Teaching, discipleship and the Christian lifestyle...
"Pure religion and undefiled is to visit the widows and the orphans in their affliction, and to keep ourselves unspotted from the world."
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Father of Faith
(By Joanna Barratt)
Barratt Ministries is a non-profit ministry dedicated to sharing true discipleship teaching, and challenging Christians to live the lifestyle that Jesus taught in the ‘Sermon on the Mount’. We have been doing this since the late 70s through the mediums of preaching, singing and literature. We produce books, CDs, DVDs, and other digital media, to get our message out - one we believe is vital for the church today.
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"Babylon, from its beginnings in Genesis to its culmination in the seduction of the church today. This is not a speculative ‘end-times study’ but a biblical survey of a subject we all need to understand."
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It had been just a normal day. We’d opened the church up for yet another coffee morning, and seen a few of the regulars drift into the church for coffee and to review the last Sunday’s service which we had videoed and shown on the television. We’d chatted to one or two people, but nothing special had happened. I closed the doors of the church and then Maurice and I settled down to our usual practice of having a prayer for the people who had come in. We would then open Oswald J. Smith’s book “Compassion For Lost Souls” which Maurice and I had been reading through each day in the hope that God would give us the compassion that we so badly needed for our district. Although it was a very good book, it rarely made any impression on me, probably because I was so self-centred that I couldn’t identify with compassion for other people and their situations. But this day God spoke loud and clear.
The Power Of Fasting
In the chapter which we were reading, Oswald J. Smith was talking about a man who lived in Africa. The village witch-doctor had just died and his position was now vacant. This particular man badly wanted to fulfil the role of witch doctor, so he went into the heart of the jungle and fasted for seven whole days - at the end of which he was totally possessed by evil spirits and could do all sorts of magic, which now qualified him for the position that he so longed for. We had just undergone some very detailed teaching on the Sermon on the Mount so I was fully aware that fasting was supposed to be part of the everyday life of a Christian - knowing all about it is one thing, but putting it into practice is quite another! It was then that I felt the sword of the Spirit pierce my heart and it made me look at my life afresh. This African man had given seven days of his life in total abstinence to be possessed of evil spirits and yet I had never even given God one day. OK, I’d given up a meal here and there, but I had never allowed myself to be put at God’s disposal. I always did only what I could handle myself. And now God was challenging me to give Him a whole week to fast on water and pray so that He could possess me and use me. And because I knew without a shadow of a doubt that God was telling me to do this, I was really frightened.
Fulfilling My Obligation
I didn’t tell Maurice what I had decided to do, but I began to put my plan of action into operation. I knew that it was useless for me to stay at home, where the biscuit barrel and the bread bin would beckon so readily and where I would feel powerless to refuse. I had to get away completely alone, where I was deprived of all temptation, to enable me to fulfil the obligation which I now owed to God. Whilst reading through “Redemption Tidings” magazine I came across an advertisement which offered a cottage in Matlock, Derbyshire, for the week of the Assemblies of God conference. Obviously the owners had wanted to go to the conference and yet didn’t want their home to be left vacant, so they were offering it for rental. I made contact with the owners and found out that they were the wardens of the Eventide home, which was on the same road as their house only five doors away, and that their church was just round the corner, where they were sure I’d be made very welcome.
Shut In With God
On the day appointed I arrived in Matlock armed with my Bible, hymnal and the prophecy book which I’d kept ever since God had started to speak to me personally. I was shown round the house by the people who were standing in for the wardens of the Home. Although I didn’t have a television in my own home, I was very relieved to find that there was one here, because I knew that on the nights when I would be feeling very lonely I would be able to turn it on and have company. But just before my guides left, they informed me that I wouldn’t be able to use the television, as something had been removed from it due to the fact that the licence fee had not been paid! As soon as I was alone I made a much more detailed inspection of the house to see what facilities there were for me - and found that there was no radio, no cassette player, and the telephone had a lock on which enabled calls to come in but none to go out - and nobody knew I was there except Maurice, who would be collecting me again in a week’s time!
I suddenly felt very frightened and vulnerable. I was totally alone. God had asked me to spend a week with him but I realised I didn’t even know Him. I had served Him for years in the church and had met regularly with other Christians for spiritual activities, but this was different. I reckoned it would be best if I could work out a schedule for the week, so I decided to spend two hours in prayer and Bible reading in the morning, two hours in the afternoon and two hours in the evening. My spirit was very willing, but my flesh was incredibly weak - and I hadn’t taken into account the violent headaches that began to attack me. Being a very healthy and strong-minded person normally, I was totally unprepared for the weakness that would come over my body as soon as I stopped eating, and this weakness seemed to affect everything that I did. As the week progressed I found that reading the Bible became impossible; the words would all jumble together and become a blur; my vision just couldn’t take in and focus what I was looking at, my mind began to wander and I just couldn’t concentrate for long periods to pray.
