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What To Know About Fasting

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“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:6–7).

“However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21).

” He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29).

Fasting may be defined as self-discipline, which consists of the habitual renunciation, in whole or in part, of the enjoyments of the flesh, with a view to the cultivation of the life of the spirit. Not all abstaining from food and fleshly pleasure is the accepted kind of fasting. The scriptures define, show, and give us a picture of fasting.

 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:6–7).

There are two categories of activities to perform while fasting. 

The first category is:

  • Loosen the bands of Wickedness. 
  • Undo the heavy burdens. 
  • Let the oppressed go free. 
  • Break all yokes. All this four can be summarized as prayer. In short, prayer is what God has ordained while fasting.

The second category entails:

  • Deal bread to the hungry. 
  • Bring the outcast poor into your house. 
  • Cover the naked. 
  • Hide not from your relatives; now, this second category of four can be summarized as giving. In simple terms, fasting is denying yourself, giving yourself to God and giving yourself to others by distributing to them what you have. Therefore, fasting denies self and gives yourself to God for spiritual Purposes in prayer and giving.

How To Fast

Jesus in Matthew 6 taught us how to fast. He said, “But you when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” (Matthew 6: 17–18). Now, this statement shows that your attitude matters in fasting. First, fasting is a secret between you and your God, who is and sees in secret. If it is a public fast, it must be between you, God, and the group you are fasting together. Second, it must be a joy. Joy is one attitude you need for your fasting to be accepted by God. You must have the joy of the spirit that is not determined by the present situation you are in or your environment. “Thus says the LORD of hosts: “The fast of the fourth month, The fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh, And the fast of the tenth, shall be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah. Therefore, love truth and peace.'”‘(Zachariah 8:19)

Lastly, fasting should be to God. It must be directed to God. God must be the object of worship in your fasting. Once done in this way, it brings a reward to you.

If you don’t follow Jesus’s example, this is what will happen. “Why have we fasted,’ they say, “and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls, and You take no notice?’ “In fact, on the day of your fast, you find pleasure and exploit all your labourers. Indeed, you fast for strife and debate, and to strike with the fist of wickedness. You will not fast as you do this day, to make your voice heard on high. Is it a fast that I have chosen, A Day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush and spread-out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, And an acceptable day to the LORD?” (Isaiah 58:3–5). This rebuke awaits those who fast contrary to what Jesus taught.

Even this kind of fasting has rewards. It is rewarded by men but not God. Jesus said, “Moreover, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance when you fast. For they disfigure their faces so that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, and they have their reward.” (Matthew 6:16)

Types of Fast

Partial fast: Fasting might be partial; That is, abstinence from certain kinds of food for a period of time you have specified in order to fellowship with God.

Absolute or total fast: Total fast is abstinence from all food as well as from drinking water or any drink. Others include abstinence from washing, anointing, and sleeping. 

Wet fast: This fast is where you don’t eat food but take water or drinks for a specified period to have enough time to seek God, minister to him, and read his word and prayer.

Fasting might be of shorter or longer duration. The period ranges from one day– from sunrise to sunset (Judges 20:26; 1 Samuel 14:24; 2 Samuel 1:12; 2 Samuel 3:35). In 1 Samuel 31:13, allusion is made to seven days fast. Daniel abstained from “pleasant bread,” flesh, wine and anointing for three weeks (Daniel 10:3). Moses (Exodus 34:28) and Elijah (1 Kings 19:8) fasted for 40 days. These last three references probably presuppose a totally different conception of the significance of fasting.

Other Factors that Bring About Fasting 

It is a matter of common observation and experience that great distress causes loss of appetite and therefore occasions abstinence from food. Hannah, who was greatly distressed on account of her childlessness, “wept, and did not eat” (1 Samuel 1:7). Violent anger produces the same effect (1 Samuel 20:34). According to 1 Kings 21:4, Ahab, “heavy and displeased” on account of Naboth’s refusal to part with his estate, sulked and “would eat no bread.” Fasting, which was initially the natural expression of grief, became the customary mode of proving to others the inner emotion of sorrow. David demonstrated his grief at Abner’s death (2 Samuel 3:35) by fasting, just as the Psalmist indicated his sympathy with his adversaries’ sorry plight in the same way (Psalms 35:13). In such passages as Ezra 10:6; Esther 4:3, it is unclear whether fasting is used in its religious significance or simply as a natural expression of sorrow (Luke 5:33). This view explains the association of fasting with the mourning customs of antiquity (1 Samuel 31:13; 2 Samuel 1:12). As fasting was a perfectly natural and human expression and evidence of the subject’s grief, it readily claimed a place among those religious customs whose main object was the pacification of the anger of God or the excite of His compassion. Any and every act that would manifest the distressful state of the suppliant would appeal to the Deity and move Him to pity. The interesting incident recorded in 2 Samuel 12:16-23 suggests the twofold significance of fasting as a religious act or a mode of appealing to the Deity and as a funeral custom. David defends his fasting before and not after the child’s death on the ground that David’s prayer might be answered while the child was alive. His fasting was intended to make his petition effectual (1 Kings 21:27; Ezra 8:21; Esther 4:16). 

Why Fast

Occasionally fasting was proclaimed on a national scale: – That is in the case of war (Judges 20:26; 2 Chronicles 20:3) In an invasion of pestilence (Joel 1:13). Fasting has thus become a recognized mode of seeking Divine favour and protection. It was natural that it should be associated with confession of sin as indisputable evidence of penitence or sorrow for sin. (2 Chronicles 7:14). To give more attention to reading the word and prayer, to turn back to God by suppressing the body for the spirit to rise and have dominance.

Jesus and Fasting 

Beyond question, it was, from first to last, “instinct with the spirit of self-denial” “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself” is an ever-recurring refrain of His teaching “Seek ye first the kingdom of God,” is ever His categorical imperative (Matthew 6:33 the King James Version; Luke 12:31). All desires and strivings which have not this as their goal must be suppressed or sacrificed (Matthew 13:44-46; Matthew 19:21; Mark 10:21; Luke 9:59; Luke 9:60; Luke 14:26; Matthew 5:29, Matthew 5:30; Mark 9:43-47; Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23; and Luke 14:33). In short, if any man finds that the gratification of any desire of the higher or lower self will impede or distract him in the performance of his duties as a subject of the Kingdom, he must forego such gratification if he would be a disciple of Christ. “If it causes thee to stumble” is always the condition, implied or expressed, which justifies abstinence from any particular good. Accordingly, Jesus alluded to fasting in His teaching. In Matthew 6:16-18, where voluntary fasting is presupposed as a religious exercise of His disciples, He warns them against making it the occasion of a parade of piety: “Thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head and wash thy face; that thou be not seen of men to fast, but of thy Father who is in secret.” In short, He sanctions fasting only as a genuine expression of a devout and contrite frame of mind. In Matthew 9:14-17 (Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39), in reply to the question of the disciples of John and the Pharisees, Jesus refuses to enjoin fasting. As a recognized sign of mourning, he says fasting would be inconsistent with the joy that “the sons of the bridechamber” naturally feel while “the bridegroom is with them.” But, he adds, suggesting the valid reason for fasting, that the days of bereavement will come, and then the outward expression of sorrow will be appropriate. Here, as in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sanctions fasting, without enjoining it, as a form through which emotion may spontaneously seek expression. His teaching on the subject may be summarized in the one word, subordination.

Prayer & Fasting 

” However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21).

“So, He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:29).

Prayer is communication with God, while fasting is self-discipline which consists in the habitual renunciation, in whole or in part, of the enjoyments of the flesh, with a view to the cultivation of the life of the spirit. Prayer is communicating with God, who is a Spirit (John 4:24), while fasting suppresses the flesh to adhere to and follow the spirit. Once you suppress the flesh by denying it its goodies, that is fasting. And because prayer is speaking with the spirit, you are suppressing the body to listen to and follow; Praying is vital in fasting.  Look at the wording ” prayer and fasting, and it is not fasting and prayer. Prayer must precede fasting. And in fasting, prayer must be paramount. Those who fast and do not pray is that they have interchanged the wording. Instead of “prayer and fasting,” they are doing “fasting and prayer. “Fasting is unblocking the channel of the communication with God, which the flesh has blocked, while prayer is restoring the flow through this channel. Prayer is simply lifting your soul unto God (Psalm 25:1), while fasting is streamlining the soul by suppressing the flesh and its desire. Any person can abstain from food and bodily pleasure. But this does not mean this is a Godly fast. In a Godly fast, all your attention, desire, practices, and all you do during this period must glorify God. It must be to the glory of God. Skipping meals is not Godly fasting. A Godly fast is when you program yourself and set aside a specific time, day, or period to abstain from food and bodily pleasure and focus on God.

Fasting In the New Testament 

On the whole, unquestionably, the practice and teachings of the apostles and early Christians were in harmony with the example and teaching of the Master – Jesus.

What to Note about Fasting?

Fasting in itself has no power. There is no power in fasting. How can denying something have power. The power not to give you comes from the one holding it, i.e., the owner—the same with fasting. The only power is with God (Psalms 62:11). Jesus is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:23,30). The Holy Spirit is the power of God (Acts 1:8). When your object of worship in fasting is God, his power flows through you, thus making fasting powerful. But fasting on its own has no power.

The second is that fasting cannot change God. God does not change (Malachi 1:6). Jesus does not change (Hebrews 13:8). God and Jesus are the same before you start fasting, during and after your fast. In short, fasting changes you. It changes you towards God. It aligns you to God’s will. 

The third is that fasting does not move the hand of God. The hand of God is stretched; no one can fold it or turn it. (Isaiah 14:26; 5:25). Fasting just moved you towards the hand of God.

Fasting does not forgive sins. God forgave our sins in Christ Jesus when Jesus died for us on the cross. (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 8:12).

Fasting without praying is a waste of time and a hunger strike. Fasting directed to your situation and problem but not God is idolatry.

Benefits of Fasting 

  • God rewards you (Matthew 6:17–18).
  • It makes you spiritually alert.
  • It helps you to hear from God clearly (John 10:27).
  • It helps you to have discipline and curb your appetite.
  • Healing is assured, for you worship the healer (Exodus 15:26) ” …… And they health shall spring forth speedily ….,”(Isaiah 58:8).
  • The glory of God guards you. “….. the glory of the Lord shall be thy rear guard.” (Isaiah 58:8).
  • You are answered quickly (Isaiah 58:9).
  • You are delivered (Isaiah 58:9).
  • The darkness that hangs over your life is removed. ” …. then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday.” (Isaiah 58:10). This is because God is light, and no darkness can dwell in light (John 8:12).
  • You have the guidance of God. ” And the Lord shall guide you continually……” (Isaiah 58:11). When you hear clearly from the Holy Spirit, you will follow his instructions.
  • God satisfies you in every area. “….and satisfy your soul in drought (Isaiah 58:11).
  • You beam with new life. “….. and make your bones fat, and you shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not”, (Isaiah 58:11).
  • You will delight in the Lord. “, Then you shall delight yourself in the lord….” (Isaiah 58:14).
  • There will be restoration. ” And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places…. Though shall be called, the repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in “(Isaiah 58:12).
  • Honour and promotion are your portions.” …. I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father” (Isaiah 58:14). The honour of the master automatically becomes the honour of the servant.

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By Gilbert Magomere Ayieko
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