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The Power of Prayer with Fasting

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The Power of Prayer with Fasting

Matthew 17:1-17:21 (NIV, NIRV, TNIV, KJV)


READ: Mark 2:18-20 (text: v20)
Mark 2:18-20 (NIV)

Jesus Questioned About Fasting

18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”

19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.


Note Jesus’ words - “Then they will fast”.

Jesus knew there would come a time when He would not be physically present any longer with His disciples / with the church. Perilous times would come when supernatural strength would be needed. “Then they will fast IN THOSE DAYS.” Church, we are living in such days today - the Bridegroom is absent and our needs for spiritual power are SO very great. Jesus intends for us to seek after God with great prayer and fasting.

This morning I want to talk to you about the subject of fasting. I believe that there is great power in the principles of prayer with fasting. But so many people either 1.) ignore fasting (“it’s not for me”), or 2.) misunderstand what fasting is all about, and what is required for true Christian fasting.

In order to see something of the power of prayer and fasting, we need to turn to another passage of Scripture: MATTHEW 17:1-21. [READ.]

Matthew 17:1-21 (NKJV)
1 Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves;
2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.
3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.
4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!"
6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid.
7 But Jesus came and touched them and said, "Arise, and do not be afraid."
8 When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
9 Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, "Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead."
10 And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?"
11 Jesus answered and said to them, "Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things.
12 But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands."
13 Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.
14 And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying,
15 "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.
16 So I brought him to Your disciples, but 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 bear with you? Bring him here to Me."
18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.
19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?"
20 So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."

_______________________________________________________



Jesus returns from His transfiguration, having been aside in the mountains with Peter, James and John. Upon His return down, they are met by the other disciples and the crowd of people who were following Jesus to see the miracles He might perform. And the first thing that we see waiting for Jesus is:


1. AN UNMET NEED.

READ v16.
16 So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him."

There was a need that Jesus’ disciples could not meet - it was beyond their resources (human or spiritual). Previous to this, Jesus had already given His disciples the authority to heal the sick and cast out demons in His Name. And they went about preaching Jesus’ message of the Kingdom of God, and they healed and delivered just as Jesus said that they would.

BUT NOW they have struck a need that is obviously too great for them. This young man, so violently afflicted with a devil that tormented him - and the disciples, no matter what they attempted, had been unable to deal with it. There was an UNMET NEED.

Let’s not be too quick to criticize the disciples for their inability here. Haven’t we all been in those places where we have tried with all that we have to find an answer in our lives, or in the life of some other poor friend needing help? We’ve tried everything; we’ve exhausted all our spiritual resources, and still the need is left seemingly unmet. The sickness remains; the situation is unchanged; the person is unaffected/unsaved/unchallenged. The need is unmet! What are we to do?

Jesus came down from the mountain, where He and His closest associates had been in the presence of God, to be faced with this unmet need. They come down from the presence of God where anything and everything is perfect and the possibilities are unlimited - back to the grim realities of life. (Ever been in a powerful church meeting where you experienced such a touch of God that you felt you could turn the world upside-down, only to go out and bump into someone down the street that you’ve been praying for and there’s no discernible change in them - in fact they seem worse than ever?! You feel the wind leave your sails very quickly. You are confronted by the dilemma - the failure - the tragedy.)

Jesus and His associates came down the mountain to face AN UNMET NEED.

BUT I praise God that Jesus is the MASTER OF THE UNMET NEED. If you have some situation in your life today that you have no answer for - my friend, your hope is JESUS. He is the Master of the unmet need! Nothing is too hard for Him. Hallelujah!

READ v17-18.
17 Then Jesus answered and said, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me."
18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.

In a moment of time, Jesus turns the situation around. What seemed impossible has been accomplished! When all resources were expended - Jesus reaches out His miracle hand and supernatural power flows. (Don’t you love it.)

It’s all very wonderful, but it starts the disciples minds racing. There’s no longer an unmet need, but now they have been left with:


2. AN UNANSWERED QUESTION.


READ v19.

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?"


They’d had answers to prayer before, you see. They’d ministered effectively at times - they’d had SOME successes. So what was different this time? “Why could WE not cast out this demon?” “Oh, Lord, we tried everything we knew how. We prayed just as we’ve heard You pray for people. We got louder and louder, and sweatier and sweatier. What went wrong? We were so frustrated! Where did we go wrong?”

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been right where those disciples were so many times. “Why Lord?” UNANSWERED QUESTIONS.

The disciples had an unanswered question: “Why could WE not cast him out?”

But to their question, Jesus gives:


3. AN UNEXPECTED REPLY.

READ v20-21.
20 So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."


How many of you have the NIV there? You’ll notice that verse 21 is missing. The text jumps straight from verse 20 to verse 22, right? (That’s just another reason why you should get yourself the New King James Version.) The translators decided to translate from a Greek manuscript that didn’t have that line in it. The majority of the old Greek manuscripts, however, DO have it in. I believe that it is a serious omission. What’s more, if you look at the same story recounted in Mark’s gospel chapter 9, verse 29 confirms what Jesus said: “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” This time the NIV does include the verse, but drops the words “and fasting”.

I think the enemy will do anything to keep Christians from fasting! Let me read the verses to you again from the New King James Version … [read].

