Topic: Fasting and Prayer
Text: Mathew 17:16-21
Fasting is a voluntary withdrawing from food or drink, or other fleshly appetites, for a specified period of time.
There are 3 most basic types of fasting mentioned in the Bible:
A. Normal Fast (food)
Jesus began His earthly ministry with prayer and fasting.
Mathew 4:1-2 — Jesus completed 40-day fasting and taught His disciples to fast in Mt. 6:16. Although fasting is never commanded in the Bible, He assumed that the disciples would want to in order to see great things happen! But it’s not something a Christian has to do, but can choose to do and not many guidelines given in scripture about fasting, either!
Normal fast is without food, only liquids like water, juice, etc and it can last for 1 day (Judges 20:26 – 1 day fast). That’s a good place to start!
– 3 Day fast (This is the type of fasting that Paul did after getting saved)
– 40 Day fast (there are several examples in the Bible)
There are several men who are alive today that have done 40-day fasts and would say it was absolutely life-changing! (still took in liquids, of course!)
B. Partial Fast
This is good if you have diabetes or some other condition that precludes a normal fast. When you are observing the partial fast, you omit some certain foods for a while, but not others. In the book of Daniel 1 – Daniel and 3 Hebrew children did a partial fast, and at the end were stronger and healthier than those eating what they wanted.
Elijah did this on 2 occasions and John Wesley was well known for going days on end eating only bread and water while some give up meats for a time, eating only vegetables. Just skipping a meal to spend time in prayer would be another example of a partial fast, or not indulging in things you like (Giving up flesh’s desires to concentrate on the Spirit!).
C. The Absolute Fast
We read that Moses went on this kind fast for 40 days, nothing enters your mouth at all. It can only be done for a very short time, not 40 days but you need to consult a Doctor! This is the first mention of a fast in scripture according to Ex. 34:28.
When Moses was about to receive the 10 commandments from God, he engaged in a 40 day fast. You may have noticed it when he said he didn’t eat OR drink – Anybody should not go and try that! That is a human impossibility apart from divine intervention. Some have worked up to a 40 day fast from food, but no one could survive 40 days with no drink, this was a miracle!
Purpose of Fasting
The purpose of fasting is a way to seek God by denying the physical in order to focus on the spiritual.
…that is the reason prayer and fasting must always go together.
The physical benefit: Medical doctors are discovering more and more benefits to fasting because the body is designed to heal itself on a cellular level, when we eat and absorb various toxins, processed foods, medicines, etc., we hold a certain amount of poisons in our cells, but when we fast, many of these things are eliminated from our system.
But if you want a spiritual benefit, make sure and take the time you would have spent eating and transfer it to prayer time.
II Chron. 20:3 – And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4 And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask the help of the LORD: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.
Ezra 8:23 – So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us.
Nehemiah 1:4 – And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven.
Another point raised by this verse is that when we fast, it should come from ALL physical desires, not just food! Let go of the physical, concentrate on the spiritual!
Usually, we fast and pray when we have a special need, when we need a spiritual breakthrough and when we are seeking revival.
God’s Main Purposes For Fasting:
According to Isaiah 58;
1. Fasting To Get Freedom From Addictions – (vs. 6 “lose the bands”)
Things you’d like to lay down but have been unable to; take for instance someone trying to quit smoking, but couldn’t – Try fasting!
Anything that seems impossible to handle, try fasting!
God has ordained that when we get serious about walking in victory, we demonstrate it through fasting and He knows we’re serious now.
2. Fasting To Solve Problems – (vs. 6 “undo heavy burdens”)
When everything is Ill – the child’s knotted shoelaces/messed up finances? (You turn to prayer and to your Bible) marriage in shambles/job solution? When it seems hopeless, no way out! God will deal with it in an instant that you’ve stressed for weeks and months!
3. Fasting For Revival And Soul Winning – (vs. 6 “let oppressed go free”)
I challenge you to do that this week!
4. Fasting To Conquer Mental And Emotional Problems – (vs. 6 “break every yoke”)
I’ve never seen so many people stressed out, under such emotional strain as lately!
5. Fasting To Meet The Physical Needs Of Others – (vs. 7 “deal”)
Share – that is, to cut back once in a while and give that food or money to feed the poor (a special blessing in scripture).
6. Fasting For Clearer Insight In Decision-Making – (vs. 8 “light break forth”)
It’s like God turns on the lights and now you know what to do! This is when you’re seeking God’s will in a major area of your life and you’re at the fork in the road but don’t know which way to go.
7. Fasting For Health Reasons Or Healing – (vs. 8 “thy health shall spring forth speedily”)
Do you have a loved one that’s in bad shape? You need to get serious and fast for them! Is it your health in question? When there’s no hope from a human perspective, put it in God’s hands – it may be His will to honor that.
8. Fasting For A More Righteous Life And Influential Testimony – (vs. 8 “thy righteousness shall go before thee”)
It’s easy for a Christian to grow cold, so you have to say, Lord, light a fire under me! Make me like I was when I was first saved! I want to be closer to You, Lord!
If you get serious enough to deny yourself in the physical realm, it will be amazing what God will do in your soul spiritually!
9. Fasting For The Glory Of The Lord, To Protect Us From The Evil One
How to apply it:
Spiritually – Do you have a loved one under satanic oppression or possession?
Read Matt. 17:16-21
The Benefits Of Fasting
Fasting and prayer are illustrated in people who can’t eat (waiting in the surgery waiting room – can’t eat, time on hands, might as well pray (I Sam. 1:7—Hannah) or the death of a loved one; it’s a good way of demonstrating our grief over that. (II Sam. 3:35 – Abner died, David fasted).
We talk about being grieved over abortion, but have we demonstrated that grief? Burdened for revival in your church! Have you fasted?
Fasting is also a way of encouraging grief over sin. Ever wished you were more burdened over sin? One way to cultivate grief is fasting.
In conclusion, fasting makes our hearts more attentive to God. Amazing how much time you have on your hands if you’re not eating, preparing, cleaning up after supper, watching TV, or engaged in other fleshly endeavours. Fasting demonstrates to God our seriousness, especially when you want a spiritual breakthrough. When we get serious with God, He gets serious with us too.