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PRAYER AND FASTING

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					                    PRAYER AND FASTING

INTRO:

 Several months ago we had what we called a “Dream Session.”
   If you didn’t attend you may be wondering what a dream
    session looks like.
        A dream session is a time when everyone who wants
          the church to grow comes and shares personal ideas
          about things that might help us be stronger as a people.



   We divided the people who come into three age groups.
    (Teens, Young Adults and Seniors)
        Each person in each group is asked to share what they
         think would help the work here.
        All the ideas were listed and then each group decides
         on their top three.
            o The elders agreed to make the nine ideas a
               priority in the coming year.



   Now, in the Young Adult group one of the top three was a
    time when we could get together and sing and have a
    fellowship.
        It was labeled as a time of Praying and Fasting followed
          by a Songfest.
        The date has been set for March 21st -23rd. (That is 12 days
          from today)
        Some of you may not have clue of what all this means
          so in my lesson today I am going to try to explain the
          concept and give the advantages of having such.
             o Let’s start by talking about fasting and prayer.




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 Richard Foster in his book, “Celebration of Discipline” wrote
  the following……….. “In a culture where the landscape is dotted
  with shrines to the “Golden Arches” and an assortment of “Pizza
  Temples”, fasting seems out of place, out of step with the times.”



 According to Webster the word “Fasting” means = “To abstain
  from food”……..or ……”To abstain from certain foods.”
   ISBE defines it as fast, fast´ing (‫ ,צּום‬cū m; ‫‛ ,עּנה נפׁש‬innā h
     nephesh, “afflict soul or self,” i.e. practice self-denial; νηστεία,
     nē steía, νηστεύειν, nē steúein)



    The word has been used in a lot of ways.
        Last Sunday an elder in a congregation we attended on
          our way home said Fasting is doing without….and
          made the point that one could fast or do without
          anything. He was right.
            o People Fast financially in their early years so that
               they can have something as they grow older.



    Biblically however fasting is associated with abstaining from
     food and this is the way we will address it this morning.

 Why is it that we never talk about Fasting?



    It is an emotional subject.
          Some have taken it to the extreme while others have
            ignored it altogether.




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   It deals with a matter very personal to us: FOOD!
         A lot of us are very dependent upon food.
              o Not just to survive, but in dealing with anxiety,
                  depression and boredom.
              o We eat …….Not to live……….but we live to eat!
         It is like preaching on smoking, gluttony etc. it touches
           raw nerves.
  
   Another reason we do not talk about it much is because it is
    an UNTRADITIONAL subject.
         How many have ever heard a sermon on Fasting?
         I know of only one book written by our brethren. (The
           Power of Prayer and Fasting by Marlin S. Hoffman)
              o There may be others but this is the only one I
                  know of.
              o
 But scripture has a lot to say about fasting?
   Many of the greats found in the Bible were people who
    fasted.
         Moses, David, Elijah, Esther, Daniel, Anna the
           prophetess, Jesus, Paul to name a few.

 There is more teaching in the N.T. on fasting than repentance and
  confession?

 And did you also know that Jesus taught more on fasting than on
  baptism and the Lord’s Supper?



 So why have we disregarded the subject?



   Fasting developed a bad reputation as a result of its misuse
    during the Middle Ages.




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   Many have concluded that it is a Jewish practice and not for
    Christians.



   We have been brainwashed into believing that if we do not
    have three full meals and several snacks every day we are going
    to starve to death.
        We eat, NOT because we NEED to eat, but because it is
          TIME to eat!!



 FASTING IN O.T.
   Day of Atonement (Lev.16,23 and Num.29.)
        This was the ONLY Fast commanded by law, to be
          observed on the 10th day of the 7th month.
       
        It was an “afflicting one’s soul.”
             o Ps.69; Acts 27.
             o To afflict one’s soul, fasting, was for the purpose of
                touching one’s soul…..not particularly the body!
  
   In times of distress, whether individually or collectively.
        In the O.T. people fasted in war or the threat of war.
             o Israel fasted at Bethel in the war against the
                Benjamites. (Judges 20:26)
             o Also at Mizpah in the Philistine war. ( I Sam.7:6).
  
   They fasted when loved ones were sick.
        David and the sickness of his child…II Sam.12:16ff.
  
   The Psalmist fasted for his enemies. (Ps.35: 11-13)
  
   They fasted when a loved one died.
        The men of Jabesh-gilead fasted 7 days for Saul. I Sam.
          31:13


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        David and the people fasted for Saul and Jonathan
         II Sam.1:12
  
   They fasted when they sought God’s forgiveness.
       Moses fasted 40 days because for Israel’s sin. Deut.9:15-
         18
       Ahab fasted for forgiveness. I King 21:17ff.
       Nineveh fasted at the preaching of Jonah. Jonah 3:4-10
       Daniel fasted as he confessed the sins of Israel.
         Dan. 9:3-5
       As an act of repentance the people fasted at the
         communal reading of the Law by Ezra. Neh.9:1-3



   They fasted when facing impending danger.
       Jehoshaphat fasted when threatened by Edom.
         II Chron.20:3
             o Ezra, Nehemiah, the Jews, Esther and Mordecai, the
               list goes on.
  
