THE FIREPOWER OF
“Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.”
By John P. Lutz
THE FIREPOWER OF FASTING
Are you facing a difficult dilemma or decision in your life? Do you desire to get
closer to God? Are you longing to see God work in the life of a family member or
unsaved friend? Do you crave for greater insight into God’s Word? Are you seeking
answers to your prayer requests? Fasting is a divine solution to these questions.
According to the Scriptures, it can bring supernatural results if accomplished by faith.
In Mark 9:23, Jesus said: “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that
Fasting is mentioned over seventy times in the Bible. It is a powerful Christian
discipline that any believer can exercise for spiritual matters. The dictionary describes
it as “a deliberate and prolonged abstinence from food for spiritual purposes.” Fasting
helps Christians to deny the physical and give more attention to spiritual needs. It frees
us from temporal activities and mundane matters of life. Job said, “I have esteemed the
words of his mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:12).
One will seldom find fasting mentioned in the Bible apart from prayer. It is not
the fasting that answers prayer requests and gives direction in our decisions, but the
drawing closer to God to obtain the mind of God in all matters. Fasting fosters a better,
more intimate relationship with God. James 4:8 says, “Draw nigh to God, and he will
draw nigh to you…” Fasting should produce an intense devotion for Christ, not
attention to ourselves. One pastor noted:
“I happen to know some people who use fasting to build their pride and to
appear super spiritual, and the truth of the matter is that’s the very
opposite of the reasons to fast” (Pritchard).
Fasting is not to be seen of men (Matthew 6:17-18). It is not for the primary
motive and purpose to lose weight- although that may be a by-product. Fasting must
always have a spiritual purpose! It is a method used when a child of God seeks God’s
attention. It can be for wisdom in the midst of a problem, for spiritual growth,
deliverance from a sin habit, guidance in important decisions, personal revival,
In Acts 13:1-4, the church leaders at Antioch were hungry for God’s direction in
sending out missionaries. They needed wisdom and guidance in choosing the right
people. They longed for discernment and knowledge of the will of God. The Bible
says, “And when they had fasted and prayed…they sent them (Barnabas and Paul)
Those who served in leadership at Antioch wanted to know the mind of God, so
they committed themselves to a time of fasting and prayer. In other words, they
completely devoted themselves to God. The result changed the course of history! A
major mission’s movement started and spread Christianity throughout the entire Roman
Empire. Thirteen of the twenty-nine New Testament books were influenced by this
missionary endeavor. The entire Old and New Testament illustrates and displays the
firepower of fasting.
BIBLICAL & HISTORICAL EXAMPLES OF FASTING
1. Judges 20:26
Israel had suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the enemy. In v. 48, it
says that after a time of weeping, fasting, and prayer, God gave them the
victory. Fasting can bring victory to the life of the Christian.
2. II Chronicles 20:3
A “great multitude” surrounded Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah.
After a time of prayer, fasting, and confessing their sins, their enemies
killed each other off and God’s people won a decisive battle.
3. Deuteronomy 7:18
Moses received the blessing of the ten commandments after he fasted and
prayed on Mount Horeb (Sinai). There are numerous blessings awaiting
the Christian who commits himself to the spiritual discipline of fasting and
4. Jonah 3:7-10
The people of Nineveh repented and fasted before a time of judgement.
God not only withheld His judgement, but over 600,000 people turned to
God in repentance. Fasting is a vehicle that every believer can use to plead
with God in regards to unsaved loved ones.
5. Luke 2:37
Anna, a widow in the temple, fasted and prayed as a service to God. This
is something every Christian can do to promote the kingdom of God.
Earnest prayer and fasting is a great service in the local church.
6. Matthew 4:2
Jesus defeated Satan’s temptations after a time of fasting in the wilderness.
Fasting aids us in overcoming “the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).
7. II Corinthians 11:27
Paul, who experienced a multitude of problems, personal battles and
decisions, was in “fastings often.” It’s no surprise that he became a zealous
soul-winner, church planter, missionary, and exceptional Christian.
8. Esther 4:16
The Jewish nation fasted 3 days before Esther approached the king. God
delivered the Jewish people from a severe crisis and possible extinction.
Are you facing a painful crisis? Fasting can navigate you through the
9. Daniel 10:2,3
Daniel fasted when he faced spiritual opposition. Fasting is important
during times of spiritual oppression and unjust criticism.
10.I Samuel 1:7
Hannah fasted during a time of infertility. She later gave birth to Samuel
who became a mighty servant of the Lord.
The nation of Israel fasted on the Day of Atonement. God commanded this
John the Baptist taught his disciples to fast and pray. Spiritual leaders, in
the church and home, should be a stalwart example to others in regards to
13.II Samuel 12:22
David fasted after Nathan confronted his sinful behavior. He sought an
answer from God concerning his child, and God gave it to him.
David said, “I humbled my soul with fasting.” Fasting has a way of
humbling saints and delivering us from the sin of pride and selfishness.
