TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 17:14-27
TO CHEW ON: " ' However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.' " Matthew 17:21
How grieved the disciples must have been when Jesus called them a " 'faithless and perverse generation,' " though He did soften His scold a bit when He gave them an excuse for not being successful with the exorcism: "' However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.' "
This passage gives us some hints about what it takes to have real spiritual power:
Belief, which can be mustard-seed-small, but even in its smallness is genuine and persistent.
Of these three, fasting is the most mysterious to us. It is a spiritual practice we see a lot of in the Bible though.
- Moses fasted for the 40 days he was with God on Mt. Sinai. It's as if that was a given—such concentrated time in the presence of the LORD Himself was all the food and drink he needed - Exodus 34:28.
- Fasting was how people showed their respect for and grief over the death of Saul and Jonathan. Similarly David fasted over the death of General Abner - 2 Samuel 1:12; 3:35; 1 Chronicles 10:12.
- King David fasted when his and Bathsheba's first baby was deathly ill (though his fast didn't save the baby's life) - 2 Samuel 12:16.
- The Israelites fasted in repentance as they returned to God after a season of idolatry - 1 Samuel 7:6. They did this again in Nehemiah's time - Nehemiah 9:1.
- Ahab put on sackcloth and fasted after hearing Elijah's prophecy of calamity about to come on him and his descendants. As a result of him humbling himself like this, God sent Elijah back to tell him these curses would not come on him during his (Ahab's) lifetime - 1 Kings 21:27-29.
- Ezra fasted for the guilty people - Ezra 10:6.
- Esther, her personal servants, and all the Jews in Sushan fasted and prayed for favour before she went in to request an audience with the king - Esther 4:15,16.
- Saul fasted after he encountered Jesus on the Damascus Road - Acts 9:9.
- Cornelius, a Gentile, was in a time of fasting and prayer when an angel appeared to him with instructions to fetch Peter. As a result, Cornelius and his household were saved and filled with the Holy Spirit - Acts 10:30.
- The early church leaders fasted and prayed when seeking direction for their leaders - Acts 13:2,3; 14:23.
- We read of Jesus fasting only once for the forty days of his temptation in the wilderness - Luke 4:1,2. But it seems He assumed fasting would be part of a person's spiritual practice, for He said to His disciples: " 'But you when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face…' " - Matthew 6:17 (emphasis added). And here He explained His power over the tormenting spirit by implying that He had prepared for this encounter beforehand by fasting.
The experience of Bible characters paints a compelling case for the practice of fasting, not to get our way but to demonstrate our sincerity before God and to position ourselves intentionally in the powerful realm of His will and purposes.
PRAYER: Dear God, You know how hard I find fasting. Help me to grow in this spiritual discipline. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.