The Power of Corporate Fasting: An Interview with Lou Engle
By Sloan Milliken
Lou Engle is the visionary and co-founder of The Call solemn assemblies, and his passion is to call young adults into a lifestyle of radical prayer, fasting, holiness, and acts of justice. In over 30 years of his history in praying for revival, Lou has also helped plant two churches, founded the pro-life ministry Bound4LIFE, and helped raise up the first Justice House of Prayer (JHOP) in Washington DC to pray for the Supreme Court and for righteous leaders in America.
As I have personally attended several of The Call gatherings and been greatly impacted by Lou and his ministry, I consider it a great honor to publish this interview. As Christians, we normally tend to think of fasting as a private affair, but as Lou’s life demonstrates, we have great spiritual weapons for good at our disposal when we band together to fast and pray. I believe what follows will build beautifully on our recent focus on fasting, and I trust that you will be encouraged and challenged by Lou’s story, and by his thoughts on corporate fasting in particular.
Lou, prayer and fasting have been a major part of your life. What caused you to pursue a lifestyle of fasting like you have, and what has helped you to sustain it?
I think what caused me to pursue this lifestyle was first of all reading a book by a man named Derek Prince, called Shaping History Through Prayer and Fasting. Having read the book, it created such faith in my heart that I could actually shift history, I could actually be an instrument of revival, if I walked in Jesus’ fast. So I began to do fasting.
I experimented early on. I was mowing lawns at the time, and I fasted for three days. I felt like heaven came so close to me. I felt like angels were all around me, and it was as if the Spirit was introducing to me a treasure that would be foundational for the rest of my life. I remember, early on in my experience, fasting for ten days with a friend, praying for deliverance because we read that Scripture, “This kind comes not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matt. 17:21). For ten days, we fasted and prayed that we would see people being delivered from demons. On the tenth day, a breakout of power was released. Demons manifested. We saw almost an instantaneous deliverance that led us into a period of continuous deliverance. By this time, now, fasting had gotten a hold of my heart because I realized what it did to me personally, drawing me into intimacy with God; it also released power for breakthrough. I wanted the reward, and I began to make it a centerpiece of my life.
You’re probably best known for your work spearheading The Call, which has gathered hundreds of thousands over the years, for one-day solemn assemblies in the spirit of Joel 2. What is a solemn assembly, and why do you feel the Joel 2 message applies to our day?
Joel 2 became a catalyst Scripture for me. In 1996, I was fasting for forty days. After that fast I was given a dream in which I saw two leaders of this ministry I was running with called Rock the Nations, and a young boy named Joel was with them. In the dream, I was supposed to be giving a letter to this young boy named Joel, but I had lost it and was frantically looking for it. I woke up, and immediately the Lord spoke to me, “Don’t lose Joel’s letter. Call the youth of America to fasting and prayer.”
Joel 2 is very current for this hour because it speaks of a nation, Israel, in which there was no hope, no remedy. The finances of the nation had completely collapsed. The judgments of the Lord rested on the land. Yet God said there’s still a prescription: When there’s no hope for a nation, when there’s no remedy, blow a trumpet in Zion, call a fast, gather the people in collective fasting, and let them cry out “Spare your people.” And the promise is, afterward, I will pour out my spirit on all flesh (See Joel 2).
I read, once again in Derek Prince’s book Shaping History Through Prayer and Fasting, that increasingly collective fasting—united fasting, where everyone drops their denominational barriers, their racial barriers, their gender barriers, and gather together to fast and pray— it’s there that God changes the tide of history. He did it with Esther’s fast. He did it in Nineveh. He did it in Joel.
So we began to call these solemn assemblies. They’re not solemn so much in the sense that they’re quiet and very stoic. They’re filled with fire, passion, and life. But they are solemn because there’s an urgency and an emergency to the gatherings that God calls us to. He usually gives us a prophetic whirlwind where he makes it clear that we must gather to deal with these issues.
And so that’s how the Joel 2 theme took place, and that’s how it birthed The Call.
