Fasting Forward

 

Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ!  I have prepared this study on fasting in order to provide you with guidelines as you practise this important and impactful spiritual discipline. Some have requested that I prepare such a study.  I am very happy to do so.

Three matters in particular have influenced my thoughts in preparing this study. (1) My understanding of fasting as seen in Holy Scripture. (2) My own personal practice of prayer and fasting. (3) The wise insights of others – including those in the medical community – who have written on the subject of fasting.

I absolutely and resolutely believe that Bill Bright is correct in saying, “I believe the power of fasting as it relates to prayer is the spiritual atomic bomb… to bring down the strongholds of evil, bring a great revival and spiritual awakening… and accelerate the fulfillment of the great commission.”1  (You will find this quote from Bill Bright two more times in this booklet.)

FASTING FORWARD! I absolutely and resolutely believe that fasting will be a major plank in the platform of God’s purpose in moving BGT forward into an ongoing victorious future as Jesus tarries!

Soli Deo Gloria/To God alone be the glory

Pastor Mike

 

FASTING FORWARD: WHAT?

The word fasting literally means “to cover the mouth.”   In a typical day for most of us, a few hours after our evening dinner we enjoy a good night of sleep and then we awaken in the morning and after readying ourselves for the day we literally “break-fast” – we uncover the mouth, so to speak, and eat breakfast.  Now of course fasting as we are speaking about it in this booklet represents much more than simply the time frame between the final meal – the evening meal – of the previous day and the first meal – the morning meal – of a given day!

 

The word fasting also means “to deny oneself.”  Denying oneself on the Day of Atonement as recorded in Leviticus 16:29,31 refers to fasting on that important Old Testament Holy Day.  When we fast we deny our physical appetite in order to nurture our spiritual appetite.

 

The Bible tells us, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament,  that “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4).

 

Fasting therefore, in a very real sense, is actually feasting!  When we fast we are saying no for a season to our food and yes to His Word!  Fasting speaks of feasting at the Lord’s Table!  We are refusing physical sustenance for a meal or two or three… or more… and receiving additional – second helpings! – spiritual sustenance from the Word of God (cf: Job 23:12).

 

For the most part fasting, as practiced in Scripture, is rooted in the need for divine instruction, or divine direction or divine protection.  (e.g.:  Exodus 34:28; 2 Chronicles 20:1-4; Esther 4:16; Matthew 4:2; Luke 2:36-38; Acts 14:23).

 

“Stated simply,” Jentezen Franklin writes, “biblical fasting is refraining from food for a spiritual purpose.”2  In the words of John Piper, “Fasting is a periodic… declaration that we would rather feast at God’s table… than feast on the finest delicacies of this world.”3

 

In an Africa Bible Commentary article titled “Prayer” Bonifes Adoyo observes:  “At times of crisis, prayer was often accompanied by fasting (Judges 20:26; 1 Samuel 7:6; Ezra 8:21-23).  Fasting continued in the New Testament as a way of making persistent requests regarding important actions (Acts 13:2-3; 14:23; 23:12; 27:9).  It expresses humility, sorrow, repentance, earnestness and a desire for God’s manifest presence.”4

 

Most would wholeheartedly agree with Arthur Wallis who states that, “There should be no difficulty in undertaking a day’s fast, whatever one’s occupation.”5  Dr. Julio Ruibal - as well as numerous medical doctors - assures us that, “From both the scriptural and scientific point of view, we can have confidence that fasting is not harmful, but rather beneficial when properly carried out.”6

 

Dr. Don Colbert is a strong believer in what he calls “spiritual fasting.”7 Colbert writes, “Fasting is a key to genuine and deep spirituality.  Throughout the ages, those who sought to know God and desired to enter into deeper spiritual realms and giftings employed fasting as a powerful and essential tool.  Found throughout the Bible, fasting was considered a key part of entering into and maintaining a powerful and spiritually dynamic walk with God.”8  Colbert also maintains that “Fasting is the safest and best way to heal the body from degenerative diseases caused by being overfed with the wrong nutrition…. Periodic, short-term fasting will also strengthen your immune system and help you live longer.”9

