Prayer, Praise and Spiritual Warfare

Prayer and Fasting

The Principles, Purposes, and Power of Fasting. 

FASTING is 'voluntarily abstaining from food for spiritual purposes.' 

It's not dieting. Instead of eating extra time is given to prayer and the Word . Fasting reinforces prayer. The Old and New Testaments give it about the same emphasis, except the law required the Jews to fast one day in the year. This was to show that fasting is part of God's will for His people. Now we are free as to when we fast. It is a God-ordained and effective method for self-humbling. 'I humbled my soul with fasting.' (Psalm 35:13). Fasting is to change us not God. Fasting helps get us in position to hear, receive and move in God's answer and power.

 

JESUS' TEACHING deals with our motives in fasting. 

It mustn't be to impress people or God but to change ourselves so that God can flow through us. 

 

'When (not if) ye (plural) fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance, disfiguring their faces, to appear to men to fast. Verily I say: They have their reward. But you, when you (singular) fast, anoint your head, and wash your face; that you appear not to men to fast, but unto your Father who is in secret and He who sees in secret, shall reward you openly. Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven.' 

(How?- by prayers, giving and fasting: v1,5,16) (Matt 6:16-20)

 

We see (1) Jesus expects us to fast. 

We can't be 100% in God's will, without fasting. It is sometimes necessary to reinforce our prayers. There are times when fasting is necessary for us to find God's best. It's not an optional extra. 

Jesus said 'when you fast' (Matt 6:17) not 'if you fast.'

 

(2) There's a reward (blessing) released for us 

openly before men (in this life) as well as treasure laid in heaven for us when we do a true fast unto God.

 

'They said, 'Why do the disciples of John and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?' 

Jesus said, 'Can the friends (the disciples) of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom (Jesus) is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they can't fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them (the ascension) and then (the present time) they will fast in those days' (Mark 2:18-20)

 

True disciples of Jesus fast: 'Surely, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do (including FASTING) he will do also' (John 14:12)

 

JESUS EXAMPLE 

He sets the pattern for our life and ministry. 'Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, and was tempted 40 days by the devil and ate nothing, and then he was hungry ...Then he returned in the power of the Spirit' (Luke 4:1,2,14) 

 

Fasting was an essential part of getting complete victory over satan who tried to use the desires of his flesh to tempt him out of God's will. It helps bring our flesh into subjection so it doesn't control us. 

It was also a necessary preparation to enter his ministry. 

It helped to release the power of the Spirit to flow through His life. 

To move into fullness of ministry (especially healing) we need prayer and fasting to remove blockages in us.

 

WHAT FASTING ACHIEVES 

GOD REQUIRES US TO HUMBLE OURSELVES BEFORE HIM, 

and HE HAS REVEALED A SIMPLE PRACTICAL WAY TO DO THIS-FASTING. 

'I humbled myself with fasting' (Psa 35:13,69:10,109:24) 

'Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, 

and he who humbles himself will be exalted.' (Matt 23:12) 

When we humble ourselves before God we put ourselves in position for Him to move in our lives. (See Matt 16:24-27-it's a self-denial.)

 

Before the fall man had effortless communion with God. 

But since the fall, our flesh pulls us away from life in the Spirit. 

'The flesh SETS ITíS DESIRES against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so you don't do the things you wish.' (Galatians 5:17) 

The more we obey the flesh the more the door is closed on the flow of God's life. Now effort is needed to open the door for God to move (Rev 3:20; Romans 10:13) Prayer opens this door and fasting reinforces and boosts prayer, opening the door wider. It's not to impress God or twist His arm. 

It's a way to keep the flesh under so the spirit has more dominance, 

opening the channel through which God's power flows into our life, thus helping the manifestation of our prayers. If the flesh dominates us, what's in the spirit can't manifest in the natural, because unbelief blocks the way. We're so tuned into the natural that we've lost sight of spiritual realities. Fasting helps break the dominance of the flesh so that by faith we can see and possess what God has for us in the Spirit. 

 

Prayer and Fasting transfers us from the natural realm to the supernatural. 

Whatever you focus your attention on, and meditate on, is what will dominate you. ('What you see is what you get.') If our focus is on the flesh we see only the problem and get more of it, but when it's on the spirit we also see the solution which then flows into our life.

