Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered.
Fasting and Praying
I don't pretend to know everything about fasting and praying, but I will share with you what I do know. I learned something that has impacted me about fasting and praying and wanted to share it with you. Again, these are insights and things the Lord has put on my heart for me, if they apply to you, then that's great, if not, then that's okay too... but don't throw the baby out with the bath water if you read something you don't agree with. Remember, I am also flesh and blood and still learning and growing, like you, in the things of the Lord.
What I found in scripture is quite different than what I hear being taught behind the pulpit. As you go on this "study" with me, ask the Lord to help you see what He sees so you can make better choices for your own life concerning fasting and praying.
I thought I would start with Jesus - I think that is a good place to start. He fasted one time, found in Matthew 4:1 says: Then Jesus was led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward hungry."
I don't see in this passage where Jesus fasted and "prayed" for something specific. I have a problem with pastors asking people to pray for "something" they need. I don't believe fasting is for that reason.
My husband told me something that actually gave the simplistic reason for fasting -as in the case with Jesus. He said, "You know why Jesus fasted? Because He was preparing for His return home." My husband hit it on the head. Fasting is when we put aside something (including food but not limited to) that consumes us and distracts us from God so our whole focus is on Him. It's to help us develop our dependence on Him and nothing else, it's a time to reflect on the Word and what it says personally, it's time to hear from God, it's time to enjoy His sweet fellowship. I don't see where we are to ask for things during the fasting time. Instead of asking we are to be thankful for what we have and the strength to go on. If anything is asked, it should be for more of Him in our lives.
What I saw according to Jesus' experience, was that He fasted 40 days and 40 nights in preparation of the three temptations. It was His time to get closer to the Lord, strengthened, and given power to overcome the tempter. According to how He handled the devil, it looks like He was also meditating on the "Word" because that's what He used to defeat the enemy. Because remember, Jesus was also a man. He was God, and sinless, but He still had the flesh to contend with.
As a believer when we need something, we are to ask. There are no deals to be made with God. Sometimes people think if they fast and ask it will come faster. But I don't see that in scripture. I see that we can ask anything in His name, and we shall receive it. Now I'm not talking about personal growth things here, I'm talking about things like buying a car, which school to go to, selling something, direction for ministry, etc., Those things are our given right to ask God when the needs come up. Fasting for these may not necessarily move God's hand. That is why so many people seem to get discouraged because it's almost a way of trying to manipulate God into doing something. Well, that's the way I see it, and I have to say that we are setting ourselves up for disappointment with that motive.
I also noticed that Jesus fasted but it didn't say fasted and prayed. I think we can assume He did that, but it doesn't say it here. Perhaps because we need to understand what praying is. I heard a great message on what prayer was, and it's like this: Praying is talking with God and making requests, asking, etc. It's not communicating with God because communication involves back and forth and God doesn't pray to us. So perhaps that is why Jesus didn't "pray" because He knew what that word meant. We know He fellow shipped with His Father in heaven what else would he be doing for 40 days? Pure speculation but I think He was in constant fellowship with His Father in Heaven in preparation for the temptations of this earth and for His journey back home. Reminds me of David who spent years with sheep... did he talk to the sheep? No, he wrote songs and fellow shipped with God which prepared Him for being king!
When you fast, what you are praying about? Are you wanting a better job? Are you needing to be healed? Now there is a scripture that says "These things (devils) don't come out except by fasting and prayer. This is an exception to the rule because they aren't talking about getting anything for ones self, it's talking about helping others be free.
There are more than one kinds of fast, and the one mentioned above is found in Isaiah 58:6-7 "Is not this the fast that I have chosen, to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? When you see the naked, you cover him, and that you don't hide yourself from your own family members (flesh)?
But if you read vs. 3-4 you will see how the people were fasting, and it appears we still do it today. "Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul; and thou takest no knowledge? Behold in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labors, behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness, ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice heard on high. Is it such a fast that I have chosen? for a man to afflict his soul? To bow down his head as a bulrush and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast and an acceptable day to the Lord?"
It appears that the people wanted recognition of their fast. They fasted for things that aren't part of what God calls a fast and because of that their voice will not be heard on high. In other words, if we don't fast with a correct heart motive, our prayers won't be answered. Simple as that.
Again, there are two different fasts: One that talks about food, and the other one to minister to people.
