Friday, September 26, 2008

Prayer and Fasting

Matthew 17: 21 “However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
Is fasting required or recommended?
Matt 6: 16-18 "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Christians are expected to fast! Jesus did not command fasting, he expects it. The Apostles never commanded fasting, but they practiced it. (Matt 4:2; Acts 13:2-3).
Why should we fast?
 To Seek Deliverance.
 King Jehoshaphat prayed and fasted for God to deliver him from opposing armies (II Chronicles 20:3-4)
 Esther prayed, fasted and asked others to fast on her behalf.
 To Express Repentance and remove the wrath of God (I Sam 7:6).
 Nineveh’s fasting for repentance -- Jonah 3:5-8.
 Saul fasted after his experience on the road to Damascus – Acts 9:9.
 There are instances when national fasting is commanded of a nation to bring about repentance -- II Chronicles 20:3; Nehemiah 9:1; Esther 4:16; Jonah 3:5-8.
 To overcome Temptation.
 Jesus’ fasting did not weaken him, but strengthened him to stand ground against the Devil’s temptations (Matthew 4:1-11).
 Matthew 17:20, Jesus said about those that couldn’t drive out the demons that some could only come out with prayer and fasting.
 Discerning God’s Will.
 Fasting and prayer are often linked together (Luke 2:37; 5:33).
 Fasting doesn’t change God’s hearing as much as it changes our praying.
 Barnabas and Saul were commissioned for a special work from God as they were worshipping and fasting – Acts 13:1-3.
 Paul and Barnabas prayed and fasted for God’s guidance with the appointment of elders (Acts 14:23).
 Jesus prayed all night before selecting the twelve disciples.
 Daniel fasted 21 days for God’s guidance in understanding.
 Fasting makes us more receptive to the one who guides us.
How often should we fast?
 Fasting, like praying and giving, is a legitimate spiritual discipline to be practiced in private between a Christian and the Lord. How often we practice it is not prescribed, because that too is between the believer and Christ. When we desire to seek God’s face more than we want dinner, that will be the proper time to fast.
 “It is sobering to realize that the very first statement Jesus made about fasting dealt with the question of motive. “ Matt 6: 16-18 “"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.”
 Fasting must forever center on God. How often you fast depends on whom you want to impress. If your fast is for your spiritual benefit and God’s glory, no one else needs to Applaud your commitment.
When should we fast?
 Whenever any matter of difficulty and great importance is under consideration.
 The sacred custom of all ages has been for pastors to exhort the people to public fasting and extraordinary prayer when manifestations of the divine anger appear, as pestilence, war, and famine, etc.
 Prophetess Anna worshiped with fasting and prayer night and day:
 Luke 2:36-37 “There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.”
 Fasting should be limited to a set time, especially when the fasting is from food. Extended periods of time without eating are harmful to the body. Fasting is not intended to punish our flesh, but to focus on God.
 Anyone can fast. Some may not be able to fast from food (diabetics, for example), but everyone can temporarily give up something in order to focus on God.
How should we fast?
 Set the purpose of the fast.
 Determine the length of time.
 Determine the activities from which you are restricting yourself.
 Married person should seek agreement with spouse to fast.
 Begin with short term fast (e.g. no food and only water x one day).
 (one meal at noon x 3 days).
 (No lunch x 7 days).
 (No food and no water x one day).
Focus on Jesus through meditation, prayers and His Word.
Scripture References to Fasting:
 Acts 14:23 “When they had appointed elders for them in the various churches, with prayer and fasting they entrusted them to the protection of the Lord in whom they had believed.
 2 Sam 12:23 “But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Am I able to bring him back? I will go to him, but he cannot return to me!’”
 2 Chr 20:3 “Jehoshaphat was afraid, so he decided to seek the Lord’s advice. He decreed that all Judah should observe a fast.
 Esra 8:21 “ I called for a fast there by the Ahava Canal, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and seek from him a safe journey for us, our children, and all our property.”
Prayer and Fasting - What Does it Accomplish?
• John 5:14-15 "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him."
• In the prophet Isaiah's time, the people grumbled that they had fasted, yet God did not answer in the way they wanted (Isaiah 58:3-4). Isaiah responded by proclaiming that the external show of fasting and prayer, without the proper heart attitude, was futile (Isaiah 58:5-9).
How can you know if you are praying and fasting according to God's will?
 Are you praying and fasting for things that honor and glorify God?
 Does the Bible clearly reveal that it is God's will for you?
 If we are asking for something that is not honoring to God or not God's will for our lives, God will not give what we ask for, whether we fast or not.
 God promises to give us wisdom when we ask.
James 1:5 tells us, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him."
Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?

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