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What are the New Testament reasons for fasting?

q.gif (1639 bytes)    What does the Bible teach about the reasons for and the spiritual effects of fasting for the New Testament believer?


a.gif (1659 bytes)   Matthew 6:16-18 says, “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.”

Jesus tells us here that if we will fast in secret, that our Heavenly Father will reward us openly. How and in what way will He reward us? That will depend upon the reason for the fast (the prayer request and desire upon our hearts that caused us to fast). Psalm 37:4,5 says, “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”

Matthew 9:14,15 says, “Then came to him the disciples of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.”

Jesus said that His disciples did not fast, because it was not a time to mourn. They were with the Bridegroom, so it was a time to rejoice and enjoy the fellowship and love. If they had a request, they could come right to Him and get it answered.

But Jesus did go on to say that the days would come when His disciples would fast. It would be when He was taken from them. They would mourn in those days. They would have requests in those days that did not get immediate answers. We are in those days right now, too. We do mourn, many times. We do have requests today, that are often not immediately answered.

Mark 9:28,29 says, “And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.”

Jesus tells us here that there are some great spiritual battles, for which we need great spiritual power. Fasting gets us focused upon the eternal, and resting in God’s power alone, not our own.

Acts 14:23 says, “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”

Fasting and praying for others is seen in the New Testament. In this case, it was for fellow Christians that they might not see for a long time again; and for fellow Christians that would suffer persecution for their faith. That is a time to be serious, and to pray for each other.

I Corinthians 7:3-5 says, “Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.”

This passage makes it clear that there are times when husbands and wives will want to fast and pray. But they are to make sure that as soon as the fasting is over, that they show each other the proper affection once again. Husbands and wives that place frequent fasts before each other, will find that Satan has an open door into their marriages.

Life as a Christian is not all a big party. There are many times when we are crying out to God for needs all around us. Sometimes it is a heart that longs to see the salvation of souls, and we are pleading before God for those souls. Sometimes we mourn as people move away, or as we have been visiting or ministering to others, and we must leave. Tears will often accompany our times of fasting. To the world, it may seem that such times would lead to discouragement, but quite the opposite is true. Psalm 126:5,6 says, “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” Psalm 30:5 says, “...weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

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