 

Bill Bright informs us that, “John Wesley so believed in this power [fasting] that he urged early Methodists to fast every Wednesday and Friday.  He felt so strongly about fasting those two days a week that he refused to ordain anyone in Methodism unless they agreed to do it.  The roll call of other great Christian leaders who determined to make prayer with fasting a part of their lives reads like a hall of fame: Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, Jonathan Edwards, Matthew Henry, Charles Finney, Andrew Murray, D. Martin Lloyd-Jones, and many more.”10

 

FASTING FORWARD: HOW?

THREE TYPES OF FASTS

 

1. THE TOTAL FAST: Here one goes entirely or completely without food and liquid.  I really don’t recommend this type of fast beyond a day or so – and even then one must be very careful.  This type of fast has also been referred to as an Absolute Fast, or Dry Fast, and, beyond two or three days, a Miracle Fast (because the body cannot and must not go without at least two litres of water per day).

 

2. THE NORMAL FAST: In this type of fast, one goes without food but not without liquid.  One may either choose to drink water or juice.  I tend to rotate my own fasting periods.  In one fast I will juice and in another fast I will drink only water.  With a little bit of experience either of these methods may easily be done for a 24-36 hour period of time.  Note:  If you are juicing I recommend pure juices.  You can even make your own juice by blending an apple, banana, carrot… and other fruits/vegetables… but use acidic-type fruits or citric type fruits in moderation as such can cause heartburn.

 

3. THE PARTIAL FAST: This is sometimes referred to as the Daniel Fast (c.f. Daniel 10:2-3 with Daniel 1:8-16).  In a partial fast one chooses to abstain from certain foods such as pasta, meats, poultry and dessert.  Many have found the partial fast to be a very beneficial way of fasting as well as a wise “entry-level” way to fast!

 

Scot McKnight has this to say about the time frame of a brief period of fasting.  “What kind of fasting did the ancient Israelites and early Christians practice?  We can’t be sure—the Bible doesn’t give us a manual on fasting.  What seems most likely is that they fasted from evening dinner until either midday the next day or until dinner the next day.  It is possible they fasted after breakfast until dinner that evening, but it seems more likely that the term fast described not eating from one evening meal until the next evening meal.”11

 

This is not to suggest that the person abstaining from food spent the entire 12 to 24 hour period in focused prayer (although in some situations such may be the case, at least during waking hours)!  Life goes on with its routine and activities.  Certainly one should strive to be in an attitude of prayer at all times (1 Thessalonians 5:17) but with respect to fasting one dedicated the customary meal times to fasting – feasting on God and His Word – rather than on eating.  Raymond Brown in commenting on Nehemiah 1:4 – “When I heard these things, I sat down and wept.  For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” – provides insight as to how fasting was probably practiced in Bible times.

 

“He believed there was nothing better he could do for his people than pray for them so, in order to give undisturbed time to his intercessions, he denied himself food for several days.  When he mourned and fasted he was engaging in a practice with notable biblical precedents.  In ancient near-eastern countries, meals were not the hurried affairs of busy contemporary life.  Normally, they were relaxed and extended opportunities for social contact and leisurely conversation.  Missing a meal released an hour or two for undisturbed prayer.”12

 

MEDICAL CONCERNS?

Bill Bright has comprised a list of those who must be extra careful in this matter of fasting.

