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11. THROUGH FASTING
SUB-TOPICS -ON PRAYER AND FASTING
- Prayer and Fasting -Sowing to the Spirit
- Nature, Role and Purpose of Fasting
- How to Fast
- The Power of Fasting
-Occasional Food Fasts and Permanent Worldly Fast
- Seed time and Harvest time -No neutral ground
- Carrying Cross of Self-denial on Desires of the Flesh
- Major Prayer and Fasting Scriptures
Prayer and Fasting -Sowing to the Spirit
Fasting is probably the greatest avenue for enabling us to be sensitive and responsive to the Spirit of God. God is always speaking to us in one way or another. However, only those who are sensitive and responsive enough to him can effectively hear him.
Our Lord Jesus said fasting would be necessary for his disciples after he ascended. “The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast,” (Matthew 9:15)
The early disciples remembered the words of their master and thus they made fasting vital. The outstanding work God accomplished through them speaks for itself. They could easily hear God speak to them in their moments of fasting. “While they were worshipping and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set a part for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them,’ ” (Acts 13:2).
Thus the ministry of Paul started after a period of fasting and praying. “So after they fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off,” (Verse 3).
Just not to be misunderstood, it is not a must to fast as in making it a sin if one does not. Jesus said “When you fast...” implying that it’s an essential Christian discipline. People are not obligated to fast but they could be limited in experiencing matters that can be realized in their Christian lives only through both prayer and fasting.
For those with health limitations it’s not wise to fast at all depending on the severity of the illness that can be worsened through fasting.
Nature, Role and Purpose of Fasting
Fasting, that of abstaining from food, can become legalistic and ritual oriented when taken out of context. It can become a religious activity performed in order to influence God. Fasting is not a tool to win God’s audience. God is always ready to speak to us and to help us. It is for our sake to tune ourselves to his wavelength in order to hear from him and effectively walk with him.
In his audio sermon on fasting, Ron Gartner makes an important point. He says fasting is not giving up meals and making a sacrifice so that God can speak to us or bless us. It is not an exchange of a sacrifice in order to obtain blessings.
He says it is moving into a spiritual realm of faith and power by putting down (denying) our flesh desires. The Holy Spirit and the spirit part of us then take dominance in moving in an area of prayer (communion with God) that we cannot get into through any other way. It is moving into the spirit and walking in the spirit. This does not mean being foolish and turning our reasoning off. It is being wise with the mind of Christ while being submissive to the Holy Spirit.
Fasting may be unpleasant since our bodies are conditioned to be our masters. When they cry for food we quickly feed them. When they’re denied food they scream louder and louder at us.
Common body reactions include extreme thirst and hunger (of course), weakness, fatigue, headaches, and occasional dizziness. In the early stages of attempting to fast these reactions are more intense. They fade and fasting becomes easier as the body becomes more conditioned.
With more regular fasting our bodies become less “unruly.” God also helps us in our natural weakness of finding it difficult to fast. He always makes his grace abundant on his children that are sincerely willing to obey his word. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work,” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
Regular fasting cannot kill the body. We may lose weight and strength during prolonged fasts but the spiritual breakthroughs in moving closer to God are too precious compared to anything we can lose.
How to Fast
There’re no rules on fasting periods. One can set apart a day every week without food and water. Or she can set three days aside every month to recondition her sensitivity to God. Water can be taken in a three day fast though it’s possible to do without it up to three days. Beyond three days water is essential for your body.
There is a story of one believer who fasted for 40 days without drinking water. He died on the fortieth day. He’s no doubt heaven-destined and probably had victories over matters he fasted for. However he went too soon for lack of knowledge on appropriate fasting principles. A prolonged fast from 4 days to 40 days needs water and probably a slice or two of bread (or three) per day.
Fasting beyond 40 days is not biblical. It’s not a sin to fast over 40 days but it’s a health risk. There is no scriptural record of anyone fasting beyond 40 days. This should be a medical health alarm because beyond 40 days physical health is likely to start deteriorating. It can bring health complications that may be hard to reverse. On the other hand fasting within biblical limits has lasting health benefits – though it’s the spiritual benefits that are more important.
After ending a 40 day fast I weighed 130 pounds (58.9 Kg) at 6 foot (1.83m). It was like coming out of a concentration camp with a chest showing all the bones of the ribcage. Only the Lord enabled this fast since I had a six-day full time job at the same time. Two to three slices of bread where taken every midnight. On two or three occasions a small portion of beans was taken after feeling completely weak.
Headaches can come once in while but this ought to be endured during the fast. Headaches only signal the cries of the body. They’re to be ignored for as long as they don’t worsen. The victories from the fast cannot be quantified to this day.
