Fasting Interview with Jerry Falwell

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Fasting Interview with Jerry Falwell

Favorite Verse About Fasting:
I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth
wide, and I will fill it.—Psalm 81:10

Question: Tell me the first time you ever fasted.
Falwell: I was converted at age 18. In those days there was not much preaching on
fasting and prayer, but I heard enough to know that in a time of crisis, fasting with prayer could
be helpful to get answers from God. So with my limited understanding as a new convert, I did go
on a few one-day fasts. I would always fast after dinner the first day until dinner the following
day. I would abstain from breakfast and lunch, a practice I learned then and have done from time
to time to the present day. Usually these one-day fasts are based on personal challenges or needs
in the lives of people who are close to me.

Question: You began calling your church to fast about the time you began Liberty
University. Describe those events.
Falwell: In the early days of Liberty, it was a common thing for our church to fast for the
University. We were building three or four buildings a year during the late ’70s and early ’80s.
We were paying cash as we built. We never borrowed long-term money until many years after
that. Yet it was not uncommon for me to ask the University and church families to fast and pray
for an entire day for the provision of large sums of money: a million dollars, five million dollars,
whatever was needed for construction at that time. We always fasted from solid food, except for
nonnutrient liquids. We would begin after an evening meal of literally eating nothing with
nutrient value until dinner the next day.

Question: You usually called a fast on Monday, beginning sundown after the evening
church services. Why did you do that?
Falwell: I would usually ask the people to fast after church on Sunday until before dinner
on Monday because I had the entire Lord’s Day, morning and night, to challenge and encourage
the people to unite in a corporate fast. Human beings are very busy today and are entangled with
personal and business affairs. When I have challenged them to fast on days other than Monday,
they have good intentions to fast, but because there is no one on Wednesday or Thursday night
saying, “OK, let’s do it,” the percentage of involvement is not very high.

Question: Did you fast for the healing of Charles Hughes?
Falwell: Yes, the whole University and church family fasted for Charles’s healing in 1978.
I was in Holland, Michigan, preaching when the accident happened. Charles was unconscious for
14 days. His father, Dr. Robert Hughes, came and asked me to call a day of fasting and prayer
throughout the entire ministry. We did do that.
Charles was an upperclassman at Liberty University with great potential. God had called
Charles to preach and serve Him. Charles was so gifted that we used him in the “I Love
America” crusades. This was a crusade where I preached on the capitol steps of almost every
state capitol building in America. As a student, in each crusade Charles gave a patriotic reading
that was powerfully used by God.
On the way to an evangelistic crusade in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where he was scheduled
to preach, the van in which he was riding was mangled in an accident with an 18-wheel truck.
Charles’s head was crushed, and they removed the top of his skull because of swelling. The
doctors told us Charles would die and asked if the family would sign papers to donate some of
his body organs to living recipients. The medical community felt Charles was as good as dead.

Question: Describe the statement of faith you made.
Falwell: I told everyone Charles would live if we deeply fasted and prayed from the depths
of our hearts. I was so sure that God would answer our prayers that I announced Charles was
going to speak at Liberty’s graduation that year.
Charles lived and was restored enough to bring a powerful message at the 1978 graduation.
Liberty had previously had well-known speakers such as Dr. W. A. Criswell of First Baptist
Church, Dallas, Texas, and Dr. Charles Stanley, pastor of First Baptist Church, Atlanta, Georgia,
but to me the greatness of that message was not what Charles said, but the testimony of his
healing as he stood before the audience that day.

Question: Describe the fast for Vernon Brewer on April 25, 1985.
Falwell: I was at the hospital when the doctor approached Patty Brewer and the family to
advise them that the tumor was very large and his condition was very grave. I don’t recall the
specific events prior to that fast, but probably those two events, fasting for Charles Hughes and
Vernon Brewer, commanded more prayer attention and fasting than any other individuals in my
41 years in the ministry. And in both cases, they survived.
Vernon Brewer was dean of students and vice president at Liberty University in 1985.
Vernon was a graduate of Liberty in our first graduating class. The students loved Vernon
because of his fairness in enforcing rules and his deep love for them. I knew that more than 5,000
students joined me to pray and fast for Vernon. God healed him. That demonstrated to me the
power of corporate fasting and prayer. Today, Vernon leads the World Help organization. God is
using him to reach the world through a foreign-missions outreach organization. (See chapter 11
for complete details.)

