This series of blogs has been following through the teachings of Jesus. Having covered the top ten teachings according to the frequency with which Christ taught (which can be seen on page 133 of the download ‘What on earth have we done with the teachings of Jesus’). We are now continuing with the additional teachings of Jesus of which there are 83 in total. The next of these additional teachings is to Fast.
When you fast..
In Matthew 6 Jesus said twice ‘When you fast’. This is confirmed three additional times that they would fast ‘when the bridegroom is taken away’ speaking of the time when Jesus would not be physically present with them. It was not given as something we may or may not do. But something we would definitely do.
Fasting has many physical benefits. It increases our metabolism, lowers cholesterol, boosts our immune system, improves eating patterns, lowers hunger levels, improves brain function and releases anti-aging hormones.
It releases strongholds
But the spiritual benefits of fasting are infinitely more powerful. It enables us to break through the physical realm into the spiritual to connect with God on a much deeper level. It releases us from the strongholds of the physical realm, such as addiction to food and others. Fasting is seen throughout the Bible to petition God for something, to entreat His direction and to beseech His forgiveness. It is a decisive action to humble ourselves before the mighty hand of God.
Hell on earth
In late May 1940, Britain was in grave danger. Nazi Germany was advancing on British and Allied troops in Northern France. It had them in a pincer grip against the English channel. Nazi Germany was heading for total control over Europe. On his knees in intercession was Reece Howells and his students. Howells was an influential intercessor who had founded the Bible College of Wales. Between prayer meetings and upon hearing the latest news, Howells said that the situation was ‘hell on earth and from a worldly standpoint there was no hope of victory’. He had written a book entitled, ‘God Challenges the Dictators – Doom of Nazis Predicted’ which he had sent to Winston Churchill and George the Sixth. On Sunday 26th May, a National Day of Prayer was declared throughout Britain, with many choosing to fast.
The Miracle of Deliverance
With German tanks only 10 miles from Dunkirk, for reasons not fully understood, they suddenly halted. Between May 26th and the 4th June (exactly 80 years ago as I type) the weather had changed from storms to a sea of calm. Britain mobilised every boat. Night and day 340,000 troops were pulled from Northern France. It was acknowledged by national leaders that this has been an intervention by God. Winston Churchill was quoted as saying ‘How thankful we are that God had this company of hidden intercessors whose lives were on the altar day after day as they stood in the gap for deliverance of Britain’.
It was declared the turning point in the War and Churchill went on to say that the evacuation had been ‘a miracle of deliverance’. The following Sunday Psalm 124 was sung out in British churches.
If we were to fully recognise the powerful impact fasting and pray can have in our lives and the lives of others we would make it a regular practise.
Why couldn’t we do it?
In Matthew 17, a man brought his epileptic son to Jesus. He had previously brought him to the disciples but ‘they were unable to heal him’. Jesus rebuked the demon and it came out of the child and the child was healed. The disciples then came to Jesus and asked why they couldn’t do it.
Henry says – Christ gives them two reasons why they failed. Firstly it was because of their unbelief. Though they had faith, yet that faith was weak and ineffectual… Our Lord Jesus takes this occasion to show them the power of faith, that they might not be defective in that, another time, as they were now. If you have faith as a grain of mustard-seed, you shall do wonders, Matt. 17:20. Faith in general is a compliance with, and a confidence in, all divine revelation… It was a faith in this revelation that they were defective in. They either doubted the validity of their commission, or that it was some way or other forfeited or withdrawn.
They did not, at present, have such a strong actual dependence upon, and confidence in, the promise of Christ’s presence with them, as there should have been. It is good for us to be insecure of ourselves and of our own strength; but it is displeasing to Christ, when we distrust any power derived from him or granted by him.
They had a full commission, among other things, to cast out devils without exception. But due to this devil being more than ordinarily malicious and chronic, they distrusted the power they had received, and so failed.
Secondly because there was something in the kind of the sickness, which rendered the cure more than ordinarily difficult (Matt. 17:21); “This kind goes not out but by prayer and fasting.” These possession are not cast out ordinarily but by great acts of devotion, and wherein you were defective.” The adversaries we wrestle with, be all principalities and powers, yet some are stronger than others, and their power harder to brake. The extraordinary power of Satan must not discourage our faith, but quicken us to a greater intensity in the acting of it, and more earnestness in praying to God for the increase of it.
The edge upon prayer
Fasting and prayer are proper means for the bringing down of Satan’s power against us, and the fetching in of Divine power to our assistance. Fasting is of use to put an edge upon prayer. It is evidence and instance of humiliation which is necessary for prayer and is a means of mortifying some corrupt habits, and of disposing of the body to serve the soul in prayer.
Adapted from the Matthew Henry Commentary
The Power of Prayer Ever more increasingly I am becoming aware, Of the need to be with You Continually in prayer. When prayer is powerful And truly real, It goes far beyond What I can feel. As the flesh in me Slowly decreases, So my prayer life Gradually increases. When I totally submit My prayers will not cease, In trusting You for all I will gain new peace. For prayer changes all The joy of anticipation The waiting upon You And your re-creation. By the late Andrew Feakin (passed away 16th March 2019)
Prayer: Father, I submit to You now my prayer-life. I repent of its feebleness. Teach me to pray as the disciples asked of Jesus. Fill me with an insatiable appetite to fast and pray to see lives changed and Your Kingdom come on this earth. In the name of Christ I pray. Amen.
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