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Prayer Can Change Your Life - Fasting 101- Knowing God Through Fasting 3 of 3

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Prayer Can Change Your Life 3 of 3

Fasting 101- Knowing God Through Fasting

Text: Mathew 6:16

September 26, 2004

Sermon

For the past few weeks we have been looking at the topic of prayer and we established that prayer is

·       Prayer is an act of dedication.

·       Prayer is an act of communication.

·       Prayer is an act of supplication. (Request) Prayer is an act of cooperation.

 

Then we came to an understanding of the five basic condition which must exsist so that we may expect answer to prayer;

 

 

·       You must have an honest relationship to God.

·       You must have a forgiving attitude toward other people.

·       You must be willing to share the results.

·       You must believe that God will answer. 

·       You must pray in Jesus' name.

Today I want us to look at what I consider a very important form of prayer which is often over looked.

I want us to look at the practice of fasting.

Fasting has been out of style for at least 150 years. In the twentieth first century church, the idea seems alien to us. God's Word assumes that fasting will be a regular part of a Christian's life. Yet for most of us, it's not. If we were to make a study of fasting in the Bible most of us would find ourselves very challenged about this neglected area of Christian discipline. I'd like to encourage us to look more into the practice of fasting as it is related to prayer. 

I want us to see that fasting is a biblical form of praying and that it applies to today’s Christian.

Fasting is a spiritual discipline that is taught in the Bible. Jesus expected His followers to fast and He said that God rewards fasting.

Matthew 6:16-18

"Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

 

Fasting, according to the Bible, means to voluntarily reduce or eliminate your intake of food for a specific time and purpose.

 

But before we take a look at fasting let us look at food. A Word About God's Provision of Food

 

I don't know if you ever thought much about a Biblical perspective on food. 'Why did God give us food?' 'How are we to think about food?' 'Can we enjoy eating?' The Bible gives us answers to these questions. According to the Scripture, food is given to us as a gift from God for four reasons. Food is given to us for:

Enjoyment

The variety of tastes found in creation is not an accident.

God gave us such a wide variety of eatable types of food and a highly developed taste system, so that man would find pleasure in eating.

Sometimes Christians, especially when we have been raised in more legalistic churches, have a hard time believing that we are allowed to enjoy anything! But we are!

Food is meant to be a source of joy (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25; 5:18). And so are a lot of other things in God's creation. We are allowed to enjoy our food.

Ecclesiastes 2:24-25  NLT

24So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that this pleasure is from the hand of God. 25For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him?

 

Ecclesiastes 5:18  NLT

18Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat well, drink a good glass of wine, and enjoy their work--whatever they do under the sun--for however long God lets them live.



Sustenance

Even in the garden of Eden, Adam needed food to sustain his life and give him energy to do the tasks God had assigned him.

Plants were given to Adam and Eve for this purpose: Genesis 1:29.

Genesis 1:29 NIV

29 Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.

 

Later on animals were given for the same purpose: Genesis 9:3. Both plants and animals are God's provision for our nourishment.

 

Genesis 9:1-3

1God blessed Noah and his sons and told them, "Multiply and fill the earth. 2All the wild animals, large and small, and all the birds and fish will be afraid of you. I have placed them in your power. 3I have given them to you for food, just as I have given you grain and vegetables.

 

 



Fellowship

it’s practice for eternity. One of the things you're going to do in heaven, in eternity, is you're going to love God. 

And the other thing you're going to do is you're going to love the other believers that are there. 

Think about it when ever you meet with someone to fellowship almost 99% of the time there is some kind of food involved in the gathering.

All through the Old Testament the people of God came together for fellowship over food. God made food for fellowship.

Genesis 18:1-8 gives us one of the first examples of fellowship and food.

Luke 15:23

    and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate;

He even commanded that some of the sacrifices offered to Him at the temple were to be shared with others. These were communal meals -- meals in which the whole community sat down and ate together (see Deuteronomy 12:6,7,18). Families still find a resource of love, fellowship, discussion, and understanding when they come together to eat.