Question: Describe your 40-day fast. What were the events that led up to this fast?
Falwell: Liberty University had no long-term debt on its property in 1986. I raised the
money on television for whatever buildings or projects were needed. Also, we raised funds by
direct mail. We never had difficulty raising cash to build Liberty University. Liberty was the
fastest-growing Christian school in the world. We had raised more than $27 million of needed
cash every year. But when Jim Bakker and Jim Swaggart fell and drew such media attention, it
became clear by the late ’80s that we could no longer raise money through television appeals, or
support the University financially by direct mail. Because of the national religious scandals, the
evangelical religious community would never be the same again.
I often compare television ministries to what happened in the savings and loan industry.
When the bad ones began falling like dominoes, many good savings and loans were wiped out in
the tidal wave. Likewise, many strong evangelical media ministries such as ours were
permanently hurt. People stopped giving because of a credibility crunch. Giving went down
substantially in our ministry and other ministries. Contributions to the “Old Time Gospel Hour”
and Liberty University went down about $25 million a year, which was about 25 percent of our
total revenue.
We had a university, we had buildings constructed, we had spent about $250 million on
facilities, but suddenly we found ourselves unable to raise money to pay bills. After four
consecutive years of $25 million deficits, we suddenly had $100 million to $110 million in
liability debt. We had students on campus and we couldn’t send them home.
The first thing I did was to dismantle the Moral Majority, got out of the political ring and
came back to Lynchburg in November 1991 to concentrate all my energies on Liberty
University. I moved my office for the first time onto the campus of Liberty. It was through days
and nights of fasting and prayer . . . just to raise enough to pay our electric bill or meet salaries. It
was a monumental task of restoring the school to financial stability. From 1991 to 1996, I
practiced fasting and prayer as never before in my personal life. Survival was the name of the
game. Finally, at the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 1996, by God’s enablement, the debt had
been reduced from $110 million by more than $70 million.
Besides the financial debt, a double-barreled shotgun was pointed at our head with both
hammers cocked. Liberty University was threatened with losing its regional accreditation.
Because the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools would not reaffirm accreditation for a
university that had such precarious indebtedness as ours, Liberty had to reduce its debt before it
could continue its accredited status. SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) put
Liberty on probation in December 1996. Without accreditation, I didn’t think the University
could continue. With this crisis, I had to fast, and fast seriously.
And the Lord impressed upon my heart in the summer of 1996 that it was time to do the
unthinkable, that is, personally go on an absolute 40-day fast. From July 20 to the first of
September, I fasted and prayed that 1997-1998 would be the year when Liberty’s debt burden
was removed by God. So I fasted 40 days, July 20 through September 1. I saw mighty things
beginning to happen, but I wasn’t really sure. In that first fast of 40 days, I kept asking God for
money, but He impressed upon my heart that I needed to get close to Him, to listen to Him and to
trust Him. When I asked for money, God told me not to ask for money, but to learn to know Him
better. I had several lessons to learn before I could ask for money. As I ended that first 40-day
fast, I felt I had learned what God wanted to teach me. But I didn’t have an answer about money.
After resuming my normal diet for 25 days, God told me I could ask Him for money. So I
went back on another 40-day fast that began September 25, 1996, ending on November 4. I
broke the fast that evening. I had fasted for 80 days out of 105 days during the summer and fall.
I was in Nashville, Tennessee, preaching at Two Rivers Baptist Church at a God Save
America rally. We went out for a light meal; it was my first meal in 40 days.

Question: What were the tangible results of that fast?
Falwell: First, we received a cash gift large enough to pay off our long-term mortgage debt.
Second, we replenished the cash flow of Liberty University with several million dollars that gave
us financial and institutional health. Third, God sent Liberty a new president, Dr. John Borek, a
Ph.D. in business administration, who had been the chief financial officer at Georgia State
University. Without him we might not have been prepared for SACS’s accreditation visit.
Fourth, when SACS visited and then evaluated Liberty, they removed all sanctions and
recommended Liberty University for 10 years of reaffirmation, which is the bottom line of why I
fasted.
One individual has given Liberty University close to $50 million since those two fasts. And
so those two 40-day fasts were unlike any experiences I have ever had.

Question: What did you eat or drink during your two 40-day fasts?
Falwell: On July 15, 1996, I went to Dr. Gregg Albers, my doctor, and told him I was thinking
about a 40-day fast. He said I had to have fluids. I told him I was going to use water only, but he
said, “I would recommend that every few days you take a small glass of fruit or vegetable juice,”
so I chose V-8. About every third or fourth day I would drink an 8-ounce glass of V-8. Every day
I drank a lot of water . . . a lot of water. To me it is not a fast if you’re drinking blended food or
drinking any kind of food value. I also took one Centrum, a vitamin tablet, every morning. After
about 10 days, the hunger pangs subsided and about the thirty-fifth day they returned. The last
five days were the hardest struggle. In the middle of the fast there was a spiritual release. During
those two fasts, I lost 82 pounds.

Question: What about loss of energy?
Falwell: I noticed no substantial loss of energy. The last five days of both fasts I found
myself becoming weary in the evening.

Author: Ronnie Collins

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