This week, I want to talk to you about the principle of prayer and fasting to aid in the release of God’s power in our lives. Throughout the Bible and Church history, we read of accounts of the effectiveness of prayer and fasting.
Jesus, Moses, and Elijah fasted for 40 days—their lives were never the same. Esther challenged her people to pray and fast with her for three days for deliverance from wicked leaders—God answered. Jehoshaphat rallied the nation of Judah to pray and fast for deliverance, and supernatural deliverance came. Even wicked Nineveh repented and fasted after hearing God’s message through the prophet Jonah; as a result, God spared the Assyrians judgement for nearly 150 years! Fasting has been practiced by many throughout the centuries.
Fasting helps release the power of the Spirit in our lives. It doesn’t help us earn more grace with God, but it does help remove the “clutter” in us and release the Holy Spirit! Prayer and fasting helps to posture our hearts in humility with God. We give the Lord opportunity to convict us where we have erred or compromised. We choose to draw closer to Him, relying on His grace and strength. The Holy Spirit can begin to communicate with us with greater clarity and direction. Let’s jump in and discuss this important Kingdom principle!
The Practice of Fasting is as Old as Humanity
More than two thousand years ago, fasting was a custom advocated by the school of the natural philosopher, Asclepiades, for curative purposes. The Roman historian, Plutarch, said, “Instead of using medicine, fast a day.” Traces of ancient fasting are to be found in ancient Chinese and Hindu writings. Native Americans also practiced it. It was used for religious purposes, as well as a method of restoring health.
Prayer with Fasting is an Important Key to Releasing God’s Power in our Lives!
In the sixteenth chapter of the book of Matthew, Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (Matt. 16:13). The disciples gave various answers, but Peter declared that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One—Son of the Living God (vs. 16). Jesus praised Peter for his understanding of this revelation, and said that, upon this truth, His Church would be built and the very gates of Hell would not prevail against it (vs. 17-18).
Then, Jesus makes this statement: “And I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:19 NKJV).
Jesus boldly proclaims that He would give us the keys, the truths, and the principles that would unlock the secrets to the Kingdom of heaven and give us the power to overcome the very gates of Hell! Prayer and fasting are one of the keys that God has given us to unlock the resources of heaven as we labor to establish His Kingdom here on earth.
What is Fasting?
Fasting, by Biblical examples, is abstaining from food or drink for a time for the purpose of seeking God in earnest prayer.
Dr. Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, explained fasting as:
“When we fast, we turn from the “things” that daily grab our attention and focus deeply on Him. During that time, we come to realize how much food and the things of this world are occupying our thoughts, time, activities, and finances. As we fast, God will show us the areas in our lives that we keep off limits to Him and the ways we seek to control our lives rather than let Him lead us. Any coldness in our hearts melts during a fast, and we become transformed and empowered to walk in His ways.
Consider the promise the Lord spoke through Jeremiah to the wayward people of Judah: “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD” (Jer. 29:13-14 NKJV).
Fasting is a means in which we draw near to God, to seek and search for Him with all our hearts.
Fasting is also a means to humble ourselves before God. The way up is down! David said in Psalms 35 and 69 that he “humbled himself with fasting.” Both James and Peter record that “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble”(1 Pet. 5:5 NKJV).
There are different types of fasts and durations.
The Bible shows us examples of absolute fasts, where both food and water are fasted for a period. We also see examples of normal fast, from which only food is abstained. Daniel did a partial fast of specific foods. The duration of fast also varied, from one day to 40 days. Today, many do variations of partial fasts, perhaps juice only, or intermittent fasting where one eats only during an 8-hour period and fasts for the other 16 hours in a day. One important note: if you are pregnant, nursing or on certain medications, please check with a medical professional before undertaking a fast.
Throughout Church history, many of those used mightily by God had an experience with the Holy Spirit that moved them into a new dimension of His power in ministry. Many of these experiences were a result of fasting with prayer!
Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis, born in A.D. 315, asked, “Who does not know that the fast of the fourth and sixth days of the week are observed by the Christians throughout the world?” Early in the history of the Church, Christians began fasting twice weekly, choosing Wednesdays and Fridays to prevent being confused with the Pharisees, who fasted Tuesdays and Thursdays. 
The roll call of other great Christian leaders who determined to make prayer with fasting a part of their lives reads like a hall of fame: Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox, Jonathan Edwards, Matthew Henry, Charles Finney, Andrew Murray, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and many more.