“There are certain persons who should never fast without professional supervision:

  • Persons who are physically emaciated
  • Those who suffer weakness or anemia
  • Persons who have tumors, bleeding ulcers, cancer, blood diseases, or who have recently suffered myocardial infraction
  • Those who suffer chronic problems with kidneys, liver, lungs, heart, or other important organs
  • Individuals who take insulin for diabetes, or suffer any other blood sugar problems such as hypoglycemia
  • Women who are pregnant or nursing
  • Those who are afraid of fasting because they do not understand its benefits or what to expect, and who may even believe it amounts to starvation.  Fasting is not starvation, but if a person has genuine doubts and emotions--which must be overcome--no persuasion should cause them to fast until they learn what they need to know

There may be persons with other conditions who should not fast.  The rule of thumb is this: If you have serious questions about your health, or if you are under a physician’s care, you should consult your doctor before you abstain from food or change your diet.”13

 

FASTING AS ABSTINENCE FROM CERTAIN ACTIVITIES

 

Technically, since fasting means “to cover the mouth” and hence to refrain from food intake, the total fast, the normal fast and the partial fast are the three ways in which fasting is to be specifically practiced.  However, many have broadened the term fasting to refer to abstaining from other activities – not necessarily from food – as the following quotes from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and Bill Hybels elucidate.

 

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

To make the matter complete, we would add that fasting, if we conceive of it truly, must not only be confined to the questions of food and drink; fasting should really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some special spiritual purpose.  There are many bodily functions which are right and normal and perfectly legitimate, but which for special peculiar reasons in certain circumstances should be controlled.  That is fasting.  There, I suggest is a kind of general definition of what is meant by fasting.14

 

Bill Hybels

A serious-minded friend of mine just completed a thirty-day fast from all social media.  Social media isn’t a bad thing in moderation.  I use social media.  It can be very helpful.  It can also be addictive.  The 24/7 connection can create an ambient noise level that is toxic.  My friend is serious about growing in his faith, so he decided to fast from all social media.

 

During the first three days of his fast, he says, he didn’t know what to do with his hands.  “When I had a spare half minute, I used to pull out my phone without even thinking.  I would scroll through e-mail, read tweets, or check for text messages.  It was so habitual that I didn’t even know what to do with thirty seconds of spare time.  I had to relearn how to be still.”

 

That season of silence had such an incredible impact on him that he decided to continue his fast during a portion of each day.  Moving forward, he continues his social-media ban until a certain hour in the morning.  He makes sure he is in his chair for fifteen minutes, reading God’s Word, writing out his prayers, listening for God’s whispers without the “noise” of social media crowding his thoughts.  He gets his direction and encouragement from God, and he interacts in meaningful ways with members of his family, before turning on his phone, checking his e-mail, or engaging in the social-media world.

 

At lunchtime, he spends another ten minutes or so with God, free of electronic interruption and noise.  He silences his phone and closes his laptop. “I thank God for a great morning,” he says.  “I just take some moments in silence to dial back in to Him.  The quiet allows my mind to be still, free of information overload.  It helps me stay centred throughout the day.”

 

At a certain time in the evening, his social-media ban goes into effect again.  This time, he turns off his phone and shuts down his laptop.  “I have begun reading good literature for the last thirty minutes of my day,” he says. “I`m reading things that are stretching my mind and my heart, instead of just frittering away time by texting, tweeting, and reading or watching stupid stuff on the Internet.”15

 

FASTING FORWARD: WHY?

SEVERAL BENEFITS COME FROM FASTING

 

Wayne Grudem

  1. Fasting increases our sense of humility and dependence on the Lord (for our hunger and physical weakness continually remind us how we are not really strong in ourselves but need the Lord).
  2. Fasting allows us to give more attention to prayer (for we are not spending time on eating).
  3. It is a continual reminder that, just as we sacrifice some personal comfort to the Lord by not eating, so we must continually sacrifice all of ourselves to him.
  4. Fasting is a good exercise in self-discipline, for as we refrain from eating food, which we would ordinarily desire, it also strengthens our ability to refrain from sin, to which we might otherwise be tempted to yield.  If we train ourselves to accept the small “suffering” of fasting willingly, we will be better able to accept other suffering for the sake of righteousness (cf. Hebrews 5:8; 1 Peter 4:1-2).
  5. Fasting also heightens spiritual and mental alertness and a sense of God’s presence as we focus less on the material things of this world (such as food) and as the energies of our body are freed from digesting and processing food.  This enables us to focus on eternal spiritual realities that are much more important.
  6. Fasting expresses earnestness and urgency in our prayers:  if we continued to fast, eventually we would die.  Therefore, in a symbolic way, fasting says to God that we are prepared to lay down our lives that the situation be changed rather than that it continue.  In this case fasting is especially appropriate when the spiritual state of the church is low.

