Summary: Fasting and prying is the key to unlock blessings and victories on the spiritual battlefield.
“When you fast....“
“When you pray“ .... not if you pray. We do not question the validity of prayer. Of course Jesus wanted us to pray!
But in the same sermon on the mount Jesus said:
“When you fast....“ not if you fast!
With the same breath he spoke about praying and fasting. What would you call a Christian that doesn´t pray?
And what would you call a Christian that does not fast? Not hungry.
Let us consider again the benefits and purpose of fasting.
Jesus did not command fasting. He just simply expected us to do it. He did not even give a clear commandment concerning prayer. He just expected us to talk to him – it should be a natural thing. Same with the fasting.
We have heard our gospel reading from Matthew 6:16.
In both examples, praying and fasting, the thing that Jesus criticized was the hypocrisy, show-of-attitude. If you fast and you make it a spectacle for people to admire you and worship you, if that is your motiv, you have your reward with those people.
But the same is truth about praying. If you pray so that people hear and see how good prayerer you are, you have your reward in their praises but not in God. That is why He told us to go into a room and close the door and pray. But we still pray even in public worship. So the same principle applies to fasting.
Right attitude of the heart is the key ingredient in these, and after all in all spiritual activities. Whatever you do in your spiritual life, do if for the Lord and not for the people. We are not people pleasers, we are God pleasers, in the best possible sense of the word.
All forms of self-denial are to be without parade if you want to reap blessings in them.
Did Jesus fast? Yes, of course he did.
Did the apostles fast?
Yes, of course they did. But check that peculiar scripture that speaks that they did not.
“Then they said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the pharisees, but yours eat and drink?“ And he said to them, “Can you make friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.“
And what is our reply to that?
“Hm, sorry Jesus, they will not fast, they changed their minds. They did not think it is a good idea. They did not think you really meant it. Or did you?! You were in the human body, so you know how it feels to be hungry. You would not require such an unreasonable thing from us, would you?“
Whatever your excuse is, the fact is that Jesus said we will fast. Jesus expected us to pray and fast! If you do not pray, you do not have real relationship with God. If you do not fast, you limit your spiritual growth and potential that lies behind this tool offered by God to every one of us.
The disciples did not fast while they were with Jesus, but they did afterwards.
Some examples of what the fasting did in the lives of believers.
Cornelius fasted for 4 days. When he fasted he had a revelation from God. God reveals himself to those who seek him, to those whose desire for Him is greater than their desire for food. They fasted and had the revelation from God, but also they were ALL FILLED WITH the HOLY SPIRIT and started to speak in tongues. It all happened after the prayer and fast.
Do we pray for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on people of Concordia? Maybe there is a little hint in the Bible, that we might show our desire for this to happen in a special, very meaningful way.
OT example - Daniel 9:1-3
Daniel read the prophecies and he understood that the time was coming for their fulfilment. But he was not quite sure. So he prayed and fasted. He needed a revelation; he needed God to speak to him.
“And while I was speaking, and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God;
21 yea, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation.
22 And he instructed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel, I am now come forth to give you wisdom and understanding.