 

Once a man asked Jesus to deliver his epileptic son after the disciples had failed.(Mark 9, Matt 17) They had faith. They knew Jesus had given them power over demons.(Luke 10:19). The problem was revealed when the spirit manifested before them as it did later before Jesus: 'when they brought him to Him at once the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed foaming at the mouth.' (Mark 9:20) 

Unbelief is not just rejection of the Bible but comes in when we get dominated by sense-knowledge (what we see, hear, feel) This causes us to doubt God's Word. So when we don't see the answer at once but rather a manifestation of the opposite (as the disciples did) we immediately think: 'it didn't work.' If our meditation is too much in the natural realm, like the disciples, we get overwhelmed by evidence from our senses. We believe the Word but believe our senses more. This unbelief stops our faith working. The voice of the flesh has become stronger than the voice of the Spirit. 

 

Prayer builds the spirit so that it's voice is stronger. 

Fasting shuts down the flesh subduing it's voice. 

Fasting helps bring our senses into line so that we're not dominated by them. Our ability to receive from God and the influence we can exert in the spiritual realm depends on how much dominion we have over the desires of our body. We're not to deny what our senses tell us but to realise that what is seen is temporary (subject to change) and subject to what's unseen (God's Word and power-2Cor 4:18) We are trust the higher truth of God's word even when it is opposed bythe lesser truth of what we can see. Then the higher truth will supersede and overcome the lesser truth in our life.

 

Replacing eating of food by eating the Word (Matt 4:4). strengthens the influence of our spirit and weakens that of our flesh. Then when we see a problem or the work of satan, we're not overwhelmed by the sensory evidence and flooded with doubts of God's promise because the Word is strong in us. The Word is more real to us than what we see or feel. Yes, we see the problem but we see the solution, we see the Greater One and His power at work! We speak God's word to the mountain (the problem) and it moves (submits). But the disciples had neglected prayer and so when faced with the demon showing off it's power, what their eyes saw was more real to them than Jesus' word. This unbelief meant they couldn't get their faith to work properly against the demon. But Jesus was ready, he was not intimidated by the demonic manifestation and 'rebuked the demon; and it came out of him and he was cured from that hour' (Matthew 17:18)

 

The disciples then asked Jesus: 'Why couldn't we cast it out?'(v19) 

Jesus said: 'Because of your UNBELIEF' 

The problem wasn't a lack of faith for he went on to say: 

'Truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you'll say to this mountain (DEMON): `Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.'(v20) 

You only need faith as a small seed of God's word planted in your heart. 

That's enough, when you release it, to remove any demon or mountain. 

So the demon was not the problem. It wasn't because the demon was a big one requiring extra power to remove! 

 

Jesus clearly revealed the problem that blocked the answer: UNBELIEF. 

Faith and unbelief can exist together: 'Be not afraid, only believe.' (Mark 5:36) 'Whoever says to this mountain, `Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not (allow) doubt (to enter) into his heart, 

but believes that what he says will be done, he'll have whatever he says'(Mark 11:23). The father of the boy understood this and realised that unbelief was the problem when he said: 'Lord I believe, help (remove) my unbelief' (Mark 9:24) Unbelief is a wall that blocks the flow of God's power and the problem that had to be removed.

 

Jesus wouldn't reveal the problem without also giving the solution. 

So he said: 'But, this kind doesn't go out except by prayer and fasting' (v21) He didn't mean: 'this kind of demon'- as if for some kinds of demon, faith in the name of Jesus isn't enough! No, he didn't change the subject, which was the problem of UNBELIEF and how to remove it. 

 

He clearly meant: 'this kind of unbelief doesn't go out except by prayer and fasting.' The kind of unbelief that is willful rejection of the Word is only removed by repentance, but this other kind that we have described is only removed by prayer and fasting which moves us from being spiritually dull and hard (under the dominion of our senses) to being spiritually sensitive and alive.

 

So Jesus tells us a major key here: FASTING combined with PRAYER is God's appointed and effective method for removing the UNBELIEF that stops us hearing God and receiving from Him.

 

Add to this the fact that 'FAITH comes from hearing the WORD' (Romans 10:17) and we see that a Fast combined with the Word and Prayer 

will allow great blessings from heaven to be released in our life and ministry! 

 

Fasting isn't just giving up food but replacing it with prayer and the Word. It's eating spiritual food instead of physical food. It makes us more hungry for God.

 

When Jesus fasted he said: 

'Man shall not live by bread alone, 

but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.' 

