SHAPING HISTORY THROUGH FASTING AND PRAYER

USA President Zachary Taylor called for a “Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer” on August 3, 1849. The Resolution stated in part: ” It is recommended to persons of all religious denominations to abstain as far as practical from secular occupations and to assemble in their respective places of public worship, to acknowledge the Infinite goodness which has watched over our existence as a nation, and so long crowned us with manifold blessings, and to implore the Almighty in His own good time to stay the destroying hand which is now lifted up against us.”

In St. Louis alone 120 died of cholera in April, 1849.  “The toll grew six-fold in May…reached 2,200 in July..;.with a weekly toll of 640, seven times the city’s normal death rate… bodies were buried in ditches.. the official death toll was 4,317…The number of deaths dropped suddenly in August. President Taylor’s Proclamation of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer was observed Friday, August 3, 1849, and by the end of the month, the death toll had ‘dropped suddenly.’  [Miracles in American History,  Susie Federer,  Amerisearch, Inc, 2012, p.121]

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Queen Esther ponders Mordecai’s news. Ezra 8:21-23 and Esther in the fourth chapter of the Book of Esther provide other incredible examples of God stepping in to change the course of history in response to collective fasting and prayer.

All of the above examples relate to Israel but Scripture provides us with an example of a gentile nation, Assyria, at the time the most powerful empire in the ancient world. The Book of Jonah records God’s dealings with Nineveh (capital of Assyria). The response to the reluctant Jonah’s message was immediate and dramatic: “So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth from the greatest of them to the least of them. The king decreed “… and cry mightily unto God :yea let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if Cod will turn and repent, and turn away from His fierce anger, that we perish not.” Jonah 3:5-9. Moreover we know the outcome – much to Jonah’s dismay God ” repented of the evil that He said He would do unto them” and we know Nineveh continued as a more or less stable and prosperous city for 150 years before God did ultimately judge the city and nation.

In God’s dealings with nations His promise of blessings and His warnings of judgement are both alike conditional. Judgement may be averted – even at the 11th hour- by repentance. Conversely, blessing may be forfeited by disobedience. If only the leaders of our nations understood this edict.