Jesus says, “Lads, you only need a little bit of that faith of yours and you can move mountains - let me encourage you. Don’t doubt the power of faith in God for a moment. HOWEVER (I’m going to let you in on a little tip), this kind of demonic problem does not go out EXCEPT BY PRAYER AND FASTING.”

There are needs that are especially great - obstacles that have a whole different dimension of difficulty about them. SOME things require a specific breakthrough in the heavenlies - they are spiritual problems, spiritually discerned, and they require spiritual power to break them.

And Jesus says that there is a way to obtain the spiritual power to break through such needs - and here is the substance of my message to you today …

GODLY PRAYER, WITH FASTING,
RELEASES BREAKTHROUGH SPIRITUAL POWER.

When Jesus was led up into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to be tempted by the devil, He entered into a prolonged season of prayer and FASTING - 40 days in all (without bread or water). And Luke records (4:14) that after that time He returned “IN THE POWER OF THE SPIRIT”. Now Jesus was continually anointed of God (since His baptism) - but something was clearly released in a whole new dimension through that period of prayer and fasting. Otherwise Luke wouldn’t have mentioned it the way that he does.

GODLY PRAYER, WITH FASTING, RELEASES BREAKTHROUGH SPIRITUAL

POWER.

Now Jesus knew this great value of fasting, and it seems that He developed a lifestyle of prayer and fasting. It’s clear He’d been fasting prior to this incident with the demon-possessed boy (He cast it out and said the reason He’d been able to was because “this kind only come out by prayer and fasting”. What’s the implication? Jesus had been fasting.)

Jesus was ready for every occasion of life and ministry BECAUSE He developed a lifestyle of prayer with fasting. THERE IS GREAT POWER RELEASED THROUGH THESE PRINCIPLES.

Now you ask me “WHY?” Well, to be honest, I don’t understand it all. But then there’s a lot about prayer that is divine mystery. Why does God move in answer to prayer? Why does He require us to pray? I don’t know! But I know the truth of it.

"PRAYER IS THE SIMPLEST FORM OF SPEECH
THAT INFANT LIPS CAN TRY
PRAYER THE SUBLIMEST STRAINS THAT REACH
THE MAJESTY ON HIGH."

E.M. Bounds wrote: “God’s cause is committed to men; God commits Himself to men. PRAYING MEN are the vice regents of God; they do His work and carry out His plans”.


I BELIEVE IN THE POWER OF PRAYER! I believe it is ordained of God! God does NOTHING except in answer to believing prayer.

And why is FASTING so productive in releasing spiritual power? I don’t have the full answer to that, but the Word of God teaches it is so.

BUT if I could share some of my thoughts of what FASTING is all about, I see fasting as vital in prayer because of THREE things:

A.) FASTING REMINDS US OF OUR HUMANITY. It’s always good to be reminded of our humanity when we come to God. To come to God feeling a sense of helplessness is NOT a handicap but a head start. It casts us upon God. It makes us dependent - and, oh, how most of us hate to feel dependant!

B.) FASTING HUMBLES US. Or it should do. There is a self-denial involved. We deny the physical appetites of our body for a time, to humble ourselves before God who has all the answers for our lives.

C.) FASTING IS A SIGN OF OUR DESIRE. We are saying, when we fast, that seeking God is more important to us than the daily routine of finding food for ourselves. We have a passion for God that supercedes everything else. (NOT trying to twist God’s arm, but a genuine display of the earnestness of our desire.)

So, fasting is VERY significant. But, sadly, it’s overlooked by so many Christians today.

David Yonggi Cho pastors the largest church in the world (believed to be the largest church in history) - over 700,000 members! He and his staff have such a belief in the power of prayer and fasting that they rarely, if ever, counsel people. If someone comes to them with a great problem or urgent need, their standard answer is, “go to prayer mountain and fast and pray for three days”. If they return with the problem still unmet, they tell them to go and fast and pray for a week. (Then for ten days/then for forty days.) They do not think it possible that a person would ever return to them again with the problem still!

Let me say it again:

GODLY PRAYER WITH FASTING RELEASES BREAKTHROUGH SPIRITUAL POWER.


I’m going to finish up now, but before I do, let me just quickly give you some practical things you need to observe about how you ought to approach fasting:



 

1. FASTING MUST NOT BE “AS THE HYPOCRITES” (see Matthew 6:16).
Matthew 6:16-18 (NIV)

Fasting

16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 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.


2. FASTING SHOULD BE IN SECRET (see Matthew 6:18).

18 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.


On most occasions, only your partner needs to know. The exception to this rule is CORPORATE fasting - of which there are numerous Biblical examples - times that God called His people to prayer.

3. FASTING IN THE BIBLE IS ALWAYS COUPLED WITH FERVENT PRAYER.
There is no spiritual value in hunger alone! DIETING IS NOT FASTING!


CONCLUSION:

Jesus said that His disciples would not always have the physical presence of the Bridegroom (speaking of Himself). He said, “THEN they will fast”.

In this day we have great need of His power in our lives, in our church, in our families, etc. I believe that Jesus means for us to fast and pray.

Do you feel dry, spiritually? Powerless against the world and the enemy? In need of renewal? FAST and PRAY.

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