I think many people who fast privately get hung up on corporate fasting for fear that they will be disobeying Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 if they’re seen by other people. You seem, however, to have consistently practiced corporate fasting in the communities you have been involved in. How have you seen God move through such times, and why would you encourage congregations and small bands of people to fast together?
Well, first of all, in Matthew 6, Jesus actually uses both singular and plural forms of the word “you.” He said, “when you (singular) fast,” speaking to individuals, and “when you (plural) fast.” He uses both of those in that passage.
In the context of singular fasting, you fast in secret, not letting people know, because you don’t want to make it a boasting issue. I don’t think it’s wrong to tell people that you’re fasting as an individual when they invite you somewhere and you say, “Well, I’m fasting so I won’t be eating with you.” That’s not wrong. I think Jesus is addressing the underlying issue of pride that says, “Look at me, I’m fasting.” He’s talking about pharisaical fasting. That fasting doesn’t get a reward. But when you go into your closet and pray, or when you singularly fast in secret, God says he, the Father, will reward you. So there’s a reward to fasting. And if done rightly with humility, it’s not wrong to tell people that you’re fasting, because it helps them to understand why you’re not eating. It’s just purely a kindness to do so. You just don’t want to do it with arrogance and pharisaical pride.
On the other hand, it’s impossible to hide your fasting if you’re doing it corporately. Since Jesus says, “When you (plural) fast,” obviously there are to be times of corporate fasting—not just in the Old Testament, as we have discussed, but also seen in the New Testament, as in Acts 13 in Antioch. The prophets and teachers were all together, and they were fasting corporately, together.
So I believe it is very important that congregations will receive the reward of fasting when they corporately fast. It seems inevitable that, whenever we have done corporate fasts, we begin to get corporate breakthroughs. Healings and deliverances take place. Fasting is God’s ordained means for breakthrough.
What practical advice would you give to people who are looking to start fasting corporately with their friends and churches?
First of all, I wouldn’t just call a corporate fast because it’s a good idea. We call corporate fasts when God has opened our ears. In chapter 50 of Isaiah, the servant says, “You have opened my ears, and I was not disobedient.” Psalm 40:6 reads, “Burnt offerings and sacrifices you have not desired, but my ears you have opened. Then I said, I delight to do your will.” When God opens our ears to the prophetic moment, to the urgency, to something he wants a breakthrough in right now, he opens our ears, and then the sacrifice of fasting is not sacrifice, it becomes a delight. We are filled with faith because our ears have been opened.
When God opens my ears—when he gives me a dream or a revelation that I need to fast because something’s taking place—I get so excited because I know a breakthrough is about ready to take place. I would also encourage individuals to fast with a friend, so that two are better than one, so that if one falls, the other might lift him up. Fasting together creates a sense of strength and corporate agreement. I would encourage people to write down four or five prayer requests, personally and corporately, before every fast, that they would go for and pray concerning these things. I am living in the rewards of corporate fastings I did thirty years ago, and I would encourage everyone to walk in this manner.
I think it’s very important in corporate fasting that we don’t compare ourselves with one another, especially in how different individuals undertake the fast. The issue is not so much a water or Daniel fast. The issue is breaking through into faith. That’s what Jesus is talking about: “You couldn’t cast those demons out because of your lack of faith.” Fasting is about a breakthrough into faith. Daniel got it through a Daniel fast. Others get it through a water fast. Don’t compare yourselves with one another lest you get brought into pride in a corporate fast.
For more information on Lou and The Call, please visit them online at www.thecall.com.
Editor’s note: At the time of this publication, Lou and his team at The Call are in the final stages of preparing for a gathering called Azusa Now. After fifteen years of The Call, a “John-the-Baptist-type movement” of fasting and prayer and believing to see America turn back to God, they are believing we are on the cusp of a Jesus movement that will bring unprecedented revival in the land.
Inspired by the Azusa Street revival of 1906, a move of God that was exemplified by prayer, racial unity, salvation, and the power of God, they are calling the church to gather together in the Los Angeles Coliseum on April 9th, 2016 to exalt Jesus and ignite awakening in our day. Please go to www.azusanow2016.com to learn more, and please consider how God may want you to participate.