 

“Yet even now,” says the Lord “return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
(Joel 2:12-13a)

 

Though the New Testament does not specifically require that we fast, or set special times when we must fast, Jesus certainly assumes that we will fast, for he says to his disciples, “And when you fast” (Matthew 6:16).  Moreover, Jesus also says, “The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast” (Matthew 9:15).  He is the Bridegroom, we are his disciples, and during this present church age He has been “taken” away from us until the day He returns.  Most western Christians do not fast, but, if we were willing to fast more regularly—even for one or two meals—we might be surprised how much more spiritual power and strength we would have in our lives and in our churches.16

 

THIRTY REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD FAST

Stella Okoronkwo

  1. Fasting brings you nearer to God.
  2. Fasting will help you obtain direction or divine guidance.
  3. Fasting will help you gain victory over temptation, bondage and sin.
  4. Fasting can help you obtain protection from impending danger.
  5. Fasting will help you cast out demons.
  6. Fasting will help you to obtain favour from God or man.
  7. Your fasting is in obedience to God’s command.
  8. Fasting will help you to obtain healing from God.
  9. Fasting will help you gain more understanding of God and His word.
  10. Fasting will help you to discipline your soul.
  11. Fasting will help you to mortify the carnal body.
  12. Fasting will help you walk by the Spirit.
  13. Fasting will help to purify you as God’s temple for God’s use.
  14. Fasting will help you shine for God’s glory.
  15. Fasting will help you to obtain divine strength to execute divine tasks.
  16. Fasting will help you to do more intensive prayer.
  17. Fasting will help you rise to a higher dimension in Christ.
  18. Fasting will help you to increase your faith in God.
  19. Fasting will help you to take over the land for Jesus.
  20. Fasting will help you do fruitful and effective ministry for God.
  21. Fasting will help you quench the fiery darts of Satan.
  22. Fasting will help you humble yourself before God.
  23. Fasting will bring you to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
  24. Fasting will help you resist the devil and draw nearer to God.
  25. Fasting will help you bring down revival rains.
  26. Fasting creates an atmosphere of miracles for you.
  27. Fasting is a vehicle for restoration.
  28. Fasting is a weapon for spiritual warfare.
  29. Fasting sharpens and deepens the power of worship in you.
  30. Fasting helps to prepare you for the coming of Jesus Christ.17

 

FASTING FORWARD: WHEN?

 

I believe there is great benefit in regular periods of fasting.  Corporately speaking, an entire church family will benefit if several fast even the breakfast meal prior to the Sunday morning worship service.  Many have benefited from beginning a new year with a special emphasis on fasting—individually and corporately. 

 

Church sponsored outreach events should be covered with prayer and fasting.  What I have in mind here are Easter and Christmas musicals, March Break Camps, and Vacation Bible Schools, and other outreach events—especially including—Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames, and Super Bowl parties. 

 

We need to fast and pray for our young people and young adults.  They are growing up in a very pressure-packed and complicated world.  There are a lot of “human train wrecks” out in the world.  We need to pray that our young people and young adults will always lean into God’s wisdom, God’s shalom, and God’s guidance.

 

Many pastors and church leaders have found it beneficial to fast following the Friday evening meal until lunch on Sunday afternoon.  Fasting, is a proven path, many pastors and church leaders would say, to increasing and enhancing one’s spiritual sensitivity.

