DAY SIX: FASTING CHANGES HISTORY

We have seen how fasting changes our inner personalities according to certain principles. First, we must recognize that the power of the Christian life is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the only power that will enable anyone to lead a truly Christian life. 


Second, we must recognize that the flesh, our carnal nature, opposes the Holy Spirit. They are in direct opposition to one another. If the flesh prevails, the Holy Spirit cannot have His way.


Third, fasting is God's appointed way to bring the carnal nature into subjection. The Holy Spirit is then free to enable us to do what God desires us to do.


Personally, I believe there is no way to measure the power released by prayer and fasting when practiced with right motives and in accordance with the principles of Scripture. The power thus released can change not only individuals or families, but cities, nations, or even entire civilizations. I now want to share some examples from the Bible of how fasting has affected the destiny of cities, nations, and empires. Our first example is from the book of Jonah. God called Jonah, the Israelite prophet, to go to Nineveh, a Gentile city and the capital of the Assyrian Empire. Jonah refused to go and tried to run away from God, but God dealt with him very severely. What followed is recorded in the third chapter of Jonah:

1 Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time:

2 "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh Now Nineveh was a very important city — a visit required three days [to go all through it].

4 On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned."

(Jonah 3:1-4)


Jonah's very simple message was a final warning of impending judgment on the city. 


The response of the Ninevites was remarkable:

5 The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth [the outward evidence of mourning].

6 When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust.

(Jonah 3:5-6)

Here is a picture of a whole city turning to God in repentance, in fasting, and in mourning. The proclamation that the king issued was even more remarkable. It goes like this:

7 "By decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink."

(Jonah 3:7 )

That was a very total fast, not only for the human population but for the livestock; not only did they abstain from food, but also from drinking. And then the proclamation continues:

8"But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth [again, the outward emblem of mourning]. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence."

(Jonah 3:8)

This total response is important. Fasting is of no benefit if we continue doing the wrong thing. But it is invaluable as a spiritual help in turning from wrong to do right.

So, the Ninevites not only fasted and covered themselves with sackcloth, they made a proclamation to "let them give up their evil ways and their violence." From other passages of Scripture we find that the outstanding sin of Nineveh was violence. Then the proclamation closes this way:


9"Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”


[Now here is the divine commentary on this:]

10When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.

(Jonah 3:9-10 NIV)

You will remember that John the Baptist preached a message of repentance. When certain people came to ask for baptism as evidence of repentance, he said, "I want to see the fruit of repentance in your life. It's no good telling me you've repented if I can't see the results in the way you act."


(See Matthew 3:7-8.)


In the case of the Ninevites, God saw how they turned from their evil ways, so He had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction He had threatened.

It is very interesting to see the historic result. Nineveh was spared for almost two hundred years before it was finally destroyed. During that time in Israel, God had various prophets, such as Amos and Hosea, who brought the message of the warning of judgment and the call to repentance to Israel. Israel had the Scriptures, they had the background of Moses and the Law, and they had the prophets. Many prophets went to the Israelites, but they did not

turn.

In contrast, Nineveh had no such background. One prophet went once, and the whole city turned. That is remarkable! It is an interesting consequence that God spared Nineveh and then used the Assyrian Empire, of which Nineveh was the capital, to bring His judgment on Israel!

God's judgment of Israel is a warning, I believe, for Western nations where we have a long background of Christian tradition, knowledge of the Scriptures and the organized church. Could it be that God has been speaking, but we have been as deaf as the people of Israel? Could God send His messengers to some nation with no Christian background so that it would

turn to Him, and then use that nation to be an instrument of judgment? Could a nation such as China bring judgment on unrepentant, professing Christian nations? Does that message have an up-to-date application for us?


For a second example of how history was changed by the practice of fasting, we will turn to the book of Esther. The Jewish people were in exile in the Persian Empire, which consisted of 127 provinces covering the known ancient world from Egypt to India. Practically every Jew in the world was living at that time within the confines of the Persian Empire. A man named Haman had gained great political position and power in the Persian Empire. He persuaded the king to send forth a universal decree for the destruction of all the Jewish people within the confines of his empire on a certain day. This was probably the nearest that anybody has ever come to actually blotting out the Jewish nation—in a sense, even nearer than Adolph Hitler in World War II. It was a crisis such as Israel had never faced in all their history. Their response to this crisis was to turn to God with fasting and prayer.


