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The disciples asked the Lord why they could not heal a lunatic boy. Jesus said, "Because of your unbelief... Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting" (Mt. 17:14-21). Faith needs prayer for its development and full growth, and prayer needs fasting for the same reason. Fasting has done wonders when used in combination with prayer and faith. This is a Biblical doctrine. To fast means to abstain from food--that which caused the fall of man. Fasting humbles the soul before God (Ps. 35:13); chastens the soul (Ps. 69:10); and crucifies the appetites and denies them so as to give the entire time to prayer (2Sam. 12:16-23 Mt. 4:1-11). It manifests earnestness before God to the exclusion of all else (1Cor. 7:5); shows obedience; gives the digestive system a rest (Mt. 6:16-18; 9:15; Lk. 5:33); demonstrates the mastery of man over appetites; aids in victory over temptation; helps to attain power over demons; develops faith; crucifies unbelief; and aids in prayer (Mt. 4:1-11; 17:14-21). All believers are supposed to fast, but no regulations or set rules are given as to how long or how often. That is determined by individual desire and needs (Mt. 9:14-15 1Cor. 7:5; Acts 13:1-5). Men should fast when under chastening (2Sam. 12:16-23); under judgment (1Kings 21:27); in need (Ezra 8:21); in danger (Esther 4); when worried (Dan. 6:18); in trouble (Acts 27:9,33) in spiritual conflict (Mt. 4:1-11); and when desperate in prayer (Acts 9). For Esther and her friends, fasting was a preparation for intercession before the King. Imagine a "queen" and her maids fasting for three days! The Lord granted her an unusual courage. She declared, "If I perish, I perish!" (Esth 4:l6). Days of mourning gave birth to days of merrymaking. The King granted her request. So the Jews had "light and gladness, joy and honour" (8:16). How can we have laughing without ever weeping, dancing without ever mourning? (Eccl 3:4). Jesus said, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted" (Mt 5:4). The King of Niniveh commanded men as well as beasts to fast and cry to God for mercy. God was pleased with what they did and He withdrew His judgment (Jon 3:7-10). The Sword of Damocles is hanging over our cities and towns. Sin is rampant and judgment imminent. Humbling in repentance and prayer alone can avert the disaster. God is a Saviour. He is never interested to destroy those "who cannot discern between their right hand and their left" (4:11). But He demands His conditions fulfilled: "If My people will humble themselves and pray... I will heal their land" (2 Chron 7:14). Several of those who used to fast so much during their youth, during the early years of their Christian life, become quite slack and negligent in this spiritual habit in their middle age. They would say, "Nowadays I am not able to fast as I used to!" But Anna was a widow of 84 years! She served God "with fastings and prayers night and day" (Lk 2:36,37). We don't deny there are health reasons not to fast. But in fact fasting gives rest to the digestive system and so improves health (Isa 58:8). It is easy to dismiss the examples of fasting as belonging to the Old Testament dispensation. But even a cursory look at the New Testament will convince us that men continued enjoying the benefits of fasting in New Testament times too. That's why Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said, "WHEN you fast" and not "IF you fast!" (Mt 6:16). "Fasting means concentration," wrote Oswald Chambers (1874-1917), the saintly author of the classic, My Utmost for His Highest. If you fast regularly, this promise in Zech 8:19 is yours: "The fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth shall be joy and gladness and CHEERFUL FEASTS!"
Isaiah 58:4-11 really gets to the real purpose (heart of the matter) of a fast to me: "Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house…; verses 6 & 7 I agree with Mr. Houdmann that a fast is not a written requirement in the Bible; however fasts are normally synonymous with prayer the majority of the time. Case in point: in Mark 9:29 the disciples tried to heal a boy that was being tormented by demons and when they could not deliver the child they brought the child to Jesus. Later on the disciples asked the Lord why they could not heal the child and Jesus told them, "This kind (spirit) can only be delivered through fasting and prayer." Here I believe the Lord Jesus was promoting fasting for various situations we might encounter in life. In Jonah 3: the Lord told Jonah to cry out against Nineveh, that he would destroy their city for their sins. But as soon as the King cried out to the Lord for forgiveness accompanied by a fast and prayers from the entire city, the Lord immediately turned his wrath away and healed their land. Fasts are not designed to make the Lord perform or answer your prayer any faster; however in my 30 years of being saved, prayer along with fasting is definitely an attention grabber with the Lord. I have also noted in my Christian walk that fasting allows your spirit man to be more in tune to the unctions of the Lord and his maneuvering through the ordeal you might be encountering for speedy answers (not always, but more often than not). And while fasting should not be done to lose weight, it is definitely a result of the process. Most people tend to fast from food; however I often tell people that they can fast from a television program or fast from texting for the day. Or whatever you might be addicted to or consumed with (i.e. smoking, drinking) fast from that thing, especially if you are trying to be delivered from it.