 

In my January 4, 2015 Facebook posting I quote Bill Bright saying the following:  “I believe the power of fasting as it relates to prayer is the spiritual atomic bomb… to bring down the strongholds of evil, bring a great revival and spiritual awakening… and accelerate the fulfillment of the great commission.”18  Michael Brodeur speaks of “those who are possessed by a consuming vision of a victorious Church that operates in the fullness of God’s presence, power and purpose and brings restoration and transformation to a fallen, broken planet.”19  I firmly and fully believe that those who are fasting and praying with systematic regularity will be at the forefront of the next mighty move of God!

 

NOTE:  There are occasions when it may be the better part of wisdom to avoid fasting.  These occasions would include family birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and significant holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Jesus seemed to allude to such occasion in which it is wise to avoid fasting in Matthew 9:14-15.

 


FACEBOOK POSTINGS

PASTOR MIKE

(January 4, 2015)

This morning, to begin the year 2015, I spoke from Acts 13:1-3 on the subject FASTING IS FEASTING (1). David Platt asks the question, “How can we in the church best unleash the people of God in the Spirit of God with the Word of God for the glory of God in the world?”20

One might consider fasting. Bill Bright opines: “I believe the power of fasting as it relates to prayer is the spiritual atomic bomb... to bring down the strongholds of evil, bring a great revival and spiritual awakening… and accelerate the fulfillment of the great commission.”21

I used three points to elucidate this “history-shaping” (John Piper)22 text.

  1. THE BIBLICAL COMMITMENT
  2. THE SPIRITUAL CLIMATE
  3. THE MIRACLE COMMUNION

 

Kingsley Fletcher writes:  “Some miracles will never happen without prayer and fasting.  Some circumstances will never change without prayer and fasting… Jesus began His ministry with prayer and fasting. How much more do we need to do the same.”23

We looked at various entry points into fasting including the PARTIAL FAST, the NORMAL FAST, and the TOTAL FAST… as well as various time-frames for fasting including ONE MEAL or 24 HOURS… Jesus said in Matthew 6:17—“When you fast.”  LORD, help us fast.

 

(January 12, 2015)

FILL MY CUP LORD: FASTING IS FEASTING (2): Yesterday at Bethel Gospel Tabernacle here in Hamilton, Ontario I continued my January preaching series on fasting. I spoke from the book of Joel using Joel 2:15-17 as the text. There were three points:

  1. THE CLARITY OF THE COMMAND
  2. THE URGENCY OF THE SITUATION
  3. THE POTENCY OF THE OUTCOME

 

Point 1 is seen in Joel 2:15 (cf. Joel 1:14).  Point 2 is seen as one reads Joel 1:1-2:17.  Point 3 is especially seen in Joel 2:18-32.

Scot McKnight:  “Fasting is the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life… [People] fasted in the Bible in response to some grievous moment in life—like death or the realization of sin or when the nation was threatened.”24

 

(January 23, 2015)

WOW! Pastor and author Ronnie Floyd has wisely written: “I have resolved that I will never face another major decision without first seeking the Lord’s will through fasting and prayer.”25

The old-time Baptist preacher John R. Rice has this to say about fasting: “The spirit of fasting simply means that one, for the time being, is willing to abstain from otherwise normal and proper duties or pleasures that he may give himself wholly to the business of prayer. So fasting is really putting God first when one prays, wanting God more than one wants food, more than one wants sleep, more than one wants fellowship with others, more than one wants to attend to business.  How could a Christian ever know that God was first in his life, if he did not sometimes turn aside from every other duty and pleasure to give himself wholly to seeking the face of God?”26

This Sunday morning at Bethel Gospel Tabernacle here in Hamilton, Ontario we will once again speak on the subject of FASTING IS FEASTING (3) in our Hunger for God January preaching series.

Daniel is a strong biblical example of one who practiced lifestyle-fasting.  Daniel throughout his long life as a public servant evidently practiced the discipline of fasting on a regular basis as a young man (Daniel 1:8-16) and as an old man (Daniel 9:1-3; 10:1-3)  Consistency, Persistency, and Expectancy are three words which summarize Daniel’s practice of lifestyle-fasting.  1. Consistency:  Daniel was a regular practitioner of fasting for decades.  2. Persistency:  There is an element of discipline in saying “No” to food for a season and “Yes” to prayer.  3. Expectancy:  Daniel fully believed that God would strategically and specifically speak to him during his seasons of prayer and fasting.