An Unexpected Request
On the Wednesday evening the stand in deputy at the Eventide Home called round to see me to ask if I would like to give a word to the ladies the following morning. She knew that I had come away for this week as a retreat and thought that maybe I could give some sort of testimony which would encourage the ladies. I was amazed, because my immediate response just came out of my mouth before I could catch the words - and I accepted her invitation. For about ten minutes after she had gone the Lord just cleared my mind and I was able to write down the outline for a thirty minute sermon which I could preach to the ladies the next day - but then my mind became a blur again and concentration was absolutely impossible! That night was the worst night of the whole week that I was in the house because I experienced a stomach cramp (which I had only ever read about in fasting books). It was a horrifying and fearful experience, during which I thought that I would die - but God pulled me through.
The next morning after only four hours sleep (yet again!) I wearily made my way down the road to the Home, wondering how on earth I was going to face these women with my mind so confused and blurred. I rang the bell - and as soon as I was admitted my mind miraculously cleared and strength surged through my body, so much so that I was able to sing and play the piano for the ladies with gusto and preach a twenty minute sermon, at the end of which the women were in tears asking God to help with their own prayer lives! I felt alert and bright eyed as I chatted with the deputy warden after the meeting, and almost ran back to the house to get down to my own personal prayer and Bible reading. I thought the Lord had taken me out of that first stage of fasting and cleared my mind completely so I could be spiritually alert and sharp. But as soon as I put the key into the door and stepped inside the house this miraculous strength just flowed from me and I was totally exhausted! I picked up my Bible and prayed and put all the effort in that I could muster, but it just seemed like a waste because I couldn’t remember anything that I read or anything that I said. When God called me to give Him this week I truly and sincerely felt that I would have broken through into the spiritual realm and seen God in a fresh way, but as far as I was concerned it had been a failure. My physical weakness from lack of food was only proving to emphasise the stark reality of my true spiritual state with God - I was totally impoverished!
Pride Creeps In
And yet, for all this feeling of inadequacy, the first meal that I was to partake of filled me with a great sense of satisfaction - after all, I had just completed, for the first time in my life, seven whole days on water. The food strengthened my body like magic and I immediately felt strong both physically and spiritually. I remembered the reading that Maurice and I had just had concerning the man who wanted to be a witch-doctor, and my heart filled with aspirations for what God could now do through me after giving Him a week of my life in the same manner. I could imagine myself healing the sick and casting out devils and doing all the things that He commanded His apostles to do, and I couldn’t wait to get back to the church to see what God was going to do in my life! Looking back I’m amazed how quickly pride overtook my feeling of failure, but God was good and didn’t allow me to stay in that situation for long.
The week after the fast I was still riding high on my spiritual cloud, and left myself very vulnerable to the attacks of Satan. During my Christian walk I’d had about four besetting sins, which I pleaded for God to deliver me from, and in His mercy He had come to my rescue, but the very first week following the fast Satan tested me again with these four things - and I fell for each one of them! I was absolutely bewildered - surely after the fast I ‘should be more spiritual rather than more carnal! The tremendous guilt I felt drove me to prayer, and God spoke to me.
1. God reminded me that my fast was not a voluntary sacrifice, but the result of His specific instruction to me. He told me that if I had refused to do the fast, that would have made me disobedient, in which case I should have deserved punishment. The fact that I had been obedient didn’t mean that I was due for a reward - it meant that I was simply fulfilling my obligation to God, whom I had claimed was my Lord and Master.
2. God told me that fasting should never be with the motive of trying to force Him to do anything - in actual fact it was meant to be a humbling process practised by Christians where they could take their minds from themselves for a period of time to concentrate on Him and His will.
3. God finally drove it home to me that I was me - Joanna Barratt - flesh and blood, and my own human nature would always desire to fulfil the lusts of the flesh. He showed me that my only chance for overcoming myself would be to feed the new nature which He gave to me when I became a Christian and to walk in the spirit.
A Humbling Experience
As I look back I’m amazed at the way I thought about myself as a Christian. Before this fast I thought that I had grown, I thought that I had changed, but God showed me that this was not so. If He had taken His hand from me at any moment I would have immediately reverted to type. The only reason for my change was the fact that I was putting spiritual laws into operation and practising what the Bible told me to do, which gave God the opportunity to alter my thinking and actions. I’m ashamed to say it, but I had accredited all these changes to my own spirituality, and without realising it had become self-righteous. What I had expected would be a “spiritual high” turned out to be a very humbling experience, but I have since learned to thank God for these apparent times of failure, as in actual fact they are all blessings in disguise … At least I know the truth! And the Bible says that the truth, even about myself, will set me free.
Experiences from Life
by Joanna Barratt
Ouch!... Truth Often Hurts
"God told me that fasting should never be with the motive of trying to force Him to do anything..."
Maurice & Joanna Barratt
For many years Maurice and Joanna have travelled extensively both throughout the UK and abroad. They will prayerfully consider any invitation to speak because they are so passionate about discipleship and challenging Christians to live and experience what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. If you would like to get in touch with them please complete the following form:
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