Prayer and the Word feeds and builds our spirit, while fasting subdues the flesh, weakening it's power over us, which is also necessary: 

'I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.' (1Cor 9:27) 

If the flesh becomes dominant it pulls us out of God's will causing spiritual failure.

 

'Walk in the Spirit (PRAYER and THE WORD), and you'll not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh SETS IT'S DESIRES against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so you don't do the things you wish.' (Gal 5:16,17) 

 

THE FLESH opposes the Spirit. To submit to the Spirit, for Him to flow through us, we must bring flesh into subjection. Is our body our master or servant? It's a wonderful servant but a terrible master. Fasting helps to establish our spirit as master over our body. It's a fight for control-don't be surprised when your flesh objects! Expect resistance. The flesh hates it- you're bringing it into subjection! 

 

A lawyer in Washington fasted and his body gave him a hard time. 

So he said to it: 'Right I'll fast another day to show who's in charge' 

The same happened again so he fasted a 3rd day. Then his body got quiet! 

Your body will lie to you and tell you it’s starving.

 

You serve notice on your flesh: 'You don't control me. I'm not subject to you. You're my servant. You'll obey what the Spirit of God in me declares I have to do. You're not having your own way. You want this and that but today you're not having it. God comes 1st. Take your place and do what you're told.'

 

'To be flesh (self) minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace ...the fleshly mind is enmity against God: for it's not subject to the law of God.'(Rom 8:5,8) 

 

FASTING isn't to make God speak- He's already speaking. The problem is that as well as the voice of our spirit we also hear the voice of the flesh. If our mind is tuned to the flesh we unhook from the life flowing from the spirit. When our eyes are too much on the natural we don't see spiritual realities and our faith is unable to operate properly. God's life must flow through our soul (mind) but when it's set on the flesh the channel is blocked (unbelief). By prayer and fasting we position ourselves to hear God. Prayer sensitises us to the spirit, making it's voice stronger. Fasting on the other hand helps bring the flesh under control thus shutting down it's voice. So instead of the voice of our spirit being drowned out, we begin to hear God's voice more easily. Fasting doesn't move or change God. It changes us. It removes our unbelief - which builds when we are overly occupied with the natural realm, and our needs and desires. 

 

God isn't withholding (Eph 3:20) but our flesh isn't dealt with to the point we can receive -unbelief makes us double-minded (James 1:5-7). Fasting weakens the power of the flesh (the dominion of our senses) so that our faith operates unhindered. It also removes our blindness so that our sin is revealed to us, which is blocking the flow of God's blessing. It helps us to avail ourselves of Godís power to turn and repent, bringing our life (our thoughts) into line so God's blessing can flow more freely. Thus it helps the release of God's power into our lives and opens us up as a channel of life to others by intercession.

 

In the Healing revival of 1948-57 many came into a Healing ministry this way. Franklin Hall wrote a key book: 'The Atomic Power of Prayer and Fasting.' He called Fasting: 'Supercharged Prayer'. He said the flesh had 3 primary needs or desires (food, sex and status) and of these the need for food is dominant. These natural desires are valid but they can easily become too strong (inordinate desires = lusts) and dominate us. Thus fasting is the way to assert control on the flesh where it counts. How do you get your flesh under-how can you get it by the scruff of the neck? (like you might control a DOG). What is it's most basic, deepest controlling need? FOOD! 

Thus when you fast food you're getting at root of the flesh's power and you re-establish control.

 

The Bible defines the 3 levels of desire of the flesh 

when it warns us not to put our focus on this world and thus come under the power of it through lust. 

'Do not love the world or the things in the world. 

If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 

For all that is in the world- 

(1) the LUST OF THE FLESH, 

(2) the LUST OF THE EYES, and 

(3) the PRIDE OF LIFE 

-is not of the Father.' (1John 2:15-16)

 

(1) THE LUST of the FLESH is the most basic and strongest. It is the need of the body for food. It includes the desire for stimulation and pleasure from taking substances into our body. 

(2) THE LUST OF THE EYES 

is the desire for mental stimulation and pleasure that we receive from the things of the world. This is received through our senses-primarily the eyes. 

It is the desire for what is taken into the eyes. It includes the desire to see, thus to possess things you can see. 