In particular, Queen Esther (who was Jewish though the king did not know her racial background), set an example which became a pattern for all subsequent generations of the power of prayer and fasting to bring forth intercession that changes history. This is the description in Esther 4:15-17:

I5 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai:

16"Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish"

17 So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions.


The Jewish people knew what to do. It had been established in the ordinance of the Day of Atonement. They knew the way to humble themselves before God was to fast. All the Jews in the capital city of Susa, from Esther downwards, set aside three days of prayer and fasting. What was the result? In Esther 5:1-3, we read these words:


1 On the third day [of prayer and fasting] Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner

court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall.

The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance.

2 When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.

3 Then the king asked, "What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the

kingdom, it will be given you."

(Esther 5:1-3)


Esther went in with her request and changed the entire course of the history of the Persian Empire. Instead of defeat and shame, the situation became honor and promotion for the Jewish people and for their leaders, Mordecai and Esther. The critical turning point was the three-day period when Esther and all the Jews in Susa fasted and sought God. Then their

destiny was changed. When Esther went in to the king, he said, "What do you want? It will be given to you up to half the kingdom." In other words, prayer and fasting opened the way for all that Esther could possibly need on behalf of her people.

Esther is a beautiful pattern for us today. God is looking for men and women like Esther who realize the critical nature of our situation and turn to God with their fellow believers in prayer and fasting. Prayer and fasting can still call forth divine intervention on behalf of His people and the critical situation in the world today, just as much as it did in the days of Esther. God is urgently speaking to His people in these days about the need for prayer and fasting.


DAY FIVE: THE CHANGE

How Fasting Changes Us

Thus far, we have seen that fasting is voluntarily abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. Fasting is a way that God Himself has appointed for His people to humble themselves before Him. Jesus Himself practiced fasting and taught His disciples to do the same. The New Testament church followed the example of then-Master. When Jesus spoke about fasting, He did not say, "if you fast," but "when you fast." He thus put fasting on precisely the same level as giving to the needy and praying.

We want to deal with the mechanics of fasting now by seeing how fasting changes the inner personality. The first thing we need to see with absolute clarity from Scripture is this: the power that makes the Christian life possible

is the Holy Spirit. No other power can enable us to live the kind of life that God requires of us as Christians. It cannot be done in our own will or in our own strength. It can only be done in dependence on the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, the key to successful Christian living is knowing how to release the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives so that we can do the things we could not do in our own strength.

Jesus made this clear to His disciples after the resurrection, before He ever released them to go out into ministry of their own. In Acts 1:8, He said: 8"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

(Acts 1:8)

He said, in effect, "In order to do what I've charged you to do, you're going to need power greater than your own. That power will come from the Holy Spirit. Don't go and begin to minister until that power of the Holy Spirit has come to you."

Compare this with the words of Paul in Ephesians where he is speaking primarily about power in prayer: 20Now to him [God] who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us...

(Ephesians 3:20 )

Paul says what God can do far exceeds the highest that we could ever think or imagine, but it depends on His power at work in us. The extent of what God can do through us does not depend on our thinking or imagining. It depends on His supernatural power being released in us and through us,

whether it is in prayer, in preaching or in any form of service. The key is knowing how to release the power of the Holy Spirit and become channels or instruments through which He can work without hindrance.

Seeing this, we can move to the next key fact of Scripture. The old, carnal nature opposes the Holy Spirit. The very essence and character of the old nature is such that it does not yield to the Holy Spirit. It is in opposition to the Holy Spirit. In the New Testament this carnal nature, what we are by nature before we are transformed by the new birth, is called "the flesh." This term does not simply mean the physical body. It is the entire nature that we inherited by descent from our first father, Adam, who was a rebel. In other words, lurking somewhere in every one of us there is a rebel. That is the carnal nature!

In Galatians 5:16-17, Paul says about that carnal nature:

16But I say, walk by the Spirit [the Holy Spirit], and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.

[Each of us is dependent on the Holy Spirit.]

17For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.

(NAS)

That is very clear and very important. The carnal nature is in opposition to the Spirit of God. If we yield to the carnal nature, we are opposing the Spirit of God. If we are going to yield to the Holy Spirit, we must deal with the carnal nature, because as long as the carnal nature controls and operates

through us, what we do will be in opposition to the Holy Spirit. This applies not only to our physical desires, but it also applies to what the Bible calls the carnal mind, which is the way the old, carnal, unregenerate nature thinks.

In a powerful verse in Romans, Paul states a truth about the carnal mind:

7... the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

(Romans 8:7 KJV)

These are strong words Paul is using. He says the flesh opposes the Holy Spirit. He says the fleshly mind is enmity against God. It is not neutrality.

There is no suggestion that somehow the carnal nature and the carnal mind can be persuaded to do the will of God. It is impossible. The carnal mind, by its very nature, is enmity against God.


DAY FOUR: THe Early Church

Fasting in the Early Church

Not only was fasting practiced by Jesus, it was practiced by the New

Testament church. 

In Acts 13:1-4, we read about the church at Antioch:

1Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. [Five men are named.]

2And 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."

3Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

4So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus.

(Acts 13:1-4)

The leaders of the church were ministering to the Lord and fasting together. In the course of their fasting, they received a revelation from the Holy Spirit that two of their number were to be sent out for a special apostolic ministry. Receiving this revelation, they did not send them out

immediately, but they again "fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them…" Then it says of those two men that they were sent out "by the Holy Spirit."

Again we see that fasting transfer us from the natural to the supernatural. When the church leaders moved out of the natural realm through fasting, they had a supernatural revelation and supernatural authorization, and the Holy Spirit Himself accepted responsibility for what they did. But the way to this was opened up through their collective fasting.

After Paul and Barnabas had gone out on this ministry, we read what they did when they established their new converts in various cities into proper churches:

23And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

(Acts 14:23)

Fasting was not just a single, unusual occurrence. It was practiced regularly by the apostles and taught to their new disciples.

The two main events in the spread of the Gospel in the early church were, first, the sending out of apostles and, second, the establishing of new converts through the appointment of elders. It is tremendously significant that the early church did not do either of these things without first fasting and seeking

God's supernatural direction and help. 

In a certain sense, we can say that the outgrowth and expansion of the early church revolved around collective fasting.

Finally, we want to read the testimony of Paul about his life and ministry, remembering that Paul was one of the two men involved in that incident. In 2 Corinthians 6:4-6, Paul says:

4...in everything commending ourselves as servants of God, in much endurance, in afflictions, in hardships, in distresses,

5in beatings, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness [watching], in hunger

[fasting],

6in purity, in knowledge, in patience, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in genuine love...

(2 Corinthians 6:4-6)

Paul here describes various aspects of his character and conduct which marked himself and his fellow-workers as true servants of God. Among these were watching (staying awake when you could be asleep) and fasting (abstaining from food when you could be eating). Watching and fasting are in very good company. They are put side by side with purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit and genuine love. In other words, they are presented as part of the total equipment of a true servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. I believe that God still views them that way today. God's provision and God's standards are still the same as they were for Paul and for the early church.


DAY THREE:  Maximum benefits

HOW CAN I GET THE MAXIMUM PHYSICAL BENEFITS FROM FASTING? 

Here are some things that will help you:

First:- Get plenty of rest, take extra time to rest. You can pray just as well lying in your bed as you can on your knees. 

Second:- Get some exercise and try and get some fresh air. Why not go for a walk and pray while you are walking. You can exercise, pray and get fresh air all at once. For most people the unpleasant reactions from fasting come to a climax in the second to fourth day. If you get beyond that then you will come into a period where fasting really becomes exciting, exhilarating and enjoyable. Third:- While fasting consume plenty of fluids. This has the effect of flushing out your kidneys and generally cleaning out your body. Try to avoid coffee or tea as both are strong stimulants. You will get more physical benefit from your fast if you avoid these. 

Fasting in the Life of Jesus

Fasting was also part of the life and ministry of Jesus and of the New Testament church. First of all, the Lord Jesus Himself practiced fasting, as reported in the Gospels:

1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert,

2where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days and at the end of them he was hungry.

(Luke 4:1-2  )

The words indicate that Jesus abstained from food, but probably drank water.

Before Jesus entered His public ministry, there were two critical experiences through which He passed. The first was when the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, and He was endued with the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit for His ministry. But, Jesus still did not immediately go out and begin to minister.


The second experience was forty days of fasting in the desert. He abstained from food and focused on the spiritual. Apparently, during in that time, He had a direct, person-to-person conflict with Satan. Through His fasting, He emerged victorious from that first conflict with Satan. This illustration would seem to indicate that fasting is essential in our lives if we are to be victorious over Satan. If Jesus had to practice fasting for victory, I do not see how any of us can claim to achieve victory without the same practice. Notice the result of fasting in the life of Jesus. 

Luke 4:14 states:

14Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.


There is a very significant difference in the two phrases used. When Jesus went into the desert, the Gospel says He was "full of the Holy Spirit." But when He returned from the desert after forty days of fasting it says He went "in the power of the Spirit." In other words, it is one thing to be full of the Spirit, it is another thing to be in the power of the Spirit. From the time of His baptism onwards, the Spirit was there. But it was His fasting that released the power of the Holy Spirit to flow through His life and ministry without hindrance. Again, I believe this is a pattern for us.

Jesus Himself said later in John 14:12:

12 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and

greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father."


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.

Jesus also taught His disciples to fast. In the Sermon on the Mount, He said to His disciples:

I7"But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,

I8so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

(Matthew 6:17-18  )

Jesus promises a reward to those who practice fasting in the right way and for the right motives. Notice one very important little word. Jesus said, “when you fast," He did not say, "if you fast." Had He said "if," He would have left open the possibility that they might not practice fasting. But when He said, "when you fast," He obviously assumed that they would practice fasting.

The theme of the sixth chapter of Matthew is three main Christian duties: 

giving to the poor, praying, and fasting. In connection with all three of them, Jesus uses the same word "when," He never says "if." In verse 2 He says: "when you give to the needy..." And in verse 17 He says, "when you fast… " He never left open the option that they would not do these three things. He put giving, praying, and fasting on precisely the same level.


Most Christians would accept without much question that it is our obligation to give and to pray. But on that same basis, it is equally our obligation to fast.





DAY TWO: what happens during a fast?

WHAT HAPPENS DURING A FAST? 

On a practical level, one important thing is to guard against constipation. If you know you are going too fast, make your last meal or two something which will prevent you from becoming constipated. Here are some other practical considerations:


First:- During your fast take extra time for Bible reading and prayer. Bible reading should come first because this "anoints your spirit" and gets your mind in line with God. Your prayer will normally be much more effective after Bible reading. 


Second:- Guard against spiritual attack. The real sacrifice in fasting is not going without food; it is the fact that when you really begin to seek God, pray and fast for things that matter, Satan is going to turn extra spiritual forces loose against you. You will find that strange oppressions begin to come over you - doubt, fear, or loneliness. You may somehow feel yourself in a dark place - or you may lose some of the usual feelings of joy, peace and happiness that you normally have as a Christian. Don't get worried if this happens. In fact, it's a kind of back-handed compliment from the devil. It means that you are worrying him, and he's out to prevent you from going through with your objectives. Don't yield to these emotions. Don't let feelings dictate to you. Bear in mind the great basic truth of the Word of God: God is on your side; God loves you; God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. This is true whether you feel it or not. Don't let feelings turn you away. Thirdly:- Don't put on a religious act. Don't let everybody know that you are fasting. Some people will have to know, but don't make a show of it. Don't make a display of it. Do it as quietly and as unostentatiously as possible. Remember, normally speaking, with a few exceptions, fasting does not prevent you from doing the things that you would ordinarily be doing. 


WHAT ABOUT UNPLEASANT PHYSICAL REACTIONS? 

Because of current lifestyles, most people will experience some type of physical reactions in the early stages of the fast. Some common ones are headaches - and they can be very severe dizziness, and nausea. If you are fasting for a day you are liberating your blood from normal digestive duties, to do a lot of clean up jobs which badly need doing, but which never were done because your blood had to spend its time digesting food. In fact to overeat is to reduce your physical energy. When you go beyond what you need in food, you are simply making your body do extra, unnecessary work digesting unneeded food. If you can find the faith to do it, praise God. "Thank you God for my headache. I realize that my blood is there doing something that needs to be done a long while ago." Don't stop your fast. If you do you have let the devil defeat you. When you fast do so resolutely. You had better make up your mind that you are going to do it and don't leave open the possibility that you might have that meal after all because then the devil will be at you all the time to have that meal. If you have made up your mind not to eat again today and dismiss that possibility from your mind, it's much easier. At meal times you may feel real hunger pains. Actually, you don't need food, but your stomach operates by habit. In about an hour you will find that your hunger pains will go without you having eaten. It was just habit. If you want to fool your stomach take a couple of glasses of water.

DAY ONE: Humble Yourself

Scripture:  2 Chronicles 7:14 ( read the whole chapter)


Fasting for Self-Humbling

Primarily, the purpose of fasting is self-humbling. 

It is a scriptural means ordained by God for us to humble ourselves before Him. Throughout the Bible God requires His people to humble themselves before Him. Many different passages of Scripture emphasize this. Here are four from the New Testament:


4 "Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."

(Matthew 18:4 )


12 "For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted."

(Matthew 23:12 )


10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

(James 4:10)


6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time.

(1 Peter 5:6)


One important feature of all these Scriptures is that the responsibility to humble ourselves is placed upon us. We cannot transfer that responsibility to God. To pray, "God, make me humble," is unscriptural, because the reply of God in Scripture is always, "Humble yourself."

In the Bible God has revealed to us a specific, practical way to humble ourselves. David reveals that fasting was the way that he employed to humble his anger is against all who forsake him."


23 So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.

(Ezra 8:21-23)


Ezra had two alternatives: one carnal, the other spiritual. He could have resorted to the carnal and asked for a band of soldiers and horsemen. It would not have been sinful, but it would have been on a lower level of faith. But he chose the spiritual alternative. He chose to look to God by invoking God's supernatural help and protection. Ezra and the Israelites with him knew exactly how to do this. It was something they already understood. They fasted and humbled their souls before God. They petitioned God, and God heard them and granted them the safe journey for which they asked.

In 2 Chronicles we read the record of an incident in the history of Judah when Jehoshaphat was king:

2Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, "A vast army is coming against you from Edom...It is already in Hazazon Tamar" (that is, En Gedi). 3Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah.


“4The people of Judah came together to seek help from the lord; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.

(2 Chronicles 20:2-4 NIV)


Then Jehoshaphat prayed a prayer invoking God's help. In the last verse of that prayer, which is very significant, Jehoshaphat concludes by saying:


12 "O our God, will you not judge them ? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you." (2 Chronicles 20:12 NIV)


Here are the key phrases: "...we have no power...we do not know what to do..." So they had to turn to God for supernatural help and they knew the way to turn. They renounced the natural to invoke the supernatural.

For another clear example of the practice of fasting in the Old Testament, we turn to the ordinances for the Day of Atonement, what the Jewish people call Yom Kippur:


29 "And this shall be a permanent statute for you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall humble your souls, and not do any work, whether the native, or Him by collective fasting. That was the appointment, the ordinance, for the Day of Atonement, the most sacred day of the Jewish calendar.


Notice two facts: 

First, in this case, fasting was man's response to God's provision of forgiveness and cleansing. God provided the ceremony by which the High Priest went into the innermost sanctuary of the temple and made atonement. 

Second, that atonement was only effective for those people who accepted it through fasting.

In other words, God did His part, but man had to do his. This is true in many transactions with God. God does His part, but He expects a response from us. Many times the response that God expects from us is to fast.

God absolutely required fasting of all His people under the old covenant. Anyone who did not fast on the Day of Atonement was to be cut off as to no longer to be a member of God's people. So we see that God attached great importance to fasting as the appointed way for His people to humble themselves before Him and so to qualify for the blessing that He wanted to provide.


excerpt from "Fasting" - Derek Prince



Prayer Guide:


Pray for God to give you grace as you humble yourself

Pray for God to show you areas that you need to submit to Hi

Pray for God