Prayer & Fasting
Part 2 - Pastor Gerald

AN OUTDATED ODDITY?

I became a born again believer in October of 1966. Brenda and I were in Sunday School, Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday Prayer and Bible study week by week. For the next three years before moving to attend Asbury College and Kentucky Mountain Bible College I heard hundreds of sermons, sat through hundreds of adult Bible lessons, and participated in dozens of programs at my church. Throughout all of those years saturated in "church," I do not remember my pastor ever preaching a message or Bible study on fasting. I do not ever remember a single Bible lesson on fasting. I don't ever remember our church being called to a time of prayer and fasting as we sought God on some important decision. By default, I grew up thinking that fasting was something they did in the Old Testament that was sort of like animal sacrifices. They did that in the Old Testament as they worshiped and served God, but as New Testament believers we just didn't do it anymore. And I was fine with that. The idea of going extended periods of time without eating didn't sound like my idea of fun.

FASTING IS AN ASSUMED NEW TESTAMENT PRACTICE!

But, then I read Matthew 6:16-18 (NKJV) “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
This passage comes right in the middle of Jesus' teaching on prayer and giving. In His sermon, Jesus uses phrases like: "When you give" (v. 2), "When you pray" (v. 5), and "When you fast" (v. 16). Jesus assumes that his audience will give, that they will pray, and that they will fast. In that context it would seem that fasting is not an option or an oddity that was practiced in the Old Testament only. Fasting, according to Jesus, is a given. In fact, as I studied I discovered that fasting is mentioned more times in the Bible than baptism!

THERE IS A DANGER IN THE DISCIPLINE OF FASTING

But there is an inherent danger in fasting. It is the same danger that is found in the practice of any spiritual discipline. We can turn fasting into an end unto itself, rather than a means to an end. It can become merely an external practice without an internal passion. It can be reduced to a habit without heart. We will examine that in Part 3.