Martin Luther fasted for days at a time while translating the Bible. Fasting and prayer was the secret to the success of the translation and helped fuel the reformation revival.
John Wesley (and his brother, Charles, and George Whitfield) so believed in this power that he urged early Methodists to fast every Wednesday and Friday.
John Lake, a healing minister used powerfully in the twentieth century, spent the first nine months of 1907 praying and fasting. He cried out for more of God’s power in his life and ministry. In the tenth month of his pursuit of God and yielding to His purposes, God answered his prayer with a mighty baptism of the Spirit. Lake wrote of the experience:
“I found that my life began to manifest in the varied range of the gifts of the Spirit. Healings were of a more powerful order. My nature became so sensitized that I could lay my hands on any man or woman and tell what organ was diseased, and to what extent. 
Resistance to Prayer and Fasting
This powerful spiritual weapon of prayer with fasting has largely been lost in the modern church. Yet, it is perhaps the most important “key!”
Our modern culture breeds opposition to discipline and hard work. We look for short cuts in nearly everything we do, including our Christian faith. Formulas, programs, and other methods to grow the Church, rather than through spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, study of God’s Word, service, and evangelism. Dr. Elmer Towns, in his book Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough, comments that:
“Perhaps we are currently so into “feel-good religion” that we don’t want to be bothered with any thought of hunger or self-denial. Perhaps our confidence in activism, such as splashy evangelistic programs, to virtually bring in the Kingdom of God has made us forget the spiritual factors in church growth. Perhaps the widespread promise that “You can have it all” has blocked all thought of sacrifice from our minds. 
There is no substitute for prayer and fasting if we really want to bring the victory of Christ into our lives, families, churches, and the nations. Fasting and prayer are like nuclear fusion—combining to release God’s power!
Franklin Hall, a healing evangelist in the twentieth century wrote in his widely distributed book Atomic Power with God through Fasting and Prayer:
“To see our loved ones saved, souls converted, and a sweeping revival come in our midst; to have God work miracles, and heal our diseases, and pour out His Holy Spirit, we must start a fast and prayer in the home.” 
God wants to bring revival to our cities and nations; He longs to bring His supernatural power to heal and restore the broken in our lives, families, and society!
Jesus is Our Model
Jesus is our ultimate model in life, in faith, and in ministry. Before He started His earthly ministry, He prayed and fasted for forty days. Afterward, He moved in the power of the Spirit!
“Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days, He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.” (Luke 4:1-2 NKJV)
Notice Jesus went to the wilderness “…being filled with the Holy Spirit…” “Filled” means to be full or complete.Yet, Jesus was tempted by Satan and by His own flesh.
Jesus told the disciples the evening before He was betrayed that “… the Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak…” Our flesh or carnal nature is opposed to the things of the Spirit of God.
When we fast, we place our carnal nature under submission to our spirit man, and we gain mastery over the flesh. Jesus resisted His own flesh, and Satan’s schemes, and He emerged victorious from the temptations in the wilderness.
Gordon Lindsay, co-founder of Christ for the Nations, believed that fasting gives us power over the temptations of the flesh. He commented in his book Prayer & Fasting concerning this passage:
“We see from the experience of Christ that one of the purposes of fasting is to give men power over the temptations of the flesh. Through those days of fasting in the wilderness, Christ overcame every temptation, whether it affected His body, spirit, or soul. And we must remember that Christ was both divine and human, and “was in all points tempted as we are” (Heb. 4:15). Therefore, we too can master temptations of body, soul, or spirit through prayer and fasting. 
After the temptations, Luke records:
“Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him until an opportune time. Then Jesus returned in the power (dunamis) of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding region.” (Luke 4:13-14 NKJV)
Notice that now Jesus returns in the “power” of the Spirit. There is a difference between being filled or full of the Spirit and walking in miraculous power of the Spirit! It was prayer, fasting, and obedience that caused Jesus to emerge in power.
Yongi Cho, twentieth-century pastor of one of the world’s largest churches, states of Jesus’ empowerment in the wilderness in his book, Prayer: Key to Revival, “we can deduce this: being full of the Holy Spirit does not necessarily cause one to walk in the power of the Spirit! I believe the way into power, especially in prayer, is to fast and pray.” 