Pastor and author Jantezen Franklin shares:  “For me, fasting has been the secret to obtaining open doors, miraculous provision favour, and the tender touch of God upon my life.”27  WOW!

 


ADDENDUM 1

Specific References to Fasting:

FAST

1 Kings 21:12
2 Chronicles 20:3
Ezra 8:21
Esther 4:16
Psalms 69:10
Isaiah 58:4-5
Jeremiah 14:12
Joel 1:14
Joel 2:15
Jonah 3:5
Zechariah 7:3
Matthew 6:16-17
Matthew 9:14-15
Mark 2:19-20      
Luke 5:33-35
Luke 18:12

FASTED

Judges 20:26
1 Samuel 7:6
1 Samuel 31:13
2 Samuel 1:12
2 Samuel 12:16
2 Samuel 12:20-23
1 Kings 21:27
1 Chronicles 20:12
Ezra 8:23
Nehemiah 1:4
Isaiah 58:3
Zechariah 7:5
Acts 13:3

FASTING

1 Kings 21:9
Nehemiah 9:1
Esther 4:3
Esther 9:31
Psalms 35:13
Psalms 109:24
Isaiah 58:3-6
Jeremiah 36:6-9
Daniel 9:3
Joel 2:12
Matthew 4:2
Matthew 6:16-18
Mark 2:18
Luke 2:37
Acts 13:2
Acts 14:23

FASTS

Zechariah 8:19

There are other references to fasting in scripture in which the actual term fasting is not used.  Such scriptures are not included in the above lists. (e.g. Leviticus 16:23,31; Luke 4:1-14a).

 


ADDENDUM 2

ISAIAH 58

Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
    Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
    and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
2 For day after day they seek me out;
    they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
    and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
    and seem eager for God to come near them.
3 ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
    ‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
    and you have not noticed?’

Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
    and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
    and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
    and expect your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
    only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed
    and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
    a day acceptable to the Lord?

6 Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
    and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
    and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
    you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

13 If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
    and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
    and the Lord’s holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
    and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14 then you will find your joy in the Lord,
    and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
    and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

 


ADDENDUM 3

John Piper

Consider four simple observations from this story in Acts 13:1-4.  

 

In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers:  Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.  While they were worshipping 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.  The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus.

 

FIRST, this fasting was after Christ’s coming. I point this out lest someone say that fasting was a part of the Old Testament spirituality but not of New Testament spirituality.  We have argued in Chapter One from Matthew 9:15 that Jesus expected that his disciples would fast when he had gone back to heaven.  It is not surprising then to find them doing just that. Evidently Saul and Barnabas and the others in Antioch did not believe that fasting had passed like an old wineskin with the coming of the gospel and the new-covenant ministry of the Spirit.

 

SECOND, this fasting in Acts 13 was a corporate fast.  At least five of them were united in this devotion to the Lord. I mention this because another concern with fasting is that Jesus warned against fasting to be seen by men (Matthew 6:17-18).  He said, “But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face so that you may not be seen fasting by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you openly” (Matthew 6:17-18).  Yet it is impossible to fast corporately and not be seen by men… The critical issue is not whether people know you are fasting but whether you want them to know so that you can bask in their admiration.

 

THIRD, this fasting in Acts 13 proved to be an occasion for the Spirit’s special guidance.  Verse 2 says, “And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.”  In reporting it this way, Luke clearly wants us to see a connection between the worship, prayer, and fasting on the one hand and the decisive guidance of the Holy Spirit on the other: “While they were fasting, the Holy Spirit said.”  This is a significant biblical precedent for engaging in worship-fasting-prayer in the earnest pursuit of God’s will for our lives and the life of our church.