Paul fasted after his conversion and was constantly drawn closer to Christ.
Fasting after salvation keeps us in close communion with Jesus.
Fasting helps to lose the bands of wickedness and heavy burdens.
Paul encouraged others to fast during a rigorous trial (shipwreck).
Ezra “proclaimed a fast” after returning to the land of Israel. The people
also fasted to seek wisdom from God.
Nehemiah and the people of God fasted after rebuilding the walls of
Jerusalem. They gathered together for worship, confession, and the
hearing of God’s Word.
The nation of Israel added four additional fasts during their time of
suffering and captivity. Are you suffering? Avail yourself to the avenue of
Jesus taught that demonism and cosmic spiritual battles are overcome by
prayer and fasting.
Jesus gave his disciples instruction on the subject of fasting. He stated:
“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.”
Cornelius fasted four days and God answered his request. If a Christian is
burdened about a particular problem, fasting is a good way to seek the
mind of God.
God made a plea to the nation of Israel in regards to fasting (“Turn ye even
to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with mourning…”).
Fasting helps realign our biblical priorities by putting on “Christ.” Fasting
keeps us from allowing food to become a “god” (Philippians 3:19).
26.Jonathon Edwards fasted many hours before delivering his sermon, “Sinners
in the Hands of an Angry God.”
27.The musical composition, Handel’s Messiah, was composed as a result of
intense prayer and fasting.
28.Church history saints like John Calvin, Martin Luther, John Knox, and Charles
Finley all sought God’s mind on matters through the ministry of fasting.
29. The Pilgrims fasted before leaving the Mayflower and establishing a new
home. Are you embarking on a new job or ministry opportunity? Seek God
through the avenue of fasting.
30.The King of Britain called for a day of solemn prayer and fasting because of
the possible invasion by France. John Wesley wrote in his journal (1756):
“The fast day was a glorious day, such as London has scare seen since
the restoration…There was a solemn seriousness on every face. Surely
God heareth prayer.”
31.A church leader in Lancaster County fasted regularly over a period of three
years and memorized over 300 Bible verses. Our spiritual lives can be
enriched tremendously by the discipline of prayer and fasting.
HOW, WHEN AND WHY OF FASTING
Keep it simple and use good judgement! The most important thing about fasting
is to deny our physical needs so we can completely focus on God and our spiritual
needs. This is why fasting should always be combined with prayer, confession of sins,
and Scripture memorization.
Make sure you have a specific burden or reason to fast. Allow the Holy Spirit to
impress upon you when and when not to fast. Do you need direction, guidance,
wisdom, or victory over sin habits? Do you long for a greater devotion to Christ? Do
you want to gain insight into the Scriptures and humble your soul? Do you need fast
deliverance from a difficult problem? Fasting is God’s gift for these specific needs.
Fasting should have a particular beginning and ending period. In Bible times,
many fasts were from sundown to sundown (6pm to 6pm). Some fasts were one to
three days of drinking water and setting asides all foods. However long our fast may be,
we should go about our normal routines and dwell upon Christ throughout the day.
Have a balance! Be careful of your health. Start out slow and gradually build
upon stronger times of fasting. Some Christians fast during lunch or supper times-
others fast for several days and only partake of certain liquids. Paul’s admonition in I
Corinthians 14:26,40 is not just for the church, but for us individually as well:
“Let all things be done unto edifying…Let all things be done decently and in order.”
TYPES OF FASTING
(1) Public fast (Ezra 8)…This was to build and unite God’s people together.
(2) Partial fast (Daniel 10:3)…Daniel withheld himself from certain foods.
(3) Extreme fast (Esther 4:16)…Esther called on the Jews to fast because of
an extreme emergency.
(4) Normal fast (Judges 20:26)…“fasted that day”
(5) Long fast…Jesus and Moses fasted 40 days. They were given
supernatural strength to accomplish this feat.
(6) Sleep fast (II Samuel 12:16)
(7) Sexual fast (I Corinthians 7:3-5)…Among married couples, this should
only be with mutual consent, and for a short duration.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON FASTING
Fasting should bring glory to God! The Scripture states, “Whether therefore ye
eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:13).
Fasting is not a commandment or requirement in the New Testament (I Corinthians
6:12-13), but it is strongly encouraged and rewarded by the Lord. I believe Jesus
expected believers to fast (“When ye fast…”).
God also wants us to fast with sincerity and without hypocrisy (Joel 2:12-13).
Fasting should never become a matter of legalism or spiritual pride. Jesus warned us
against this in Matthew 6:16-18. This is why it is a good practice to avoid telling others
of our fasting. It is personal! It is between God and the Christian who seeks to know
God gave us all food to be enjoyed as long as we receive it with thanksgiving.
However, fasting is God’s method for Christians to temporarily set aside earthly manna,
so you and I can feast on the heavenly manna.