Jun 22, 2012
Recently I haven’t been fasting.
But Sunday I preached about fasting from Mat 6:16-18.
I saw that Jesus ASSUMES his followers will fast.
He says “when you fast” — not “if you fast.”
That convicted me.
A long list
And then I studied how many people in the Bible fasted — a long list —
- Moses (Exo 34:28)
- David (2Sam 12:16; Psa 35:13; 69:10; 109:24)
- Jehoshaphat with all of Israel (2Ch 20:3)
- Ezra with those traveling with him to Israel (Ezra 8:21)
- Nehemiah (Neh 1:4)
- Nehemiah with all of Israel (Neh 9:1)
- Esther’s friends (Esther 4:16)
- Daniel (Dan 9:3)
- Josiah with all of Israel (Jer 36:9)
- The people of Nineveh (Jonah 3:5)
- The prophetess Anna (Luke 2:37)
- Jesus (Mat 4:1-2)
- Paul with the leaders in Antioch (Acts 13:3)
- Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:23)
So why does Jesus assume we will fast — and why did all these people fast?
Why is fasting important?
Let’s start with why prayer is important.
God has ordained to have our prayers stir His heart to do the things He’s chosen to do.
He doesn’t need our prayer.
He can free us from sin and save people and pour out His Spirit without our prayer.
But God has chosen to accomplish His work through our prayer.
I see that in passages like Eze 36:37; Mat 7:8; Mat 9:38; James 4:2.
So when you pray for power over sin — God will give you more power over sin than had you not prayed.
When you pray for people to be saved — more people will be saved than had you not prayed.
When you pray for an outpouring of God’s Spirit upon your church — your church will experience a greater outpouring than had you not prayed.
That’s why prayer is important.
What does fasting add?
As much as prayer stirs God’s heart to act — fasting stirs God’s heart even more.
I see that in Isa 58:4. Israel fasted in sinful ways, and Isaiah says —
“Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.”
They fasted in sinful ways — so their fasting would NOT make their voice be heard on high.
Which means fasting in righteous ways WILL make our voice be heard on high.
Not earned or deserved
In our sinfulness all we earn or deserve from God is judgment. Period.
But in His mercy — through the Cross — He has saved and forgiven and redeemed us.
And — in His mercy — He has chosen to respond to fasting and prayer.
So when we pray — God mercifully hears our voices and His heart is stirred.
And when we pray with fasting — God’s heart is stirred even more.
Picture it like this
It’s like prayer has – by God’s mercy — 100 megawatts of power to stir God’s heart.
So when I pray for God to save people in neighborhood — there’s 100 megawatts of power stirring God to act.
But fasting – by God’s mercy — adds maybe 20 megawatts of power.
So when we pray – with fasting – there’s a total of 120 megawatts of power stirring God’s heart to act.
Individual prayer is crucial — that’s 100 megawatts of power stirring God’s heart!
But fasting makes a difference — adding maybe 20 megawatts of power.
There’s mystery here. But generally speaking this is how we should think of prayer and fasting —
When you pray for power over sin — God will give you more power over sin than had you not prayed.
And – when you add in fasting – you will have even more power over sin.
When you pray for salvations in your neighborhood – God will save more people than had you not prayed.
And – when you add in fasting – even more will be saved.
When you pray for the Spirit to be poured out on your church — God will give a greater outpouring than had you not prayed.
And – when you add in fasting – God will pour out even more of His Spirit.
What this means
So — be devoted to prayer.
And — as you can, without neglecting your other God-given responsibilities — add fasting to prayer.
You will — by God’s mercy — see God work in powerful ways.
What’s been your experience with fasting and prayer?
I’d love to hear — leave a comment below. Thanks!
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And here’s some related links you might find helpful —
- An article on how to fast — from Campus Crusade
Why keep praying when we're feeling dull?
Praying with faith
How to Overcome Prayerlessness
(Picture from everystockphoto by Kobos.)