Over the last few days, there have been a number of status updates and comments on FB, on the subject of prolonged fasting as recently prescribed by the largest Pentecostal believer’s assembly in the world… There have been scornful, disparaging, encouraging, offensive and defensive comments… I have kept my thoughts to myself and will continue to do so, but as a result of a question posed to me by not one, but two of my heart sisters, I decided to share what I believe the Lord has taught me from His Word about prayer and fasting… This is by no means an exegetical exposition, it is just I, sharing what I have learned, based on the backbone of scripture.
First and foremost when we examine scriptures about fasting it is almost always borne out of an INTENSE desire for change… usually positive :-), and it is always borne out of a desire to know what the will of The Lord is.
There are instances of prescribed fasts in the bible:
Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the Lord your God, and cry unto the Lord.
In this instance a whole nation was called to fast to avert a disastrous dealing from The Lord, so that settles for me, the question – Is it scriptural to call for a corporate fast? And the answer is yes, but where the disconnect comes in for most people, I think, arises from questions which I will hopefully be able to shed some light on, through the writing of this article.
I came to understand a lot about why fasting and praying are an essential part of Christian discipline, through the Holy Spirit shedding some light on this topic. Note that I said prayer and fasting – The two must go hand in hand in this context, and it is so for a reason.
Let us examine the oft-quoted scripture regarding prayer and fasting. It is from Matthew 17:15-20.
15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.”
17 Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the child was cured from that very hour.
19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”
20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief;for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
For us to understand the message Jesus was trying to pass across we will have to examine these scriptures in context – This is the setting:
· An epileptic boy was brought to the disciples so that he could be healed.
· The disciples were unable to heal him
· Jesus called the generation faithless and perverse
Without religious faith.
Unbelieving, non believing, disbelieving, agnostic.
Showing a deliberate and obstinate desire to behave in a way that is unreasonable or unacceptable, often in spite of the consequences
Awkward, contrary, difficult, unreasonable,uncooperative, unhelpful, obstructive, disobliging, recalcitrant, stubborn,obstinate, obdurate, mulish, pigheaded, bullheaded.
· Jesus rebuked the demon and healed the child
· The disciples inquired as to why they could not cast the demon out.
· He gave them the answer.
So what was ‘this kind’ and why would did not go out but by prayer and fasting?
The answer I got, was that ‘this kind’ referred to the kind of demon, or issue they were dealing with.
So what kind of demon was this? It was an epileptic demon, causing a type of seizure known as a Grand mal seizure…
How do I know this?
Matt 17:15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.
Interestingly the meaning of grand mal in the English language is – Enormously evil malady. So the sight this boy must have presented what would have been a hugely horrendous one.
Allow me to describe a grand mal seizure:
Tonic–clonic seizures (formerly known as grand mal seizures) are a type of generalized seizure that affects the entire brain. Tonic–clonic seizures are the seizure type most commonly associated with epilepsy and seizures in general.
The person will quickly lose consciousness, and the muscles will suddenly tense, often causing the extremities to be pulled towards the body or rigidly pushed away from it, which will cause the person to fall if standing or sitting. The tonic phase is usually the shortest part of the seizure, usually lasting only a few seconds. The person may also express brief vocalizations like a loud moan or scream during the tonic stage, due to air forcefully expelled from the lungs.
The person’s muscles will start to contract and relax rapidly, causing convulsions. These may range from exaggerated twitches of the limbs to violent shaking or vibration of the stiffened extremities. The person may roll and stretch as the seizure spreads. The eyes typically roll back or close, and the tongue often suffers bruising or lacerations sustained by strong jaw contractions. In addition, the sufferer also would defecate, urinate and sometimes vomit on himself.
Due to physical and nervous exhaustion that invariably follows a tonic–clonic seizure, confusion and complete amnesia upon regaining consciousness is usually experienced and slowly wears off as the person becomes gradually aware that a seizure occurred.
Now imagine that you were one of the disciples, and you were faced with this picture – What would your first reaction be? I know what mine would have been…
Their human mind would have immediately taken over and said “How is it possible that this boy can be healed?” which would have led to unbelief; Their flesh also intensely repelled by the gruesome sight, could have led to a mulish refusal to identify or become fearful of being too closely involved… Natural reactions, yes, but ones that would have effectively crowded out the voice of the Spirit, thus preventing the expression of Spirit to spirit conquering activity.
What we see and hear usually finds expression through how we feel and what we say, so in this situation, hearing the boy’s screams and the ravages of the seizure, could have found expression in the horror and unbelief that they would have felt, and may have ultimately affected WHAT they SAID in prayer… Their prayers could not have come from a place of faith.
There had to be a way for the Spirit to gain preeminence! There was and there is…. Prayer and fasting!
So why Prayer?
Prayer is an invocation or act that seeks to activate a rapport with a deity, an object of worship, or a spiritual entity through deliberate communication.
For the Christian, whose intercourse with God is based on His Word, Prayer provides a platform on which human ideals and ideas can be filtered through The Word, to Bring FAITH rather than unbelief; For prayer does not change God’s mind, but ours!
And why Fasting?
Fasting deprives the flesh of sustenance to the point of stifling or subduing its NATURAL response to physical stimuli – So that, in this case, the very natural response of revulsion would have been intensely subdued.
Man is a triune being – Spirit, soul and body. Each part seeks to express itself, but the soul and the body are the parts that identify the most with the physical world, and unless the soul and body are subdued through prayer and fasting, our connection to the spirit world is tenuous, at best. BUT with the Mind renewed and transformed through prayer and the flesh subdued through fasting; The human spirit can now understand what the Spirit is saying so that it now acts like Jesus did, to effect change after discerning the root of the problem.
So my conclusion is this: Prayer and Fasting help us subdue faithlessness and perversity so that with our spirit gaining preeminence, we can hear what the Spirit is saying and effectively win our battles.
To fast and pray without knowledge is nothing but a hunger strike, But prayer and fasting with knowledge gives such an entrance into the Kingdom as to effect change for posterity, by the filtering of what is seen and heard through the Revealed Word of God, without the interruption of fleshly impulses, that the Spirit and, therefore, the Will of God may prevail – In this instance, to effect healing and deliverance of the boy from the clutches of demonic oppression.
So whatever your ‘Grand mal’ situation may be, praying and fasting is what will help you diagnose what the ‘This Kind’ is and how you can overcome it… and that my friend is why it is good to pray and fast.
FASTING DOES NOT MOVE GOD, IT HELPS US TO SEE GOD, PRAYING DOES NOT CHANGE GOD’S MIND IT HELPS US CHANGE OURS… Selah.
Again this is just from my point of view… Shalom!
*Excerpts and definitions from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
PS Another dimension is added on by Isaiah chapter 58. Another topic for another day…
Other scriptures for consideration:
But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting;and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.
My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of fatness.
And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting,and sackcloth, and ashes:
And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
And Cornelius said,Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,
And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.
1 Corinthians 7:5
Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.