A "Fast" Message - Fasting and Prayer
Isaiah 58:6-58:8 (NIV, NIRV, TNIV, KJV)
A “Fast” Message
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Fasting=a voluntary withdrawing from food and/or drink, or other fleshly appetite, for a specified period of time.
3 most basic types of fasting mentioned in the Bible:
A. Normal fast
First mention of a fast in scripture is Ex. 34:28
(law of 1st mention)
27 And the LORD said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel.
28 And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.
When Moses received the 10 commandments from God, he engaged in a 40 day fast.
You may have noticed it said he didn’t eat OR drink…don’t anybody go out of here 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 w/ no drink…this was a miracle!
Jesus began His earthly ministry w/ prayer and fasting.
Mt. 4:1-2—a 40 day fast Jesus completed!
Jesus taught His disciples to fast
16 Moreover when (not if) ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance…
Though fasting is never commanded, Jesus 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…not many guidelines given in scripture about fasting, either!
Normal fast is no food, only liquids like water, juice, etc…it can last for 1 day (judges 20:26—1 day fast)
That’s a good place to start!
3 day fast (Paul did this right after getting saved)
40 day fast (several examples in bible)
Several men alive today who have done 40 day fasts and would say it was absolutely life-changing! (still took in liquids, of course!) [Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, 1994/James Dobson, Focus on the Family/Jerry Falwell]
B. Partial fast
Good if you have diabetes, hypoglycemia, or some other condition which precludes a normal fast.
In the partial fast you omit certain foods for a while, but not others.
Dan. 1—he 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/John Wesley was well known for going days on end eating only bread and water/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
C. The absolute fast
Moses went on this kind for 40 days, nothing enters your mouth at all…can be done for a very short time…consult a dr.!
II. Purpose of fasting:
A way to seek God by denying the physical in order to focus on the spiritual…
…for this reason prayer and fasting must always go together (or it does you no good spiritually!)
Of course, there are physical benefits: medical dr’s are discovering more and more benefits to fasting…because the body is designed to heal itself on a cellular level…as we eat and take in various toxins, processed foods, medicines, etc., we hold a certain amount of poisons in our cells…but when we fast many of those things are flushed out of our system!
But if you want a spiritual benefit, make sure and take the time you would have in 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 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.
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,
1 Corinthians 7
7:5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.
Another point made by this verse is that when we fast it ought to be from ALL physical desires, not just food!
Let go of the physical, focus on the spiritual!
Usually we fast and pray when we have a special need.
God’s 9 main purposes for fasting:
1. Fasting to get freedom from addictions
v. 6 “loose the bands”
(things you’d like to lay down but have been unable to)
“I’ve tried to quit smoking, but I can’t!”
Porn/alcohol/cussing/thought life…try fasting!
God has ordained that when we get serious about walking in victory we demonstrate it thru fasting…& He knows we’re serious now!
2. Fasting to solve problems
“undo heavy burdens” (v. 6)
ill.--child’s knotted shoelaces/messed up finances! (turn to chapter 11!)/marriage in shambles/job solution?
When it seems hopeless, no way out!
God will deal w/ in an instant what you’ve stressed for weeks and months!
3. Fasting for revival and soulwinning
v. 6 “let oppressed go free”
I challenge you to do this this week!
4. Fasting to conquer mental and emotional problems
v. 6 “break every yoke”
I’ve never seen so many people stressed out, under such emotional strain as this year!
5. Fasting to meet the physical needs of others
v. 7 “deal”=share…to cut back once in a while and give that food or $ to feed the poor (special blessing in scripture!)
6. Fasting for clearer insight in decision-making
Different that problem-solving…this is when you’re seeking God’s will in a major area of life…you’re at the fork in the road and don’t know which way to go.
v. 8 “light break forth”…it’s like God turns on the lights and now you know what to do!
7. Fasting for health reasons or healing
Have a loved one that’s terminal? Get serious and fast for them! When there’s no hope from a human perspective, put it in God’s hands…it may be His will to honor that.
v. 8 “thy health shall spring forth speedily”
8. Fasting for a more righteous life and influential testimony
v. 8 “thy righteousness shall go before thee”
It’s easy for a Christian to grow cold…so say, Lord, light a fire under me! Make me like I was when I was first saved!
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
v. 8b “rereward”=protection
Spiritually—have a loved one under Satanic oppression, or possession?
I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him. 17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me. 18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour. 19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? 20 And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. 21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
Apply this to our nation now: who would have ever thought we’d live under threat of something like a smallpox attack, anthrax attack, biochemical attack, wmd, these are perilous times…and we should pray thusly when we fast!
III. The benefits of fasting:
A. More time to pray
Fasting began w/ people who couldn’t eat (waiting in surgery waiting room…can’t eat, time on hands, might as well pray (I Sam. 1:7—Hannah)…death of 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 our 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.
B. Fasting makes our heart 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 endeavors.
C. Fasting demonstrates to God our seriousness
…about wanting a spiritual breakthrough…
“I gave my life for thee, what hast thou giv’n for Me?”
Most of us live to eat…few eat to live! When we get serious w/ God, He gets serious w/ us!
IV. Potential Dangers of Fasting
(but blessings far outweigh!)
A. Attempting to manipulate God w/ our fasting
vv. 1-9 Israel was living wickedly, but they would fast for things they wanted, but then when their fasting didn’t produce the desired results, they’d get mad w/ God and say, well, a lot of good it does to fast! God rebukes them here for fasting incorrectly…trying to appease a God angry w/ their sin!
Fasting is meant to change our circumstances…and to change US, not to change God!
Ill.—worship: why does God demand it…ego? No, He doesn’t require worship for what it does for Him, but for what it does for US!
He’s not more holy or righteous because we worship Him…the rocks would cry out if we don’t!
So, if we fast knowing we have sin in our lives, we’re defeating the whole purpose.
Also, if we’re fasting in order to find a desired result…we have to leave the result in God’s hands, and accept the results as His will.
Just because we fast doesn’t produce a blank check made out from God to us.
Fasting will help us to receive God’s will w/ grace!
B. Attempting to impress others w/ our fasting
Mt. 6—desire for people to know how “pious” you are.
Exception would be someone who needs to know…spouse if they’re cooking for you, etc.
C. Becoming legalistic about fasting
Gal. 5:1—stand fast in the liberty you’ve received…be not entangled again w/ yoke of bondage
Remember it’s not a command, it’s a choice…not a thing to look down your nose at others about if they don’t fast.
D. Becoming prideful about fasting
Lk. 18:10-14—I tithe and fast twice a week (tithe twice!)