Cotton Mather: Prayer and Fasting

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But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting. Matthew 17:21

“The town is become almost an hell upon earth, a city full of lies, and murders, and blasphemies, as far as witches and speeches can render it so: Satan seems to take a strange possession of it, in the epidemic rage, against that notable and powerful and successful way of saving the lives of people from the dangers of the smallpox. What can I do on this occasion, to get the miserable town dispossessed of the evil spirit which has taken such an horrible possession of it? What besides prayer with fasting for it?“

Cotton Mather in his diary entry dated 24 August 1721 as recounted in “When Cotton Mather Fought the Smallpox“.

The town for this outbreak was Boston. The disease was smallpox. The year was in 1721. Mather wanted them to try inoculation, a primitive form of vaccination and took lots of heat for it. He also want them to fast and pray.

As we find ourselves locked down around the world, fighting COVID-19, a disease we can’t see, we should be open to both medical treatments and committed to spiritual remedies.

So where does generosity come into view?

When I read this story, I could not get over the way in which the outbreak caused people to fight against each other. Prayer and fasting changes all that. It humbles us and brings is closer to God and each other.

As we face a foe we cannot see, let’s devote a generous amount of time to prayer and fasting.

Pray for the sick, health care workers, the vulnerable, the unemployed, ministry workers, family, and friends.

Fast for your neighborhood and nation, for renewal and revival. Ask God to intervene in His grace and goodness.

The more I look through church history, the more I see that every generation faced some sort of disease, outbreak, or plague. The question for this generation is what does a generous response look like?

Some facets of a generous response may vary from steward to steward, but all of us, regardless of our age, social or economic status, can commit to prayer and fasting.

Join me, my church, and Christians around the world for a day of prayer and fasting on 29 March 2020.

God, deliver us from this disease. Draw the world closer together and to You. Work by your Spirit. Hear my prayer in the name of Jesus. Amen.