MEETING with GOD through corporate FASTING PRAYER: "Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, in sackcloth and with dust on their heads. Then those of Israelite lineage separated themselves from all foreigners; and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for one-fourth of the day; and for another fourth they confessed and worshiped the Lord their God." (Neh. 9:1-3)
The Feast of Tabernacles was a time of great joy to the Israelites, but when it ended they took an extra day for hearing God’s Word. When they heard God’s Word, the people became acutely aware of their failings as a covenant nation. God started doing a great work among the Israelites to prepare them for renewal as they started confessing their sins and worshiping God. Actually, God’s Word revealed their sins and the forgiveness that only God could give; so the people confessed their sins to God that ushered in forgiveness; and God’s forgiveness motivated them to praise God as a corporate body in Christ!
In the case of the Israelites, we read in the above passage that they were assembled with fasting, in sackcloth and with dust on their heads. The wearing of sackcloth and the placing of dust upon their heads was a sign of great mourning and sorrow (see 1 Sam. 4:12; Job 2:12). Their sorrow and mourning was evidenced by the fact that they were willing to make a clear separation from the heathen nations around them. We should understand that God has gifted us His Word as His guide for living. When we obey His Word, this is a cause for joy, but our failure to live up to that guide must become a source of grief. Admission of that failure is the first step to getting right with God!
God’s Word calls for at least two responses from the listeners: confession and worship. There is a close connection between the hearing of God’s Word, confession of sins, and worship. The confession of the people’s own sins was for personal and corporate forgiveness, which then led them to corporate worship. These should be activities that we should be involved every day. We should read God’s Word every day, and the light of His Word will expose all the sins in our lives as we recognize our own unworthiness. We will then be led to confess our sins that should lead us to worshiping God.
Let us remember that many of our sins are corporate in nature, and we must deal with such sin together and believe that God is faithful to forgive corporate sins. We should meet with God through corporate fasting prayer, and this event in the life of Israelites gives us eight steps about how we can meet with God, which are listed below:
- Allow for the public, corporate confession of sin when necessary (Rom. 3:10-18).
- Plan a date/time for the corporate body of Christ to assemble together (Heb. 10:25)
- Prepare to abstain from food and all life activities during this period of fasting prayer (Matt. 6:16-18)
- Separate from anything that is unholy in our lives (2 Cor. 6:17)
- Focus on reading and understanding God's Word, and allow God to reveal our sins in the light of His Word (Isaiah 64:6).
- Confess our own personal and corporate sins in the light of the revelation from God's Word (Rom. 10:9-10).
- Accept the forgiveness that only God can offer to us through His Word, and the cleansing that Jesus offers us through His blood (1 John 1:9)
- Worship God without any restrain for restoring our relationship with Him (Heb. 13:15)