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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fasting Formats & Supporting Scripture

As stated in the previous article on Fasting & Prayer found HERE  there are different types of fasts, but we will cover five different fasting possibilities in this article, as well as scriptures supporting fasting and prayer.

First Off, Everyone Can Fast! Even those who, due to medical problems, are unable to food fast are encouraged to fast various forms of media (TV, movies, internet, etc) or other normal activity like watching football for the duration of the fast in place of food...we can always find some way to fast!

We encourage you to pray about what type of fast God wants you to do. It is important to remember that whatever type of fast you feel led to do, the purpose of fasting is to draw nearer to God and put our hunger for more of Him before anything else. In addition the fast is ALWAYS combined with prayer, using the time that we would normally be preparing or eating meals to pray, in addition to additional times during the day (i.e. lunch time, break time, etc)

·         Total “Supernatural” fasting - No food or liquid. This type of fast is obviously the most strenuous (and possibly dangerous) fast and should only be undertaken by people who are totally lead by the Holy Spirit and in optimum physical health. Jesus miraculously fasted in this way for 40 days in the desert, lead by God.

·         Water-Only Fast – Just as the name implies, this fast entails the intake of water only for the duration of the fast.

·         The Daniel Fast – In Daniel 10: 2-3 it is written that “In those days, I, Daniel, had been mourning for three entire weeks.  I did not eat any tasty food, nor did meat or wine enter my mouth, nor did I use any ointment at all until the entire three weeks were completed.” Further it is explained in Daniel 1:14, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink”. So for twenty one days Daniel only ate  fruits and vegetables, no meat or delicacies. This is a very popular form of fasting because, while doing without meat protein or ‘delicacies’ the person fasting is still restricting food intake. This can entail eating only vegetable soup or juicing or steaming veggies…but only veggies and only water to drink.

*NOTE: Another restriction on this diet is that no processed foods should be eaten. That is nothing frozen or, especially, from a can as these may contain additives or, in the case of canned veg, a lot of salt, which is to be avoided during the fast.

·         Juice fasting – This is a fast of fresh fruit & vegetables juiced or blended together into a liquid, then drank. This type of diet can be incorporated into the Daniel fast as well or done strictly throughout the fasting duration.

·         Reduced number of daily meals – This is a great way to fast for people that cannot limit too much food or water intake. Just as the name implies, simply reduce the number of meals in your day and use that time to pray.

Fasting in Scripture

The Old Testament practice of fasting was closely linked with a "spirit of mourning" or repentance.

For example, in Leviticus 16:29-31 it is permanently commanded in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls and not do any work…for it is on this day that  atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you;  you will be clean from all your sins before the Lord.  It is to be a sabbath of solemn rest for you”.  

So this is a permanent fasting from work of any kind. The result is Yom Kippur, day of atonement.

The prophets often called Israel to a fast as a means of producing repentance. Joel 2:12 says Yet even now,” declares the Lord,“Return to Me with all your heart, And with fasting, weeping and mourning”.

Aside from the Day of Atonement, which mandated fasting, the Old Testament practice of fasting was closely linked to special times of national peril–war, famine, and pestilence. Unfortunately much of this became a formality. Isaiah pointed out that people were fasting because of a greedy desire to receive something for themselves. However, God wanted to see them fast to bring justice, get rid of selfishness, and help others who were in need:

Isaiah 58:2-6  “Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways, As a nation that has done righteousness And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God. They ask Me for just decisions, They delight in the nearness of God.  ‘Why have we fasted and You do not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and You do not notice?’ Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, And drive hard all your workers. “Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist. You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.  “Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it for bowing [one’s head like a reed And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed? Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the Lord?  “Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free And break every yoke?”

In New Testament times, the practice continued as the Pharisees imposed an elaborate tradition of fasts and observances upon the people of Israel. But Jesus totally rejected the outward accompaniments of fasting found in the Old Testament as well as external things the Pharisees did to draw attention to themselves when they fasted. Jesus indicated the person fasting must fast unto the Lord, going about his business in the usual way and keeping his fast a secret before God

Matthew 6:16-18  “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they [a]neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

While Jesus rejected all attempts to publicize fasts, He himself believed and practiced fasting as willfully demonstrated in His 40-day wilderness experience:

Matthew 4:1,2   Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.

The apostle Paul refers to times of fasting, whether voluntary or imposed upon him by the circumstances of life

2 Corinthians 6:4-7  but in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger, in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love,  in the word of truth, in the power of God; by the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left

The early believers included fasting as a needful prerequisite before releasing the early missionaries for ministry

Acts 13:2-3   While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

Further examples of fasting in scripture:

1 Samuel 7:6  "So they gathered together at Mizpah, drew water, and poured it out before the Lord. And they fasted that day, and said there, "We have sinned against the
Lord." And Samuel judged the children of Israel at Mizpah."

They were in sin a battle was forming of the enemy against them and the next day was dooms day so they operated in that fast.  It was a two-fold fast of repentance but more than that it was because danger and chaos was coming to the nation the next day. The fast had two different focuses repentance/ preparation.

Jonah 3: 3-5  "So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.
Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent. And
Jonah began to enter the city on the first day's walk. Then he cried out and
said, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" So the people of
Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the
greatest to the least of them."

The whole city of Nineveh fasted in the Lord withheld judgment, the crisis
that was coming to wipe out the city and the nation.

Matthew 17:21  "However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."

In speaking with regards to casting out demons, Jesus instructs His disciples that some demons can only be cast out by prayer & fasting.

However you are lead to join us in the upcoming 40 day fast, remember, as it is written in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  Stay strong, stay in the Word, stay in the Spirit and stay in prayer.

May The Blood of Jesus cover, bless & protect you!

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