lundi 28 novembre 2011

The Value of Fasting

"I was ashamed to ask the King for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, `The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to Him …'. So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and He answered our prayer." - EZRA

Fasting and Praying

When we read the book of Matthew on chapter six, we can't help noticing Jesus expectation on his followers. He spoke about 3 things that his disciples should be doing:

1. Give to the needy, 2. Pray and 3. Fast.

The author Derek Prince points out that each of these recommendation is preceded by the word WHEN not IF. In Matthew 6:2 it is said "So WHEN you give to the needy" not "IF you give to the needy". The same is found for the other two items of this first part of the chapter. Mathew 6:5 "And WHEN you pray …" or Matthew 6:16 "WHEN you fast" and not "IF you fast". This shows that, according to Derek Prince analysis, that these three items in a disciple life are necessities and should be expected. The discipline of fasting is not optional.

In chapter 9 of Matthew we are told of an incident where it was asked of Jesus why His disciples where not fasting when all the others representative religious communities of time were fasting. Here is Jesus answer: "… The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; THEN THEY WILL FAST". Sure enough, after Jesus ascension we are told that disciples had at least one time of fasting in Acts 13 "In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers … while they were worshiping the Lord and FASTING, the Holy Spirit said …". In 2 Corinthians 11, St. Paul talked about his many sufferings and privations and in verse 27, he said that he has known hunger and thirst and have OFTEN gone without food. In the French version this last part says he has been subjected to multiple fasting. This could possibly also mean that he willingly did that for the advancement of Christ kingdom.

All I am trying to establish here is that, FASTING is a normal practice for those who walk with God. Some situation according to the bible can not be undone unless prayer is coupled with fasting. The early church was fasting apparently to look for God's direction and it is in that circumstance that Paul and Barnabas received their apostleship for the first time. Before that they were numbered among the teachers and the prophets. This could also serve as directives to some of us who are longing for more of God's revelation of his specific will for our own lives. In the Old Testament we see people fasting for different reason. Queen Esther on the corridor of power in ancient Persian kingdom decided to fast for three days in order to save her people from genocide. Here is someone who understands political power but also knows the limits of that power, so she referred to fasting as the ultimate option. This also can also show that fasting for spiritual reason can be done by everyone, even by Beauty pageant.

Daniels who was also used to political power in ancient Babylonia, referred to mild fasting and prayers on behalf of his people. Here we have a tragic story. God has promised to set the Israelites free of bondage after 70 years of captivity according to the prophecy of Jeremiah. However the time of freedom were passing without any divine intervention. So Daniel had two options, either he could question the legitimacy of the prophecy of Jeremiah (which I guess I would have done, given my theological background that insist that if God says something He will just do it) or he could talk to God in a fasting mode about that, because something was terribly going wrong especially if a trusted prophet like Jeremiah gave a prophecy that was apparently starting to fail. In all these examples, fasting has been a turning point of people and nations destiny. People of old have understood the value of praying and Fasting. The Old Testament even has a whole chapter on fasting and its benefits (Isaiah 58).

There is one in particular that I love so much and I repeat it as often as I can when I fast: "you will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. 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". I find it an attractive blessing, one that give purpose to the one performing it" (Isaiah 58)

Derek Prince were fasting once a week for his whole life, Martin Luther the protestant reformer were fasting sometime more than once a week. Many stories of those who came before us and who impacted their generations, were people who not only understood the word of God but also were people committed to a life of prayer and fasting.

Have a nice weekend in Jesus' name.

3 commentaires:

  1. Amen! Thanks a lot Eric for this article. Inspiring and encouraging to commit to a life of prayer and fasting. God bless u!

  2. Thanks Eric for this insightful article about fasting. It is really a necessity in a Christian life as you said. If I could add something, it is only valuable when it is done correctly as it is written in Isaiah 58.
    Starting from the 1st verse of Isaiah 58, God was talking about how the fasting of Israelites in that time couldn't be recognized in the eyes of God because they did it wrong. I am afraid that even in this time there is such cases.

    Thanks once again for quoting Isaiah 58.
    I will just put here the verse 7 because it is accompanied with many precious promises that I wish anyone who fast could not miss.

    Isaiah 58:7 KJV
    Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?

    1. Thanks Bernard. Indeed, fasting must be done with the apropriate spiritual predisposition.