(3) THE PRIDE OF LIFE is the need and desire of the ego for approval, applause, status, power, control, to be the most important, to be top, admired and appreciated. (Sex involves all 3 areas) 

 

(A dog is a good picture of the flesh. His basic needs are (1) Food (2) Walks -lust of the nose! (3) Approval.)

 

These are all valid needs but unchecked they can control your life and close the door on your spiritual life. Backsliders get overwhelmed by selfish desires for pleasures, money, things etc and lose sight of God. Pursuing their lusts leave them no time for God. Their spirit gets submerged under the cares and pleasure of life. Soon they can't even find time to worship God once a week and you can't tell them apart from unbelievers. 

 

There's a progression from the lower to the higher needs. When (1) is satisfied people focus more on (2) and when (2) is satisfied they focus on (3) (But true satisfaction can only be found in the love of God not in the things of the world)

 

In fasting we overcome the flesh and break it's power over us by denying (saying 'no' to) it at it's primary level of need- the lust of the flesh. 

As you gain more control of the flesh as it's power is weakened by fasting 

and as your spiritual life gets stronger, you'll be able to overcome other addictions that have a control. As the power of the flesh weakens you'll see areas where 'lust of eyes' and 'pride of life' have asserted too much control over your motives and you'll be able to deal with them. 

So fasting aids repentance.

 

Jesus was tempted in all 3 of these areas.(as was Adam and Eve -Gen3:6) Knowing he was at a turning point and going to be attacked he prepared himself by fasting food, thus shutting down his flesh and filling himself with spiritual strength by meditating on God's Word (especially Deuteronomy which is God's word to those facing a test before entering into a new phase of God's will). Satan tried to entice him to disobey God by appealing to the valid needs of his flesh. The test was would he put his own needs or God's will first?

 

1st Temptation 

'The devil said, 'If You're the Son of God, command this stone to be bread' (lust of the flesh) He tried to get him to focus on his physical needs and put them above God's will. 

'Jesus answered, 'It's written, `Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God' (Luke 4:3,4). 

Thus Jesus established the Word of God came before food in his life. 

Fasting establishes this principle by replacing food by the Word. 

Thus extra meditation of the Word is a vital part of a fast.

 

2nd Temptation 

When tempted by the lust of the eyes, as all the glory and possessions of the world were passed before his eyes and offered to him.(v5-7) 

Jesus said: 'it's written, worship the LORD your God, and Him only serve.'(v8). Jesus established that being close to God, seeing and loving Him is more important than seeing or possessing anything this world has to offer. He strengthened himself in this principle by fasting alone in the wilderness, replacing the normal visual and mental stimulation of natural life with focusing his eyes on the Lord and worshipping Him even more than usual. Thus on a fast we're to WORSHIP (look at) God more instead of looking at other things and in so doing we get dominance over the lust of the eyes.

 

3rd Temptation 

In v9-12 satan attacked Jesus with 'the pride of life' trying to get him to attract attention to himself and make himself popular by doing his own thing expecting God to back him. But Jesus resisted and established the principle that he would not assert his will above God's. In his fast he had dedicated himself to seek and submit to God's will. By this again he sets an example for our fasting, that it is a time for us to humble ourselves (our will, plans, thoughts, future) before God and pray that his will be done. Jesus' example shows us that fasting is important at the crisis times of our lives when big decisions are to be made. Strong pressures from the flesh and satan may come to pull us in the wrong direction so we must know the will of God and be strengthened to do it. Fasting with extra emphasis on the Word, Worship and Dedication Prayer helps position us to know God's will and establish us in it.

 

Fasting helps brings our life into balance. 

There's a balance between the natural and the spiritual. We live in both worlds, but most live (focus) too much on the natural side. Prayer and fasting restores the balance. Sometimes we need to move over further to the spiritual side (for critical decisions, or for anointing for ministry). An 80 day fast will completely deliver you from the flesh! We often feed the flesh and more you give it the more it wants. Shutting down the flesh to feed and give more freedom and attention to your spirit is good.

 

PURPOSES OF FASTING: 

(1) It aids Repentance (Jonah 3; James 4:6-10). 

The Day of Atonement was a day to humble, deny, afflict the soul. (Lev 19:29-31). It was called The FAST (Acts 27:9).  Fasting helps us humble ourselves before God by humbling our flesh, denying our natural desires and instead focusing on God's will. This helps us repent, remove unbelief, and break controlling habits.

