Fasting

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Fasting Is Not An Option

As stated, in the "Strangers and Pilgrims" page, fasting is not an option for Christians who want to be ready for the Second Coming, and who want to have full power in prayer otherwise. Neglect of fasting is as much a problem in the Church of Laodicea as neglect of prayer, period. Very few Christians, relatively speaking, fast regularly. At least part of the reason for this is the erroneous, but popular, teaching that fasting is an option for Christians. Yet the words of Jesus show that He expected us to do it. For example, in Matthew 6, He placed fasting on the same level of expected performance as prayer and giving alms, with the words, "And when you fast...". Notice: "when"! Not "if"! Again, in Luke 5:35, when He was asked why His disciples didn't fast - the Pharisees thought they should - Jesus' answer was "...when the bridegroom is taken away from them; then they will fast...". There is no question, therefore, that He intended for us to fast. Moreover, in Matthew 17:21, when the disciples asked Him why they couldn't cast out a demon, Jesus' reply was "...this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting." By this He told us that there is spiritual power in prayer and fasting that can't be obtained any other way.

It is a fact that nowhere in the New Testament are Christians specifically commanded to fast. But the Old Testament Jews were,  and, again, it is clear that Jesus expected us to do it, just as much as He expected us to pray and give alms. Are these optional for Christians? Especially prayer?

It must be noted, though, that after His forty-day fast in the wilderness, there is nothing to suggest that Jesus, during His earthly ministry, ever fasted again. In fact, one passage, Luke 7:34,  suggests quite the opposite. But He did practice an equivalent, watching, which is going without sleep to spend time alone in prayer. Either way, it adds up to Jesus having a prayer life such that just praying alone was not enough. In fact, He could be said to have been watching in the Garden of Gethsemane (see Matthew 26:40 & 41). There was always some form of self-affliction associated with His prayer life. It has to be that way with ours.

The Benefits of Fasting

Fasting does things for us. God would never tell or expect us to do something unless it was for our good. One thing that must be pointed out: There is no Biblical basis for the popular idea the fasting is beneficial to your physical health. It may be, but there is no Scripture that says so. But it is very good for your spiritual health. Fasting is humbling yourself before God. If you do that, the Lord will lift you up (I Peter 5:6). 

Fasting is a way of seeking the Lord with all your heart, and as stated in the previous page, if you want God to answer your prayers, you have to mean it. When you are willing to back up your prayers with fasting, it means you mean it. That's what Daniel was doing with his 3-week fast in Daniel 10. He was showing the Lord that he really meant it.

Fasting makes things happen.

  • In Luke 2:37 & 38, Anna had been fasting before she got to see the Baby Jesus.

  • In Acts 10:30, we find that Cornelius the Roman was fasting when he received the vision that told him to send for Peter.

  • In Acts 13:1-4 we find that the Church of Antioch was engaged in prayer and fasting when St. Paul was sent to the work of an Apostle. 

It worked that way in the Old Testament, too.

  • In the Book of II Chronicle 20, Jehoshaphat called all Israel to prayer and fasting  before He won a battle without having to fight.

  • Haman got hung on his own gallows after Israel fasted in the Book of Esther.

  • Daniel received his great vision of Daniel 10-12 after a three week fast.

  • Moses received the Law after a 40 day fast.

And there are other Scriptural examples. Failure to fast often means spiritual failure otherwise.

Forms of Fasting

There are degrees of fasting.  It can start with simply abstaining from certain foods or beverages, what is called a "partial fast". This, in fact, is the basis of the traditional idea of "giving up something for Lent". This practice, when done in sincerity is actually a limited form of fasting. At the most extreme, an "absolute fast", it is abstaining from all food and beverages. You don't even drink water. By the way, don't do this for more than a day at a time.

It is a regrettable truth that some Christians, like diabetics (especially severe ones) may not be able to fast. But they can practice watching, as Jesus did. Note: This writer has a mild diabetes problem, and he still fasts.

St. Paul suggested that husbands and wives might abstain from marital relations by mutual agreement for a period to devote themselves to prayer. This is equivalent to fasting.

One thing that will not be suggested here as an alternative to fasting is abstaining from worldly entertainment. That is something a Christian should abstain from anyway. See following page.  You will absolutely not get any special answers from the Lord because you decided to temporarily refrain from something that, when you "come down to the nitty-gritty" is really sin. You shouldn't have been doing it anyway. See Luke 10:7-10.

Guidelines:

One of the first important guidelines for fasting, even when you do it with a group, is to be careful not to advertise the fact that you are doing it (Matthew 6:16-18). This point was actually the only teaching on the subject that Jesus ever gave.  Your fasting and your prayers will both do the most good when you do it "in your closet". If possible, when you fast, take a personal retreat. Go completely away from your regular life during the time you are fasting. The idea is to make the fasting time a quality time alone with God.