 

FOURTH, the fasting in Acts 13 changed the course of history.  It is almost impossible to overstate the historical importance of that moment in the history of the world.  Before this word from the Holy Spirit, there seems to have been no organized mission of the church beyond the eastern seacoast of the Mediterranean.  Before this, Paul had made no missionary journeys westward to Asia Minor, Greece, Rome, or Spain.  Before this Paul had not written any of his letters, which were all a result of his missionary travels, which began here.

 

This moment of prayer and fasting resulted in a missions movement that would catapult Christianity from obscurity into being the dominant religion of the Roman Empire within two and a half centuries, and would yield 1.3 billion adherents of the Christian religion today, with a Christian witness in virtually every country of the world.  And thirteen out of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament (Paul’s letters) were a result of the ministry that was launched in this historic moment of prayer and fasting.

 

So I think it is fair to say that God was pleased to make worship and prayer and fasting the launching pad for a mission that would change the course of world history.  Is there a lesson here for us?28

 


END NOTES

1 Bill Bright, The Coming Revival:  America’s Call to Fast, Pray and “Seek God’s Face”, (Orlando, Florida:  New Life Publications), 124.

2 Jentezen Franklin, Fasting, (Lake Mary, Florida: Charisma House, 2008), 9.

3 John Piper, A Hunger for God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer, (Wheaton Illinois:  Crossway Roche, 1997), 61.

4 Bonifes Adoyo, “Prayer” in Tokunboh Adeyemo (General Editor), Africa Bible Commentary, (Nairobi, Kenya:  Word Alive Publishers, 2006), 1186.

5 Bright, 124.

6 Bright, 126.

7 Don Colbert, M.D., Toxic Relief:  Restore Health and Energy Through Fasting and Detoxification, (Lake Mary, Florida:  Siloam Press, 2001), 173-193.

8 Colbert, 173.

9 Colbert, 45, 49.

10 Bright, 92.

11 Scot McKnight, Fasting:  The Ancient Practices Series,  (Nashville, Tennessee:  Thomas Nelson, 2009), 22.

12 Raymond Brown, The Message of Nehemiah:  The Bible Speaks Today, (Nottingham, England:  Inter-Varsity Press, 1998), 33-34.

13 Bright, 122.

14 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies In The Sermon on the Mount:  Volume Two, (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Eerdmans, 1967), 38.

15 Bill Hybels, Simplify:  Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul, (Carol Stream, Illinois:  Tyndale House Publishers, 2014), 235-236.

16 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, (Grand Rapids, Michigan:  Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), 391.

17 Stella Okoronkwo, The Discipline of Fasting:  2nd Edition, (Westlands, Nairobi, Kenya:  ACK Uzima Publishing House, 2014), 21-58.

18 Bright, 16.

19 Michael Brodeur and Banning Liebscher, Revival Culture:  Prepare For the Next Great Awakening, (Ventura, California:  Regal Books, 2012), 13.

20 David Platt, Radical Together, (Colorado Springs, Colorado:  Multnomah Books, 2011), 3.

21 Bright, 16.

22 Piper, 104.

23 Kingsley A. Fletcher, Prayer and Fasting, (Shippensburg, PA: Vestiny Image, 1997), 33.

24 McKnight, XXII-XXIII

25 Ronnie W. Floyd, The Power of Prayer and Fasting, (Nashville, Tennessee:  Broodman and Holman Publishers, 1997), 4.

26 John R. Rice, Prayer … Fasting and Receiving, (Wheaton, Illinois:  Sword of the Lord Publishers, 1942), 213.

27 Franklin, 3.

28 Piper, 18-19.

Contact Us

Bethel Gospel Tabernacle
1355 Upper Wellington St.
Hamilton, ON
L9A 3S8

Phone: (905) 387-6530
Fax: (905) 387-4566
mail@bgthamilton.com

Google Map

Office Hours

Monday to Friday
8:00 am to 4:00 pm

Connect

facebook icon  vimeo icon

 

Sign up to receive our Monthly Newsletter

* indicates required