From this time forward, Jesus went in “dunamis” power! He was “anointed” power! Peter declares this truth in Acts:
“…how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” (Acts 10:38 NKJV)
Jesus did the “works” by the anointing of the Holy Spirit, as the son of man, not as the Son of God. Jesus was fully dependent on the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit
Jesus is Our Example for Ministry
Jesus models what would be available to any believer who would follow closely after Him! John records a significant statement of Jesus:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.” (John 14:12 NKJV)
Twentieth-century author and teacher, Derek Prince, in his book Fasting, comments on this passage in John: “I want to point out that the works Jesus did began with fasting. If we want to follow in the other works He did, it seems logical to me that we must begin where Jesus began – with fasting.” 
Yongi Cho wrote an “invitation” to all:
“God has no favorite children. What has worked for me will also work for you. What brought power to the lives of men like Luther, Wesley, Finney, and Moody can also bring you power. It does not matter if you are an ordained minister or a housewife. Your level of education or your station in life is of no consequence when it comes to prayer. If God has worked through men and women in the past, He can work through you.
Christ’s Teaching Concerning Fasting
Jesus intended His disciples to fast. In Matthew 6:17, He stated: “But when you fast …”
It was understood that the disciples would fast, not if, but when! It would be a normal part! In Matthew 6, Jesus instructed His followers to give to the poor, pray, and fast—all use “when.” He never left the option to do these!
The Pharisees questioned Jesus about why John’s disciples fasted and His didn’t. In Luke 5:35, Jesus answers them, “But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days” (NKJV). Again, He states that fasting is part of being a disciple.
In Matthew and Mark, a story is recorded of a father who has a son who is demonized by a deaf and mute spirit which mimics that of epilepsy. The father brings the son to the disciples, but they are unable to cast the demon out. Jesus corrects them for having a lack of faith, and He further explains to them that some demons will only be overcome through prayer and fasting (Matt. 17:14-21, Mark 9:14-29).
The disciples ask, “…why could we not cast it out?” Jesus gives them two answers, first your unbelief and more prayer and fasting is needed!
The reason Jesus was so hard on the disciples was because He had already given them authority in Matthew 10:8 when he told them, “Heal the sick … cast out demons…”.
The disciples enjoyed success in ministry, but they hit a challenging situation with an evil spirit that refused to yield to their authority and level of anointing. They simply didn’t have the “power”! Regarding this passage, Franklin Hall stated:
Jesus’ answer shows us that some problems and demons cannot be dealt with effectively without fasting and prayer.
Prayer and Fasting are the New Testament Pattern for the Release of Apostolic Power
Paul and Barnabas were released by the Holy Spirit and in the power of the Spirit during a season of fasting and ministering unto the Lord in Antioch:
“As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.” (Acts 13:2-3 NKJV)
Paul’s apostolic ministry was now birthed and, from this time forward, we see Paul and Barnabas moving in the power of the Spirit. Like Jesus, as they waited upon the Holy Spirit during a season of fasting and prayer, they were commissioned to go forth in the power of the Spirit to affect the world in which they lived.
Benefits of Fasting
When we fast, we are humbling our flesh, and we are casting our reliance upon God and His power. We become more sensitive to the Lord, causing more power to be released in our lives. Fasting shows a desperation and determination to touch the Lord!
When hard-pressed by annihilation from their enemies, Esther asks her people to fast with her for three days, no food or water. They were desperate for deliverance, and God answered their prayers!
“Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” (Esther 4:16 NKJV)
Fasting is one of God’s mysteries; demons get uncomfortable, and healings become more common! If you want to move in healing and deliverance, it should be a regular practice.
In Isaiah 58, proper motives for fasting are listed, along with benefits of fasting and prayer. For example, the benefits include greater revelation, guidance, God’s presence, healing, and strength.
We are on the edge of a history-making move of God among the nations! To see His glory released in and through us—to be released in apostolic passion and power—fasting is an essential part of the process.
Church history shows that nearly every great revival and awakening was led by people and ministries that were accompanied by signs and wonders and the gifts of the Spirit.
This end time revival is no different; we need the five-fold ministry offices and the gifts of the Spirit to keep us strong, healthy, holy, and full of power!
God is preparing us for last days revival by transforming us into men & women who will pay the price by learning how to pray and fast.
We have a “level” of His anointing, but will we pay the price to see His dunamis power released in greater measures to win souls to Christ, free the oppressed, and heal the sick?
For a deeper look at this topic, watch the Passion Church message “The Power of Prayer and Fasting”: