Prayer and Fasting

by Stephen F. Olford

Text: “When you fast…” (Matt. 6:16).

Thought: The Word of God teaches that fasting has been practiced from earliest times. The patriarchs and the prophets of the Old Testament fasted and the New Testament reveals that the Lord Jesus and the apostles also fasted. Let us consider three statements that Jesus employed to show the outworking of the life of righteousness:

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1. The Purpose of Fasting: “when you fast…” (v. 16). While fasting has to do with the idea of abstaining from food, it is not essentially limited to this. The word, as employed in the New Testament, seems to suggest all forms of self-denial and therefore has an ultimate spiritual purpose. This purpose is personal examination and humiliation in the presence of God for prayer and a deeper experience of His presence and power (Joel 2:12-14; Acts 13:1-3).

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2. The Practice of Fasting: “…do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father …” (v. 18). Here we learn that fasting must be practiced sensibly and secretly. The Old Testament prescribed a regular fast day in the year (Lev. 16), but the Jews imposed upon themselves two fast days a week—Mondays and Thursdays. Christians should fast when the occasion calls for this holy discipline (1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Cor. 6:5; 11:24).

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3. The Profitableness of Fasting: “…your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly” (v. 18). There can be no fasting without a life of purposefulness and prayerfulness. The prophetess, Anna, “…served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (Luke 2:37). If we are going to be holy men and women, then the ministry of praying and fasting must have a place in our lives. Our self-centeredness and affluent lifestyles cry out for discipline, sacrifice, and time for God and His Word.

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Thrust:

Fasting calls for sacrifice,

If we long to seek God’s face;

So we pay whate’er the price,

To exalt the Throne of grace.

                                                      S.F.O.

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