If you think about it, the disciples didn't fast because Jesus was still with them (Matthew 9:14-15). That is very clear. But it does say that when Jesus leaves to be with the Father, they will fast. So fasting is clearly about our relationship with Jesus and our Heavenly Father. So if you want to cast out an evil spirit from someone and it doesn't leave, perhaps you need to see if you have been "fasting" as it states in Isaiah 58. Casting out spirits may not have anything to do with food or fasting food, it has to do with what kind of a relationship do you have with your Heavenly Father and with others at that time? Jesus cast out the spirit when the disciples couldn't. Why? Because Jesus was continually in a "fasting" mode of loving people and setting them free, just as Isaiah 58:6-7 says.
This is just my take on it, you can continue studying this for yourself or ignore it, but I did have to share my heart on this subject. I found that once I have learned this, I actually had a sense of freedom in my heart. The burden was no longer there to get God to do this or that, fasting is a pleasure to have opportunity to fellowship closely with God, and prayer is a time of petition. We can do both together if the motive is not for selfish reasons of gain. Remember, it is your God given right as a believer to ask for whatever you need and He will give it.
Let me give you my personal testimonial on this. I realized that I had been consumed by TV for many years. I had 5 TVs in our home at one time, and one giant screen in the living room. One day as I was "vegging" in front of the TV. And by the way, that's exactly what it is, it's a way of escaping from your life. Ever tried to talk to someone who was so consumed by a TV program? You cannot get them to listen, because they are "consumed" with the programming. I remember when my husband would walk into the room and I was involved in a movie I didn't even know he entered the room.
So for me TV was something that came between not only God, but with my family. But it did comfort me, it helped me escape my current life, a way to make the day go by faster, I even made believe that those people on TV were my friends and we were visiting with each other when I'd watch. But the truth was, it was still a lie and deception, I was trying to get the comfort from TV instead of from what was real. So I had enough of this, I knew it was damaging my mind and I had to do something about it.
I decided to fast TV. Recently I shared that with someone and they said you don't fast TV, fasting is only about food. But I didn't get offended because I knew in my heart that fasting was giving up something that consumed me... and at this time it was TV. So I fasted 5 days, and it was hard because I had a ritual for watching TV. It was like breaking a habit or something, I had withdrawals!! It was like I was getting off drugs or something - it was amazing how much hold it had on me. And during that fast I didn't ask for anything, I just fasted and waited on God. And to my surprise, He Spoke! Wow, it was awesome. I finally had to think - because when you watch TV or do something that consumes you, you don't have to think! You aren't left alone with your thoughts, but during this time when I didn't watch TV I was left alone with my thoughts.
During this time I was delivered from so many issues, things I never even saw before. My heart was changing, my mind was being renewed, it was awesome to grow into a deeper relationship with God because I wasn't distracted from hearing Him!
I believe the reason we focus on food for the fasting part is because it's something that satisfies and fills us up by saying "man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God." So food seems to be implicated but I believe - again, this is what I believe - it's also meaning anything that we put our confidence in BESIDES God. I believe fasting is to show our love to Him indicating that He is all we need. Fasting is a way to separate ourselves from the thing that comes between us and God or acts as our comforter instead of the Holy Spirit. It's anything that we think we need to be fulfilled for our happiness. And as we give up that "thing" for a time of fasting it also helps us break habits. We are creatures of habit and it's good to stir things up in that area so that nothing controls us. When we are habitually doing something, after a long period of time it becomes a habit and a need when we are to be habitually filled with God and God alone. Paul taught us not to be controlled by anything...
One of the major things that happened in this fast was that I was left alone with my thoughts. (If I just gave up food, these revelations would never have come). And I didn't like what was in there, so for that whole week God and I were doing some house cleaning and OHHHH... it hurt so good. I saw things there that I didn't want to see, but once I did, I didn't fall under guilt or condemnation, I was glad so that I could be purged. TV let me escape from myself for a moment but there is no escaping the truth, it's still there waiting for you. Through these past days I felt that I was kicked up a notch, but the truth was, I was kicked down a notch - in other words, my soapbox was being kicked out from under me. During this time I had a major breakthrough about the need to be needed. The Lord revealed to me that this was rooted in pride. Yikes! having the soapbox removed was pride being removed. As a teacher it's easy to fall into this area of being needed by others, but if we don't have discernment, it can back fire and we can turn out to be the ones in need! So we need discernment in this area to keep from having pride set in. And that's what happened to me, and I didn't even know it was there.