Deuteronomy 12:6-7 NIV

6There you will bring to the LORD your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, your special gifts, your offerings to fulfill a vow, your freewill offerings, and your offerings of the firstborn animals of your flocks and herds. 7There you and your families will feast in the presence of the LORD your God, and you will rejoice in all you have accomplished because the LORD your God has blessed you.



In fact, in my childhood home, the dining table was one of the few times that we were all together as a family. The meal became a focal point for conversation, communication, discussion and teaching in our household. That's the way God intended it.

The Family of Christ still breaks bread together in the Lord's Supper and one of the purposes of the Eucharist is for fellowship (1 Corinthians 10:17). In Revelation 3:20 Jesus Christ's fellowship with believers is described as a meal. And at Christ's second coming we all get invited to a banquet (Revelation 19:9)! Food was made by God to bring us together.

Worship

Food also is a source of worship.

We should be very conscious of the fact that food is a gift from God

In fact, Paul teaches his young pupil Timothy in  1 Timothy 4:3b-4).,

1 Timothy 4:3b-5

… But God created those foods to be eaten with thanksgiving by people who know and believe the truth. 4Since everything God created is good, we should not reject any of it. We may receive it gladly, with thankful hearts.

 

Hence, every meal becomes an occasion for thanksgiving.

When we put food to our mouths at the beginning of the meal and when we sit back in our chair with satisfaction, our natural reaction should be God ward gratitude.

According to the Bible food was created to be a source of thanksgiving and worship.

The Bible tells us that food was given for four reasons. God has created food for the purpose of enjoyment, sustenance, fellowship, and worship. Yet God also has a place for fasting in our lives.



WHY FAST?

 

There are many good reasons, and even health benefits, for fasting. However, I want to concentrate on  three primary reasons:

1.    Fasting gives you more time for prayer.  

“2As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, "Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.                                           Acts 13:2-3 NKJV

You can use the time you’d normally spend eating as time in prayer for what God wants to do among us during this Campaign. In the Bible, fasting is always connected with prayer.

 

 

 

 

2.    Fasting demonstrates the depth of your desire when praying for something.  

It shows you mean business with God – that you are serious enough about your prayer request to pay a personal price. God honors deep desire and praying in faith.

“Announce a time of fasting; call the people together for a solemn meeting. Bring the leaders and all the people into the Temple of the LORD your God, and cry out to him there.”           Joel 1:14 NLT

“12That is why the LORD says, "Turn to me now, while there is time! Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning.”  Joel 2:12 NLT

3.    Fasting releases God’s supernatural power.

It is a tool we can use when there is opposition to God’s will. Satan would like nothing better than to cause division, discouragement, defeat, depression, and doubt among us. United prayer and fasting has always been used by God to deal a decisive blow to the enemy!

Ezra 8:23 NKJV
23So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer..”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Isaiah 58:6
6"No, the kind of fasting I want calls you to free those who are wrongly imprisoned and to stop oppressing those who work for you. Treat them fairly and give them what they earn.

 

 

CAUTION

1.     Remember that fasting is not “earning” an answer to prayer. God cannot be blackmailed by human effort. God wants to answer our prayers and He answers out of grace. Fasting simply prepares us for God’s answer.

 

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF FASTING

Often in the Bible, God’s people fasted immediately before a major victory, miracle, or answer to prayer. It prepared them for a blessing!

·        Moses fasted before he received the Ten Commandments.

“Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant--the Ten Commandments.”       Exodus 34:28

·        The Israelites fasted before a miraculous victory.

 

“Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, "A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea. It is already in Hazazon Tamar" (that is, En Gedi). Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah.”

          2 Chronicles 20:2-3

 

·        Daniel fasted in order to receive guidance from God.

 

“So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.” Daniel 9:3

 

“While I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. He instructed me and said to me, ‘Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding.’”  Daniel 9:21-22

·        Nehemiah fasted before beginning a major building project.

“When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” 

Nehemiah 1:4

·        Jesus fasted during His victory over temptation.

 

“For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by the Devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when the time was up he was hungry.”                                                             Luke 4:2

·        The first Christians fasted during-decision making times.

“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.”                  Acts 13:2-3

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