In this ninth blog about prayer, I borrow insights from Ronald Dunn’s book, Don’t Just Stand There, Pray Something: The Incredible Power of Intercessory Prayer.
The definition of fasting: voluntary abstinence of satisfaction from certain physical appetites for spiritual reasons. Usually one abstains from food, but drinks water.
Consider these Old Testament examples. After his encounter with Jezebel, Elijah, in need of personal revival, went to Mt. Horeb where he fasted for 40 days
(1 Kings 19:8). Esther’s fasting played an important role in the delivering her people (Esther 4:16). David fasted when his baby was stricken (2 Samuel 12:16). Daniel fasted and prayed until God’s heavenly messenger broke through enemy lines to bring God’s answer (Daniel 10:3). Both Ezra and Nehemiah proclaimed fasts during national crises (Ezra 8:21; Nehemiah 1:4).
Consider these New Testament examples. Anna, the prophetess, fasted and prayed night and day (Luke 2:37). Jesus fasted and expected His followers to do it (Matthew 6:16-17). Jesus placed fasting on the same plane with prayer and acts of charity (Matthew 9:14-15). The time for fasting came when Jesus was taken out of the world.
Immediately following Paul’s conversion, he fasted for three days and it was a regular life discipline (Acts 9:9; 2 Corinthians 6:5; 11:27). Fasting was vital for the church in Antioch (Acts 13:2-3). Paul and Barnabas strengthened newly formed congregations by fasting (Acts 14:23).
Fasts can be public (Jonah 3:5-10; Joel 1:14), but mostly it’s private. We must allow the Holy Spirit to lead us in the matter of length like Jesus (Matthew 4:1-2).
Purpose of Fasting
The purpose of fasting is always to attain some spiritual end: self-humbling (Psalm 35:13; 69:10; 109:24; Ezra 8:21). Humbling ourselves makes it possible for God to bless us (1 Peter 5:5-6).
Fasting creates an atmosphere where we can pray and seek the Lord more effectively and completely. The result is more liberty in prayer, more enlightenment in Bible study, and a deeper sense of God’s presence. Fasting prepared Jesus in fighting satan. Daniel received a revelation from God after fasting. The Holy Spirit revealed God’s plan for Paul and Barnabas as the church in Antioch prayed and fasted.
Fasting provides deliverance and protection (Ezra 8:21-23). Jehoshaphat feared a large Syrian army but sought the Lord and proclaimed a fast (2 Chronicles 20:3). Judah didn’t know what to do but their eyes were on God who gave them a battle plan to send music makers before the fighting troops. When they began singing and praising, the Lord set ambushes against the enemy to rout them (2 Chronicles 20:12,22).
Fasting also delivers others. Because of Ezra’s fasting after the people broke God’s command by intermarrying, they confessed their sin and stopped intermarriage (Ezra 10:6). Nehemiah prayed and fasted before he rebuilt the wall (Nehemiah 1:4-6). Moses fasted and interceded for 40 days delivering an entire nation from judgment (Deuteronomy 9:18-20).
Rewards of Fasting
Jesus will repay you for fasting (Matthew 6:17-18). If we try to impress others, we will receive an immediate reward (Matthew 6:16). “What you see is what you get.” The reward Jesus gives in response to the right spirit is seeing the reality of His presence and kingdom, which we seek first (Matthew 6:33). The kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17). That is some kind of reward!
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