Don't Overdo It!

Don't overdo it! Especially, don't overdo an absolute fast. You could kill yourself. Too much fasting is hazardous to your health, and the Law of Moses forbids intentionally doing anything that unnecessarily brings harm to yourself. This originally applied specifically to doing things like cutting yourself as an act of penance in the process of worship. But it would apply by logical extension to hurting yourself with too much fasting. Since there is nothing in the New Testament to contradict this, it stands. There is even a passage of Scripture, Psalm 109:21-26, that suggests that excessive fasting is of little if any value.  When Moses in the Book of Exodus, and Jesus in the Gospels, were called to long fasts, it was by special leading and anointing of the Lord. These were not examples of things we should try to do. As the popular saying goes, "Don't try this at home." On the basis of things he has observed in the lives of other Christians, this writer believes that Satan may tempt a Christian into excessive fasting as a major snare. The consequences can directly ruin a Christian's health, and possibly indirectly ruin his faith.

It is recommended that you do not fast more than a week at a time, and this Prayer Network will not ask people to fast more than a day at a time. This will follow the Biblical pattern of sunset to sunset, and is the most desirable approach to regular fasting.

When you are fasting, drink nothing but warm water when you would ordinarily drink coffee, tea, or some other beverage. If you are not used to fasting, you might sweeten the water with honey at first. But to make the fast truly a fast, you should seek to abstain from all food. But unless you are specially burdened to do so, don't do an absolute fast.

In the case of watching, do not go more than one night at time without sleep. It will make you dangerous to yourself and those around you. Too much of it could ruin your mental health. But we do have Scriptural precedent for spending an entire night in watching (Luke 12:6). It should take at least giving up three hours of sleep for it to be spiritually effective - that seems to be the minimum amount of time Jesus could have spent in prayer in Mark 1:35-36. On any night in which you go without sleep for more three hours or more, do not, if you can avoid it, drive a car or any other motor vehicle. Don't operate any kind of powered machines or power tools, especially those that are known to be dangerous if mishandled.

Taking unnecessary risks, by the way, is the sin of tempting God (Luke 4:12). You cannot expect God to protect you if you do so. Satan knew this, and that's why he tried to get Jesus to do so. And it is why he tries to get Christians to take unnecessary risks. Sometimes, he succeeds, with tragic results. See I Peter 5:8.

Plan What You Are Going To Pray About

Decide beforehand how much time you will spend in fasting, and just to what extreme you plan to take the fast, and stick to your plan. You will be, it is assumed, giving up meals, or, in the case of watching, sleep. It is imperative that you spend the time thus freed for the purpose of prayer. The fast or watching must have   presenting a specific petition, or list of petitions, to the Lord as the reason for it. Stick to that petition or that list. Don't let yourself be led astray into changing your focus unless the Lord really burdens you to pray for someone or something else.

Special Note: A person who is in the habit of overeating will find it particularly difficult and dangerous to fast. If a Christian is overeating as a habit (a common Laodicean practice) he or she is committing the sin of gluttony. It happens to be a particularly repugnant form of worldliness. If this is you, then you better be aware that the Scripture places this practice on the same level, spiritually, with being a drunkard. See Deuteronomy 20:21. If you want to be able to fast and pray effectively, you must not overeat otherwise.

Ending A Fast

It is always a good idea to end a fast slowly. The longer you have fasted, the more important this is. If you "pig out" after a fast of more than two days, you could make yourself very sick. Even after just a day, it is not a good idea to break a fast (That's where the word "breakfast" came from - originally, the end of a sunrise - to - sunrise fast. Sunset to sunset is better!) with a big meal. After a longer fast, start with fruit juice, then go to a light meal, especially one of fruit or fresh salad. Only after your appetite returns afterwards should you eat a heavy meal.

In Conclusion

To sum this up, let it be said that you will never have a full prayer life, and full power in prayer if you do not make fasting or some equivalent activity a regular discipline of your spiritual life. This is also a requisite for being ready for the Second Coming of Christ. Not fasting is a sure way to guarantee that you will not be ready. Doing so, on the other hand, may require you to make sacrifices that go beyond mere fasting. If you must, do it. Anytime you die to yourself in order to be obedient to God, you are taking a step in the direction of being a true overcomer. It will only be the true overcomers who reign with Christ. So start working at being one now. Again, helping you to be one is a major part of the purpose of the Prayer Network and Bread Upon The Waters Ministry generally. So do your best in the Lord to become one. And remember, never assume you are ready!

Having covered the topics of how to pray and what fasting is all about, we need to look at the issue of why people don't get their prayers answered, and in fact may be unable to discipline themselves to pray. We will look at these problems in the following page:

Obstacles To Prayer

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Contact Author, William D. Brehm