Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Prayer and Fasting

It is sometimes debated that fasting is not part of the New Testament and not a necessary or effective part of walking with the Lord in our modern day. This is an easy fix.

So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer. - Ezra 8:23 NLT

Jesus said:
"And when you fast..." - Matthew 6:16 NLT
"But when you fast..." - Matthew 6:17 NLT
"Then they will fast." - Matthew 9:15 NLT

The command to fast, and certainly the expectation to fast, from Jesus was pretty clear. Fasting is a function, much like faith, that works the same way in the New Testament time as it did in the Old Testament.

And Abraham is also the spiritual father of those who have been circumcised, but only if they have the same kind of faith Abraham had before he was circumcised. ... So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham's. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. - Romans 4:12, 16 NLT

Why Should I Fast? 

Trying to get our mind wrapped around what happens when we pray and fast is where we may get confused. When you are moved by the Spirit to pray and fast you can be sure that the Lord is wanting to do a special work in your life or in the life of someone around you.

A good way to understand fasting is to look at the effect of fasting. We have many very moving, incredibly uncommon and dare I say, supernatural examples that came from unexplainable works of the Holy Spirit. Did I use enough adjectives there to get my point across? Prayer and fasting is powerful.

Maybe it will remind you of the scripture in the book of Ephesians, "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us."


The Command

The command to fast is very important. Biblical faith can only be exercised through a response to a command. One insightful definition for faith is, the trust I have in someone based on what I know about their character. Therefore, if we understand God's character then we can trust that His commands are just and lead to life. Now we can mix faith with the command and walk in faith. 

"And when you fast, don't make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. - Matthew 6:16 NLT 
But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. - Matthew 6:17 NLT 
Jesus replied, "Do wedding guests mourn while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. - Matthew 9:15 NLT

Examples

Through the New Testament examples of fasting we can see the power of prayer and fasting. The Christians were sure to pray and fast for important works of establishing leaders and preparing for their calling. In the first example below, we see that the Holy Spirit is responsive to this work.

One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Dedicate Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them." - Acts 13:2 NLT 
Paul and Barnabas also appointed elders in every church. With prayer and fasting, they turned the elders over to the care of the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. - Acts 14:23 NLT

A Smart Fast, Uncommon Results

Fasting is directly related to refraining from food in some manner. There are even times when people in the bible have fasted water. There are limits on the human body when it comes to food and water so we always want to be smart about how we fast. Do a little scriptural and dietary research and always keep in mind the context of the fast.

The more hardcore fasts that Jesus, Moses and Daniel did were not undertaken on a whim. These men of God fasted for a purpose and the results were astonishing.

Observe the Holy Spirit's Response to Fasting

Esther called for a fast for her people and the series of events that transpired are complicated, unpredictable and powerful. If you haven't read the book of Esther in a while, it is a real faith boost to read how the Holy Spirit guided events for an epic outcome.

"Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die." - Esther 4:16 NLT

We are not designed to know everything. Therefore, we cannot see the solutions like our Father can. We cannot steer events or influence hearts like the Holy Spirit can. Yet, we see that through worship, prayer and fasting the Holy Spirit is extremely responsive and very effective.

Daniel received the definitive outline for end times as he went to prayer and fasting.

So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting. I also wore rough burlap and sprinkled myself with ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed... - Daniel 9:3-4 NLT

Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, called for prayer and fasting when he heard a large and scary army was headed to destroy him and his people.

Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the LORD for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting. - 2 Chronicles 20:3 NLT

The Lord responded in a very unusual way. The force was made up of Moabites, Ammonites, and some of the Meunites and the Lord caused them to start fighting among themselves and they all, somehow, killed themselves!

There are so many more wonderful examples where we see fasting directly related to the Holy Spirit moving in uncommon ways to do an extremely powerful work. We can safely say, a supernatural work!

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Take Action!

How do I prepare myself for a fast? 
As you gain experience with fasting you will certainly develop your approach for walking with the Lord during this time. Think of the following suggestions as things to try, to get off to a good start, and then work in other strategies as you discover them.
  • Have a specific purpose.
    • What are you going to hold up in prayer during this time?
    • Be specific.
  • Pray about the fast.
  • Determine the type of fast.
    • Will it be all foods, a juice fast, a Daniel fast, a sugar and caffeine fast?
  • Schedule it.
  • Prepare your food, water, juicer, etc.
  • Begin your time of prayer and fasting.
Please read  Campus Crusade for Christ International's Personal Guide to Fasting. It is a very good resource.
Personal Guide to Fasting

A final note to consider..."And when you fast, don't make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. - Matthew 6:16-18 NLT

Please, add your thoughts in the comment section.

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Concept

“Prayer and fasting results in uncommon and extremely powerful works of the Holy Spirit.”

In The Cool Zone concept. Think like Jesus thinks. Deliver the Gospel. Teach what you have learned.

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