If there is any mountain for the Lord to move allow fasting to facilitate the work. Seek him to enable you rather than making all kinds of excuses. After all it’s you that stands to gain over all the matters you’re burdened with. It’s such a privilege to give birth to these matters after much travail through fasting. And God’s work goes beyond the matters of concern thus making the victories through fasting hard to quantify.
Prayer and fasting is like sowing in tears. It’s a sacrifice yet a more than worthwhile one. “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves (bundles of crop harvest) with him,” Psalm 126:5-6.
I believe a 40 day fast ought to be once in a lifetime –if one has the grace to even do it. It ought not to be done more than once if you are enabled to fast up to 40 days. Only Moses is said to have taken two 40 day fasts in the bible. If you want to be like Moses it’s no sin. However note the health precautions. Our bodies have been designed to work in certain ways. Fasting helps them when it’s done within limits that our bodies have been framed.
Outside these limits fasting becomes detrimental. Victories come but at health costs that were not even necessary. After one 40 day long fast it is advisable to stick to 2 to 3 day fasts afterwards. Besides 3 day fasts without food or water can be as overcoming as a 40 day fast.
How often one needs to take such fasts depends on the grace one has. Allow the Lord to equip you and enable you rather than use your own limitations as yardsticks. At one point he may enable you to take 3 day fasts three times in one month, at a later period once, and so on. His enabling rather than yours should win the day. But do your part in allowing him to work through you. Plan ahead when you sense his leading. When that day comes make no excuses. Commit yourself rather than flip flopping.
A fasting program ought to include prayer, intercession, reading of God’s word (i.e. one way of listening to God), allowing God to speak from within. It can also include worshipping him with songs of praise on multimedia or personally. Listening to or watching sermons focusing on areas you are burdened with is also edifying.
Allowing God to speak from within is not waiting to hear a strange voice. It is God speaking from within. His Spirit dwells in you so he speaks from within. You will be able to grasp matters in your life and the lives of others in ways you never perceived them before. That is God speaking to you and revealing his ways to you. What he says is always supported by scripture.
If it’s something contradicting scripture then it’s the voice of a stranger, Satan. Satan also speaks to our hearts with his temptations and appeal to the flesh. His voice can be recognized by its appeal to the flesh, the fallen nature and contradiction of what God has told us in his word.
Scripture also tells us to move out of our comfort zones and stretch our hands to those who don’t have whatever basic needs we have. We share whatever resources we have with them and with extended family members that may be underprivileged.
Many forget that charity is part of our Christian pillars and has its level of blessings or curses, depending on how we carry ourselves. See Isaiah 58:6-9 outlined below for the fast that God desires. Without engaging in most of these areas, fasting only becomes a form of dieting or hunger strike.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I,” Isaiah 58:6-9
In our New Testament (Covenant) era Jesus said we should make fasting a secret. It should not be like the Pharisees who blew the horn and covered their heads with oil to show everyone how holy they were. No one needs to know unless one has health ailments that fasting may affect. Particularly short fasts, fasting ought to be between you and God.
Anointing ones head may be necessary since Jesus said so. “When (not, if or in case) you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you,” Matthew 6:17-18.
Notice after saying “put oil on your head,” he also said “wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting.” So you can anoint yourself and then wipe the oil out. It will not be a problem if you don’t apply any oil. Application of oil when fasting was the Jewish custom. Jesus did not want to discredit the oil so he included its relevance but attacked the wrong motives for its application. Some anointed themselves to show everyone they were fasting instead.
One may be asking on how to use the anointing oil if one decides to use it. It’s any oil that you have, even basic cooking oil. It does not have to be some special oil straight from Jerusalem.
God is more interested in our faith than in what kind of oil is being used. It can even be petroleum jelly like Vaseline if you cannot afford any oil. Jerusalem oil, Olive oil, cooking oil or Vaseline oil will all have the same effect if applied in faith.
You can pour some oil in a smaller bottle for future use. Take some oil and apply it on your forehead and pray that God uses it as a point of faith in anointing you and consecrating you.
Your consecration enables you to be under his agenda of fasting. Anointing oil is for consecration, being set apart as holy vessels for the Holy Spirit to work through. “He (Moses) poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron's head and anointed him to consecrate him,” Leviticus 8:12
The oil is meant to be an act of faith in receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The anointing of the Holy Spirit enables us to fast for the right reasons and to flow under the power and influence of God. He is also the one who moves into our lives to break yokes and overcome spiritual strongholds –spiritually, physically, materially, socially and so on.
More content available in the Second Edition of the book: Click here to acquire it
Book on hearing from God:- Hearing from God: How to Hear God’s Voice in Your Life © 2008 Eric Gondwe