Prayer & Fasting

Have you ever asked, Why 40? 40 days is a prevalent period of time in the Bible. There is Captain Noah on the boat Salvation, Ole Mo on the mountain, Jonah’s call for repentance and judgment, and then there is Jesus fasting. Well, 40 days is a common period of time in the Bible. Though there is no specific verse to explain. However, psychologists tell us it takes about six weeks, roughly 40 days to break a habit or make a permanent lifestyle change. It takes 21-Days to create a new habit and almost twice as long to break a bad one. Dr. Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ (now called CRU) Fasting is the most powerful spiritual discipline of all Christian disciplines. Through fasting and prayer, the Holy Spirit can transform your life.

I truly believe that, because when we yield our lives to God, everything changes. A fast should always have a spiritual purpose. It’s not about weight-loss, detoxifying, or getting healthy, though these are all-natural byproducts. Did you know that intermittent fasting: improves brain function, various metabolic features, reduced oxidative stress and inflammation, as well as a reduction in blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. Fasting has many benefits. It might be to clearly discern God’s will, repentance, or for breaking a bad habit or addiction. It could be because we need God’s power to overcome a certain fear. The Pharisees fasted twice a week—likely on Mondays and Thursdays where they make this known in rebuttal. Luke 18:12~I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get. (NIV) However, they were doing the right thing for the wrong reason. 

Under the assumption His followers will fast, Jesus says, in Matthew 6:17-18~…don’t look gloomy…But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (ESV) Again, we are met with practicing our spiritual disciplines before God. Where we anoint ourselves and wash in the water of the Word as part of our daily grooming. Do you anoint yourselves each day, asking God to guide and protect, to open and utilize you, to fill you with His Holy Spirit and do the good things He has planned? Many of you ladies would not go out without painting the barn, I tell you the anointing is so much more necessary.

Because God knows the purpose of our fast. He rewards us with things, such as courage, following His will, forgiveness, the power to break a habit and to be a witness. Christ Jesus never said anything to discourage fasting. He only condemns those who fast for the wrong reasons. Fasting brings a reward with eternal dividends. The real question is: Do you want the eternal reward and God’s treasure? If so then fast for the right reason! As you go before the Lord in prayer ask the Lord to reveal what is needed in your life and you can work towards maturing and growing in that direction.

Fasting 101

Today, let’s consider three reasons why we should fast in our lives. Reason #1—When you are guilty of sin. When the people of Nineveh repent, they call for a fast. Jonah 3:5~The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. (NIV) When we recognize sin, make a turn. 

Reason #2—When we are afraid. When life gets serious and we need the Lord to intervene, it’s time for a fast. 2 Chronicles 20:3~Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. (NIV) Life has a way of caving in, and we need the Lord’s help. Fasting is about surrendering ourselves totally to God saying help. 

Reason #3—When we face a major decision. Take the time to fast and seek God’s counsel. Listen to how the church at Jerusalem chooses the first missionaries. Acts 13:2-3~While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them. So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (NIV) Notice how fasting is always accompanied by prayer. What fasting is not, is saying, I got so busy at work today, that I skipped lunch, and well I fasted. NO!

Again, we witness the same pattern later when Paul and Barnabas appoint elders in the churches they established on their first missionary journey Acts 14:23~Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. (NIV) Fasting is a much needed spiritual discipline in our growing faith. Well then, is fasting only food deprivation. When we turn to Daniel we learn a good example of a partial or selective fast. Daniel 10:3~I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips, and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over. (NIV) This is our 21-Days to begins each year in the word, on our knees in prayer, fasting about our lives, families, and our community. Moreover, we have a number of people who fast the first Friday of each month as part of the Global Prayer Movement.

Another version of fasting comes to us as part of our journey during Lent. Where many give up sweets, or coffee for 40 days. Every time we are tempted to eat something sweet, we pray. Some fast TV, others fast social media, while still others only seem to fast—fasting, but that really isn’t the point. Fasting cultivates in our lives the need for God, it affords the realization that we need to be better about communicating with Him and listening to what He has planned. Ephesians 2:10~For we are God’s handiwork, His masterpiece, His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (NIV)

I want to encourage you today to take time to pray for others and the good works that God has planned for you today. Also, don’t forget to pray about the good works you did yesterday or last week. Maybe they need a touch, phone call or text, just to check on them. Just keep doing the good world God has for you.

Back to the Basics

Have you ever considered a fast? What it is, how is done? Hot on the heels of Jesus sharing a corrective way of seeing and doing the life of faith where He asks us to revise how the scribes and Pharisees considered almsgiving, praying, and fasting, which were all taught as the three most important religious acts in a Jews life. We are now challenged by Jesus, the Son of God, to now embrace the fast. Jesus addresses the hypocrisy, or the stage acting in the fasting practices of His day. 

For us, fasting is one of the most neglected spiritual disciplines, in our culture today, where we struggle saying, NO. Do you struggle with NO? Let’s turn to our periscope and see what Christ Jesus says about it. Matthew 6:16~And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. (ESV) 

Slip your hand up if you know the 11th commandment on fasting? Do you have a reference for that, I believe it is in first Opinions chapter 9. In fact, this command is only found in the Bible in one place and it centers on the Day of Atonement, which is the sabbath of October 8-9, this year. The Lord required everyone in the faith to fast one day a year as penance for their sin, on Yom Kippur. Leviticus 16:29 & 31~This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the 10th day of the 7th month you must deny (עָנָה `anah) yourselves and not do any work–whether native-born or a foreigner residing…It is a day of sabbath rest, and you must deny yourselves; (NIV) 

The word (עָנָה `anah) translated deny or afflict refers to abstaining from food and sexual relations. Apart from the Day of Atonement, as mentioned here by Jesus, fasting was a totally voluntary act. Moreover, the need for the Day of Atonement ceased when Christ Jesus died on the cross. Hebrews 10:10~For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. (NLT) We don’t celebrate the Day of Atonement as the Jews do, rather we celebrate Easter. The day the Lord came out of the grave. So, should we fast? Yes, fasting is still an appropriate spiritual disciple for us to participate in.

Why not ask God today what or who you might fast for and then take a positive step towards helping. I assure you, God will give you the strength.