EDEN, N.C. (BP) — Steve Griffith, senior pastor of Osborne Baptist Church in Eden, N.C., received a phone call last October that helped launch a movement of prayer and fasting in the church.
The call came from Terry Daniel, a church member and local family physician. He described his concern for the spiritual growth of men in the church and the need for spiritual awakening in the nation.
Daniel and a small group of men had been praying and fasting every Monday for several years.
He said they focused on “our own relationship with the Lord, our lives, our family, our work and the country.”
But Daniel said he sensed that God was up to something greater.
“About mid-year last year as I was studying and praying, the Holy Spirit laid on my heart a burden for our country,” Daniel said. “In looking at the country I started thinking how we are really no different from most governments in the world — power, politics, money and those type of things seems to rule everything.”
He said the Holy Spirit impressed on him the need for more Christians in this country to fast and seek God.
“So we prayed about it, and around early October I called Pastor Steve,” Daniel said. “I told him what the Lord had laid on my heart and he got the same burden.”
The movement first targeted the men in the church.
Griffith said, “I want to challenge the men in the church to fast and pray for spiritual awakening the first three days of every month for the entire year of 2014.”
Along with church leaders, they developed a schedule to call the men to prayer and fasting on the first Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of each month.
“We didn’t know what to expect from that,” Griffith, who has served as the church’s pastor since 1992, said. “The first month I challenged our men to come back on Sunday night. We don’t have a Sunday night service, but about 400 men came. The number who actually show up each month has dwindled down quite a bit, but a lot of men are staying with it.”
Griffith emphasized the movement did not begin with his initiative. “It all really started with Dr. Daniel and his passion for this,” he said.
“We’re praying for spiritual awakening in our own hearts, in our family, in our church and in our nation.”
Daniel said, “We have a burden to see revival and to see people get saved, to see people get right with the Lord, to see our families improved and to see our country change in a positive way … and the Lord being magnified. That’s really how it came about.”
Although the number of men involved has decreased, those participating are not discouraged, Daniel said. “I know there are some other guys fasting. A group of us meet weekly and there’s probably a dozen of us studying the disciplines of the Christian faith,” he said.
Many of the men acknowledged they had never fasted before and are amazed to see how God is working in their lives. “They talk about a closer relationship with the Lord and with their families,” Daniel said. “Another nice thing is that the physical health of many of them is improving. God’s dealing with issues of eating, obesity and many other things.”
For the month of July, Griffith challenged the women in the church to join the men. The Sunday evening service grew to around 200 men and women. Now many of the church’s women are fasting and praying.
The church is set to finish out the year, but Griffith and Daniel want to go into next year and beyond.
“I really believe Scripture is clear that revival only comes when Christians sacrifice to deal with sin, be right with Him, have our hearts broken and living holy lives, while talking to people who don’t know Jesus,” Daniel added.
“When you look back through history and study prayer and fasting, there are a number of Christians, including John Wesley, that fasted two days a week,” he said. “Actually, Wesley would not even sit on ordination council for any Methodist minister unless he agreed to fast each week.”
Bill Moody is a layman who has participated in the monthly prayer and fasting journey.
“I don’t think [the monthly focus] changed my prayer life. It’s the same,” he said. “It just puts more emphasis on the nation and the leadership.”
Every day Moody has the same routine. “I get up, read my Bible and pray every day,” he said.
“That hasn’t changed. Other men in our group have said the same thing. But what it does is it focuses your emphasis on what it should be — the leadership of the church, the community and the country. Every time a hunger pain comes up it prompts me to say a prayer.”
Ronnie Bullins, adult discipleship director for the church, said, “We want to challenge other people and encourage them to come together in corporate fasting and prayer, praying for our individual hearts, our families, our church and our nation. The issues of the nation are a symptom of its people.”
Ultimately Bullins is praying for nationwide revival that begins in individual Christians and the restoration of the biblical family unit.
“I think the burden here in the local body is to start with us, and to examine ourselves, and repent of what we need to repent of, and encourage each other and help each other along,” he said.
The church’s worship pastor, Jason Wilson, said he is committed to expanding the spiritual vitality of men.
“When Jesus began His ministry, He fasted 40 days and nights,” he said. “When I got started in ministry nobody told me to do it, I was just compelled to fast. I said, ‘God I don’t want this to be about me. I want this to be about what You want me to do — surrender.’ Fasting has a way of bringing all of that into perspective.”
Daniel wants believers to understand the purpose of fasting.
“Fasting is certainly not an end in itself. It is a means to draw us closer to the Lord and to add humility to our lives. Fasting is certainly one of the disciplines that over the decades has fallen out of favor in Christianity, because it is a very difficult thing. But it’s one of the greatest things that I have ever done for my physical, spiritual and emotional health.”
He acknowledged that corporate fasting is rare. The sixth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel describes prayer and fasting as primarily a private matter. “But I think there are times for corporate fasting,” Daniel noted.
“This is just something the Lord has laid on our hearts, and we would love to see it spread to churches all over the country, where there are men who are willing to sacrifice and improve their relationship with the Lord, their marriages, their communities, and more than anything, see our country turn back to the Lord.”
Many church leaders are concerned about the condition of the nation. “We are in deep, deep trouble,” Daniel said. “We are imploding and it’s going to continue down this course no matter who we elect unless there is a turning to the Lord by His people.
“There will never be massive amounts of people getting saved until the Lord’s people get right.”
K. Allan Blume is editor of the Biblical Recorder, online at BRNow.org. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).