 

(2) It aids Guidance (Acts 13:1-4). Fasting moves you out of selfishness to be open to God. It shuts down the flesh so we can hear God and move our life into line with God's will. It helps us to fully turn to the Lord for help. It's a way of renouncing any trust we have in our flesh (our wisdom, strength or ability) getting our eyes off ourselves and fully onto God, so that we trust Him alone for guidance and help. 

 

'Jehoshaphat set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast.. to seek the LORD.. 'O God, we've no power against this great multitude coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.' (2Chron 20:2-4,12) 

The result was supernatural guidance and victory over their enemies. 

Fasting is to aid us to turn to God for supernatural help - to renounce dependence on the natural to invoke the supernatural.

 

(3) It aids Intercession 

'If My people called by My name, will humble themselves (FAST), 

and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways (repent), then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin and heal their land.' (2Chr 7:14). 

If we humble ourselves by fasting and call on him in intercession, 

God's power will be released for others in the land. It brings divine intervention forth on behalf of God's people and changes the course of nations.

 

As we seek God in fasting and prayer expect Him to reveal wrong attitudes and areas of compromise. As we turn from these 'wicked ways' He forgives us and His power is released into our lives and into our land. We can be instruments for God's Spirit to be poured out in revival in our town.

 

Before the outpouring of the rain of the Holy Spirit in revival (Joel 2:23, 28,29) God calls His people to fast: 'Now, says the LORD, turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping and mourning and rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn to the LORD your God: 

for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness ...Blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly' (Joel 2:12-15). 

Prayer and Fasting is the prelude to the release of the Holy Spirit, the rain of God !

 

The Bible records many great answers to prayer when it was reinforced with fasting. 

Supernatural Protection (Ezra 8:21-23) 

Deliverance in crisis (Esther 4:15-17,5:1-3) 

Rain and restoration (Joel 1:13,14; 2:12,15-17,23-29) 

Early Church Fasting (1Cor 7:4,5; 2Cor 6:4-6; 11:24; Acts 27:21-25,10:30; 14:23) 

O.T. Fasting (1Sam 31:13, Neh 1:4, Dan 9:2-4, Josh 7:6, Jud 20:26, 1Sam 7:6, 2Sam 12:16, Ex 34:28, 1Kings 19:7)

 

(4) Fasting releases life and blessing (Isaiah 58:6-14)

 

THE BLESSINGS OF TRUE FASTING (Isaiah 58) 

It releases God's delivering power and anointing: 

'Is this not the FAST I have chosen to loose the bonds of wickedness, undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.'(v6-8)

 

It reinforces prayer-helping the manifestation of the answer. 

'Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, `Here I am.' (v9)

 

But it is not to be just a religious act- it must be part of a general self-denial, of putting the flesh under, so that the spirit may dominate more: 

'If you take away the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul' (v9,10)

 

God's blessing and light and wisdom will dawn on you: 

'Then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday. The LORD will guide you continually, 

and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; 

You shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.. you shall build the old waste places... 

If you turn away your foot from doing your pleasure on My holy day (the Sabbath), and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honourable, and honour Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words, Then you shall delight yourself in the LORD; And I will cause you to ride on the high hills of the earth, and feed you with the heritage of Jacob. 

The mouth of the LORD has spoken'(v11,14)

 

Prayer and Fasting Promises

 

IF YOU SEEK GOD YOU WILL FIND HIM 

'Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary and His understanding no-one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who wait on the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they'll run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Be silent before Me. Let the nations renew their strength!' (Is 40:28-41:1)

 

'I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 

'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you hope and a future. You will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,' declares the LORD, 

'and will bring you back from captivity.' (Jer 29:11-13)

 

'The Lord is rich to all who call upon Him.' For: 'whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.' (Romans 10:11-13)

 

YOUR PRAYERS RELEASE GOD'S HAND TO WORK 

'The fervent prayer of a righteous man makes much power available.' (James 5:16)

 

IF WE ARE UNITED IN PRAYER WE CAN BRING GOD'S POWER TO OUR CITY (Acts 4:24-33). 'They raised their voice to God in one accord and said: '...grant us all boldness to speak Your Word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, that signs and wonders may be done by the name of Jesus.' When they prayed, the place was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.' (v24,29-31). 

As we unite in prayer and faith we will see the blessing of God breakthrough in our lives and in the church. God has planned great things for us. Let's get into position to hear God and move in His timing!

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