Tuesday, March 3, 2015
Why a Solemn Assembly of Prayer and Fasting?
Why gather together in prayer for our land? In Joel chapter two, an ancient Hebrew prophet speaks to a nation in crisis and gives her God’s solution: gather together, repent of their sins, and pray to God to intervene on their behalf. In that day the command was for everyone to stop what they were doing and gather for a sacred assembly to turn to God with all their hearts,
"with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning" (Joel 2:12).
Why did God desire fasting, weeping, and mourning – or, to put it differently, contrition and humility – from the people? A "sacred assembly" (Joel 2:15) was a gathering that served a few purposes: first, in gathering, the people were acknowledging that their nation had drifted away from its foundations in morality and faith. Because of this moral decline, the people were not prepared to face the external threats rising up against them: economic, political, and military in nature. God wanted His people to understand that their internal threats (moral decline) were far greater than their external threats (economic crisis and military invasion).
In gathering together, God wanted the people instructed so that they would know why their nation was in peril. God wanted the people – from the children and nursing babes to the leaders and priests (Joel 2:16) – to all completely understand both the nature of the crisis at hand and the only solution that would deliver them from their great crisis: God Himself. God ordained in that hour of history that prayer would serve as the only way of escape from the mounting trouble. Why? Because only God had the power to solve both the internal moral decline and the external economic and military threats. All three were unsolvable by human means and human solutions – but God had a solution that could be found in His great mercy.
In gathering together, therefore, the people could cry out together with their leaders in humility and repentance led by their priests (Joel 2:17). There is power from heaven available to those who gather together and pray. We see a "Joel 2" gathering at the beginning of the book of Acts with a "Joel 2" answer in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2).
The greatest missions movements in history – starting with the Apostle Paul – were launched out of prayer gatherings like the one in Acts 13. The great Catholic, Protestant, and Student Volunteer missions movements were all launched out of gatherings of prayer. The greatest revivals in history, such as the First and Second Great Awakenings, were also birthed out of sustained, persistent gatherings of prayer. Dramatic things have happened throughout many generations when the people of God come together and seek His face. Who knows what can happen in our generation when we gather together to worship Jesus, fast and pray, and believe for great change in our nation?
Love and Blessings!