So, I chose my words carefully: "Sally, you are the first person to ask me to pray for healing according to James five. I am not certain what to do.” I explained my pastoral dilemma and then proposed a solution: “I suggest that we both pray and fast for five days. I'll meet you in my office next Friday afternoon, and if God tells us to proceed, we will."  Sally was no novice. She had walked with God for many years. She agreed to the proposal.

Five days later we both wrote on paper what we thought God told us and then exchanged papers. The conclusions were identical. We made plans for a healing service on Sunday afternoon. Since we had no elders at the time, I invited our deacons.

During the thirty minutes before Sally arrived, I explained to the deacons her request, the background to her pain, and what I knew of James 5:14-15. I asked if anyone had participated in a healing service before. No hands rose.

When Sally arrived, we asked her to confess any known sin because James mentioned this in verse 16.  When she finished, I took the bottle from Lucky's Supermarket and prepared to pour olive oil over her head. One of the deacons averted a mess when he shook his head and whispered that a drop on a finger applied lightly to her forehead might work better. We took turns passing the bottle, anointing her with oil, and praying for her.

I wondered if perhaps Sally would now leap up like on television and shout, "Glory to God! I'm healed!" But nothing happened. As she quietly exited the room, she thanked us for our prayers and left a room filled with disappointed confusion, mixed with some measure of hope.

Unbeknown to us, the healing service just moved to another time and place. In the early morning hours, Sally was awakened by a strange sensation and knew instantly that she was healed. By the time she was out of bed, the pain was gone—never to return. Later Sally related to me an intriguing aside: "I think that the reason God did not heal me in front of the deacons was because they might get proud. I think God waited until I was alone so He would get all the glory." She never had the same pain as long as she lived.

One purpose of fasting is to discern God's will and then to have the spiritual power to act in accordance with His will. Fasting when accompanied by prayer seems to communicate to God a deeper seriousness and earnestness that gets his attention.

Lacy, you ask why should you fast? Let me mention some of the reasons and/or purposes for fasting.

1. When we need to know God's will

I mentioned this reason above.

The Israelites fasted to determine direction in battle (Judges 20:24-28).

Daniel sought wisdom from God with prayer and fasting and God revealed things to him (Daniel 9:2-3Daniel 9:21-22)

2. WHEN WE NEED TO CHANGE GOD'S MIND

Jonah, the prophet of God, was sent to Nineveh to prophesy destruction. When the King of Nineveh heard Jonah's message, he immediately fasted and called for a fast among his people (Jonah 3:5-6).

This time of fasting did change the mind of God, much to the disappointment of Jonah, you will remember, because God withheld His hand of judgment.

If you are thinking a bit you may remember that one of God's characteristics is immutability. He never changes (James 1:16-17). You may remember that other passages describe Him as One with whom there is "no change, no turning, no shadow of turning, no variableness.

It is important to keep in mind that God has established a principle concerning His right to repent, and whenever we are talking about the repentance of God it is necessary for us to keep in mind the principle.