the purpose of weight loss, this book is dealing with the spiritual kind of fasting.

The problem with my expanding his definition lies in this: when we abstain from food, it is doing away (for a time) with something that the body cannot live without. Refraining from watching television or using smart phones, while these things seem important to a modern society, is not necessary to the survival.

Floyd bases his thesis (and includes it in the title of the book) on fasting and prayer as a means to tap into the power of God. I don’t think that this is his ultimate intention (he even says as much in the book), but the reader often comes away with this impression: that if I will pray and fast, I will experience magnificent power from God. I would suggest that if the reason for one’s fasting is to tap into godly power, then the intention is a false front. My best understanding of fasting and prayer is that the purpose of these activities is not for me to get something from God, but for me to focus my entire being on Him. Prayer and fasting are for my sake in the respect that they bring me into God’s presence for the purpose of complete worship. To approach them with the thought that “if I do this, I get to see something spectacular” (which is a selfish realm from which to start) I miss the point of prayer and fasting altogether.

I think that this is a good book for Christians to read, but I would advise caution not to get caught up in the selfish side of Christian disciplines. Instead I would encourage (as Pastor Floyd has encouraged me in the writing) to practice both prayer and fasting, but to do so with the goal of spending precious time with our Father in Heaven. (I can also agree that doing so will open our eyes to a greater spiritual explosion than ever before—but that’s the residue, not the intention). (3 out of 5 reading glasses)
—Benjamin Potter, July 1, 2014

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