While we are not commanded as Christians to fast, I think we are expected to fast at some point. Fasting is a personal, passionate response to an item of injustice or desperation. If more of us fasted for the lost, I dare say we would make more of an impact with the Gospel for the Kingdom. Jesus, when speaking to His disciples regarding fasting did not say it was "optional" nor unexpected. In Matthew 6:16-17 Jesus didn't say "if" you fast, but "when" you fast. When Jesus spoke of the self-righteous Pharisee who appeared by all outward appearances to have it all together as a God follower compared to the publican, Jesus said this Pharisee fasted twice a week (Matt. 18:12). In Isaiah 58:4 fasting is spoken of as "making our voice heard on high." Isaiah 58:9 touts the benefits of properly fasting as "Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’" Hebrews 4:15 states we have a High Priest who is touched by the feelings of our infirmities. In other words, when we suffer, He feels it....especially when we suffer for a purpose. In putting all those thoughts together, it is almost as though fasting moves the priority level of our requests up the scale with God. If you can remember back to when you were first in love, and your girlfriend or boyfriend broke up with you, your heart was broken, and you didn't feel like eating or sleeping. You were willing to give up everything to regain that love again. That is the principle behind fasting. We should be so passionate about issues of injustice, or so desperate for help with either the lost or a situation about which we can do nothing without divine intervention, that we are unable to properly sleep or eat until it gets resolved. Until we are so moved with this type of passion for the lost, we are not truly sharing God's passion and heart. For God SO loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. When we purposefully deny ourselves food or sleep, or anything else which is essential to our survival, we experience pain and loss. It is this level of passion and resulting self-sacrifice which pleases God and draws the compassion level of His heart more strongly to yours. It is then that quicker results are seen....because we have re-aligned our heart to His....we have recalibrated our passion to align with His. While fasting is not popular, we don't have an excuse not to be this passionate about issues of life, or the lost. Some think we can "fast" from incidental individual things like sugar, soft drinks, TV, or video games. While these are all noble, they are not "painful" to the average person, and therefore, in my humble opinion, are not something that would appeal to the heart of God. I could fast from coffee from now 'til next Christmas without a worry....because I don't drink coffee. It has to be something which is painful to do without. Also, during the time or period of the fast, at the time at which you would normally engage that from which you are fasting, you should be devoting yourself to praying and petitioning the heart of God for the cause or issue for which you are fasting. You are denying yourself the one thing to ramp up God's awareness of your passion for the other. Make it count. As Isaiah says, make it such that when you call, God answers. When you cry out to Him, He answers "Here I am." Matthew 6:18 states that if we fast in private - as it is to be done - for appeal only to the heart of the Lord - and not to show off before men in public - then "Your fasting will be noticed by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you." In His Humble Service - Craig -
Generally, fasting in the Bible means stop eating and drinking in a certain time (Esther 4: 16; Matthew 4: 2), a reflection of faith by denying/humble ourselves for gaining power and guidance from God (Exodus 34: 28; 2 Samuel 12: 16-23; 2 Chronicles 20: 3-4; Ezra 8: 21-23) Jewish people denying/humble themselves by fasting on the atonement day to repent and to cleanse them from all of their sins (Leviticus 16: 29; 23: 27-32) In the New Covenant, Jesus who was a Jews also fast for gaining God's power before excecuting his mission to sacrifice his life for an atonement of our sins (Matthew 4 : 2; Luke 4: 1-12). As Jesus said: " If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generations, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God" (Luke 9: 23-27). In other words, Jesus told us the believers and followers of Him to fast as a reflection of repentance and faith by denying/humble ourselves as the apostle Peter said: " God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble". Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time (1 Peter 5: 5-6).
Fasting (which often goes hand in hand with prayer Nehemiah 1:4, Dan 9:3,20) is a way to fully "tune in" to God, and to "tune out" the world, and the appetites of the natural self. In a world that has become super busy and where our appetites for natural things is quite highly prioritized, it is often quite easy to tune out God's voice and His word. The result is a weak faith, difficulty in hearing from God and a struggle to follow His direction and be fruitful. Fasting & prayer practices involve denying our natural appetites in order to focus on God. Significant fruitfulness (deliverance, revival, healing, and other testimonies) often accompany fasting, mainly because the underlying driver i.e. faith (which comes by hearing God's voice Romans 10:17) increases. Jesus highlighted this when he taught the disciples on the relationship between fasting, prayer, faith and fruitfulness (in this case healing) in Matthew 17:14-21. His disciples had could not heal a sick boy due to their unbelief vs 19,20. He recommended fasting and prayer as the way in which the unbelief or lack of faith could be countered and healing achieved.
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