Conversation: Charles Crabtree
The Assemblies of God will observe a National Week of Prayer and Fasting October 22-28. Managing Editor Ken Horn spoke recently with Assistant General Superintendent Charles Crabtree about the vital roles prayer and fasting play in the believerÕs life.
tpe: Why is the week of prayer and fasting needed?
CRABTREE: Without believersÕ personal and corporate involvement in prayer and fasting, Satan is going to see to it that other priorities take their place. We have to establish priorities first and then make time for them.
Too many people try to work out their schedules first and then determine what their priorities should be based on the time they have. The week of prayer forces individuals and the church to address a critical need — the spiritual disciplines of prayer and fasting.
tpe: Why is the Assemblies of God calling for a special week of prayer and fasting on a national level?
CRABTREE: There are real needs in our country that merit this call. And people should not look at this as a mandate originating with our national leadership.
To truly be effective I believe with all my heart we need leadership in setting a prayer strategy by our local pastors. Pastors must have a burden for more than just national crises.
When there is a lack of salvations, a spiritual lull, or something obvious in a community that is going to impact the morality of the entire area — these are things I believe merit concerted prayer and committed spiritual discipline if we want to see God intervene.
tpe: So you would like to see leaders at the district and local church level consider doing such things?
CRABTREE: Yes. This national emphasis, I pray, will serve to call others to recognize the needs where they live and minister.
tpe: As a pastor, how did you emphasize and maintain a healthy prayer life in your congregation?
CRABTREE: Whenever I had a church prayer meeting I made sure it was carefully planned. By that, I donÕt mean I wanted to structure how individuals prayed. But I made very clear what we wanted to accomplish in the prayer meeting.
God blessed those prayer meetings with wonderful results. The peopleÕs faith came alive. They had a deep sense of purpose. In addition I would call special times of fasting and prayer when there was a need for critical healing.
tpe: So you would recommend that a prayer meeting, at whatever level, reflect careful structure in order to be profitable?
CRABTREE: Spiritual oversight is vital. In every case I would share a scriptural base for that time of prayer, then I would bring the need and we would pray in unison. And after we had gone through the combined praying and seeking God, I would invite people to seek God individually for as long as they want.
tpe: Can you talk about the value of fasting?
CRABTREE: I donÕt just arbitrarily fast. In every case in Scripture there was a spiritual battle or crisis or need for spiritual development that precipitated fasting and prayer. Jesus is our example. As He entered His ministry, He went and fasted and prayed for 40 days.
In every Christian life there comes a time, if weÕre open to the Spirit, when it is absolutely necessary to overcome and gain spiritual victory through fasting.
When I was changing roles in my ministry, I felt compelled to fast in order to sense GodÕs guidance. I literally did not want to eat; I wanted to seek God and be open. When I faced a crisis as a parent I said to my wife, ÒIÕm not going to accept this.Ó I fasted and prayed for my child.
Throughout our marriage and ministry we have fasted and prayed, and God has answered supernaturally. I think of Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. He believed in order for God to use him in a very unique way he needed to fast and pray for 40 days. And I believe in every ChristianÕs life there will come times when the Spirit of God will tell us itÕs time to fast.
tpe: What should someone who is fasting for the first time, or hasnÕt fasted often, know about the challenges of fasting and how to fast effectively?
CRABTREE: The key is focus. We have to shift our focus and look at fasting as a special relationship with God, a feast of spiritual food. You are really eating, but like Jesus told His disciples, you have meat to eat that other people wonÕt recognize. When you enter fasting with a sense of faith, you believe it will accomplish something concrete in your life or the life of a loved one.
When I teach on the subject of GodÕs will I say to people, ÒDonÕt come to God questioning whether youÕre going to find His will or not.Ó In a similar manner, donÕt look at fasting as deprivation and question whether or not it will accomplish anything. You will be caught up in self-pity, and you will keep the wrong focus.
Fasting allows you to focus upon the excitement of breaking through in spiritual victory and having spiritual needs met and spiritual powers released that actually strengthen life.
tpe: What do you hope will come as a result of this special emphasis?
CRABTREE: I pray there will come a spiritual addiction to prayer across the Fellowship; a prayerless life is a Godless life. And the prayerless church is a Godless church, a Christless church. To be strong, we need to look at the fact prayer is a privilege and is not something intruding into our lives or a pain to endure. It is an open door to all the resources of God.
tpe: How does prayer impact your life?
CRABTREE: Before I get up, I begin my day praising God. I use prayer as an opportunity to be thankful. Beginning my day in prayer helps me to see that day from GodÕs point of view.
God says He inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3). I have taken that personally, and I begin the day with an attitude of praise and thanksgiving to God for who I am in Christ, what He has done for me, for the opportunities that lie ahead.
After I get up and get dressed, I have a time of personal prayer when I concentrate on the day and ask God for His divine help.
I love what J. Robert Ashcroft said. I was interviewing him on the subject of prayer, and he said the life of Jesus is one long prayer, conscious or unconscious. It was, ÒFather, not My will but Thine be done.Ó
Spiritual life is openness to God, and what is openness to God? ItÕs prayer. ItÕs saying, ÒNot my will but Thine be done.Ó I believe if we submit ourselves at the beginning of the day, and then believe with all our hearts that God is going to lead us, He will help us along the way.
Finally, I have a time of devotional prayer, and if needed, intercessory prayer.
tpe: Any final thoughts?
CRABTREE: Satan loves to put question marks in believersÕ minds to try to make their relationship with God falter. If the devil can keep us from praying because we donÕt immediately get results we want, we are the ones who lose out. But if we will make prayer our pattern and obey ChristÕs call to prayer, we will discover an absolute necessity for Christian growth and victory.
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