The indicators came when I was "embarrassed" about something that happened to me. I wondered who saw it, I wondered what they were thinking? I was also feeling rejection - which was interesting because I had been freed from rejection - but this was something different - it was attached to pride! "How dare they reject me!" kind of pride. "Don't they know who I am?" "Don't you know you need me?" blah blah blah.... How yucky is that! These were things that I had been thinking that laid way back in my thoughts, nothing I would say out loud (except now because I'm sharing this story) but things I would think from time to time.
Pride is at the root of striving for acceptance and approval! And that's what happens to someone who needs to be needed.
If there are needs in our lives when we do fast, God already knows what they are (Matthew 6:8). We ask when the needs arise. (Matthew 7:7,11) This is our God given right as a believer to ask Him. Also remember, when asking, when we believe what we ask, we shall receive. Also, a reminder to ask God directly through Jesus' Christ.
Take a walk through the scriptures as it relates to asking and study for yourself if fasting is part of that.
John 15:7 (key to your receiving what you ask)
1 John 3:22 (another key to receiving what you ask for - we receive when we obey)
1 John 5:14-15
Back to fasting, we can fast food, but do it with a right motive and unto the Lord not unto yourself - if you get my drift.
Don't take my word on this, so let's look at what the Bible says:
Judges 20:26 - "Then all the children of Israel, and all the people when up and came to the house of God and wept (because they saw that their sin was great) and sat before the LORD, and fasted that day until the evening, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord."
- I believe this scripture shows 2 things: Fasting was a way of exposing sin in our lives because as we fast it causes us to get closer to God and as we get closer to God more sin is revealed, and 2) a way of makings offerings to God, not asking for something.
1 Samuel 7:6 - indicates that fasting helped them see that they sinned against the Lord.
2 Samuel 1:12 - And they mourned and wept, and fasted until even, for Saul, and for Jonathan his son, and for the people of the Lord, and for the house of Israel, because they were fallen by the sword."
This is the kind of fast talked about in Isaiah 58 - it deals with peoples lives. So if you are fasting for loved ones, for their salvation or healing, etc., that is good. It's when we ask for "things" to consume upon our own lives... again, what is the motive of your prayer during fasting?
2 Samuel 12:22 - talks about David fasting because of his son that was dying. Again, a correct fasting prayer.
Nehemiah 1:3-7 - Nehemiah fasted and prayed for the people because they were in captivity.
Acts 13:2 - As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, "Separate me, Barnabus and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." During the time of fasting, they ministered to the Lord. How do you do that? By ministering to others - again Isaiah 58 fasting - to help those in bondage and when we do that, during that fast we may get direction for our lives as with this scripture. But that was NOT their motive, their motive was to serve the Lord then God gave them clear direction.
Joel 2:12 sums it up: Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart and with fasting and with weeping and with mourning; and rend your heart and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness and repenteth him of the evil. (I looked this up in the Amplified Bible and it actually talks about restoring relationships!)
You can continue to do a study on fasting and praying as well and I believe you will find that:
- Fasting can be 1) food (Matthew 15:32); 2) something else consuming (1 Corinthians 7:5) If you believe it's always food, cool, if you agree with me that it's not always food, cool too, but it's not about that, it's about your heart condition WHILE fasting.
- Our prayers during that fast should be to 1) To get closer to God; 2) Pray for people's lives - relationships.
- What we do while fasting - serve God. (Luke 2:37)
What is the outcome - 1) Exposes sin for repentance for restoration and healing; 2)To prepare us for this life, and so we aren't tempted by Satan (1 Corinthians 7:5). Along with Jesus' experience of fasting - He too was being prepared to overcome temptation; 3) change lives and seeing the goodness of God.
"Father, thank you for your Word of truth. We can believe all we want but we need to line things up with scripture. Whether we fast food or whether we fast by ministering to others, both are correct. Thank you for showing us this truth so we aren't caught up in some man's laws and rules. I ask for your love and mercy to flood this person's life and give them peace. Let them know to fast whatever they believe has come between you and them. Let them know that these are idols that have to go and we can break all habits by taking the time to fast them. I ask you to give them revelation during their times of fasting, that will change them for ever. Thank you for what you are doing in us and through us, in Jesus name, Amen."
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