   They fasted as they remembered certain calamities.
       During and after the Exile.
       The burning of the temple remembered the 10th of the 5th
         month.
       The murder of Gedaliah was on the 2nd day of the 7th
         month. IIKings 25:23ff
       On the 10th day of the 10th month …….the beginning of
         the siege of Jerusalem. II Kings 25:1


 It’s purpose:
   Reaction to grief over the lost of a loved one.
   Much more ………fasting was done to purposely:
       Afflict the soul Lev.23:26-32
       Chasten the soul Ps.69:10
       To humble the soul..Ps.35:13


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         Humbling of the soul helps to find favor with God. Ezra
          8:21-23; Isa.57:15; 66:1-2
             o And because they were seeking God’s favor,
                Fasting would almost always be accompanied
                with prayer.

 The Nature of Fasting:
   Abstaining from food but not water.
   Sometimes it was partial……a restriction of diet but not total
    abstention. Dan.10:2-3
   ON rare occasions it was an absolute fast.
        Ninevah who also included the animals. Jonah 3:5ff
        Queen Esther. Esther 4:16
        Paul in N.T. Acts 9:9
        Moses and Elijah Deut 9:9; I Kings 19:8

 Length of Fasts………
   Often just one day……….sunrise to sunset and after sundown
    food would be taken Judges 20:26; I Sam.14:24; II Sam.1:12;3:35.
  
   It might be for one night. Dan.6:18
  
   The fast of Esther continued for 3days……day and night. (this
    seems to have been a special case. Esther 4:16)
  
   Burial of Saul, the fast of Jabesh-Gilead was 7 days. I Sam.31:13;
    I Chron.10:12
  
   David fasted 7 days when his child was ill. II Sam.12.
  
   The longest fasts recorded in scripture were 40 days by Moses,
    Elijah, and Jesus. Ex.34; Deut.9; I Ki.19; Mt.4; Luke 4.



 WARNING:
     o Don’t make it a show or a ceremonial ritual.


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              When this happened fasting was condemned by
               God. Isa 58.Zech.7.




 FASTING IN N.T.:
        o
        o In life of Christ.
              40 days in wilderness Matt.4 (He ate nothing for
                 40days)
              He taught fasting in his “Sermon on the Mount.”
                 Matt. 6:16ff)
              In fact fasting appears to have a place in the
                 righteousness expected of those who would be
                 citizens of the kingdom of heaven.
        o
        o When Jesus was questioned by John’s disciples he
          described a time when his disciples would fast. Mt.9:14-
          17; Mark 2:18-20
              Fasting would have a place in the disciples lives
                 but only on appropriate occasions.




 FASTING IN THE LORD’S CHURCH:
      o Church at Antioch; Acts13:1-3
            They fasted as a group while ministering to the
             Lord.
            They fasted and prayed in preparing to send
             Barnabas and Saul out.
            So Praying and Fasting is a biblical subject and our
             1st cent. Brethren practiced it.

        o Galatian churches: Acts14:21-23
                   This group fasted and prayed when selecting
                     elders.


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                        Notice this was done in every church
                          not just one or two.
                        And not just in what might have been
                          considered to be just Jewish churches.
                    Thus a group of Christians fasted and prayed
                     when considering a work.


 PAUL AND FASTING:
      o It was a mark of his ministry.
            II Cor.6:4-10 (v.5)
            II Cor. 11:23-28 (v.27) here fasting is mentioned
              separately from normal hunger and thirst.
                  In both of these passages Paul mentions
                   fasting as a mark of his ministry.

        o Paul also taught that fasting might have a place in the
          lives of Christians.
              I Cor.7:5 “Do not deprive one another except with
                consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to
                fasting and prayer; and come together again so that
                Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-
                control. (kjv) [Fasting is in the text and was removed
                by the modern translations……..why?]
                     The only time husbands and wives may
                      deprive one another sexually is when by
                      consent they devote themselves to fasting and
                      that is for a specific period of time.

In summary we see where our Lord fasted on
several occasions.
      He foretold of a time in which His disciples would fast.
      That there are times when fasting and praying is more
       effective than just praying alone.
      The early church fasted in their service to the Lord.
      That Paul regarded fasting as a mark of his ministry.


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       That prayer and fasting often go hand in hand,
        utlilized when there is a strong desire for God
        guidance and blessings.
       We must conclude that fasting does indeed
        have a place in the lives of Christians today.


    Yes, because Paul fasted as a minister of Christ………
        He listed fasting among those things which proved him
           as minister of Jesus Christ. II Cor. 11:23-28 “many times
           without food………”
               We are asked to imitate Paul as he did Christ.
                I Cor.11:1

WHY SOME CHRISTIANS FAST?
 Some purposefully, for health reasons.
 Some without thinking, in times of grief and sorrow.
 Others, in an effort to gain some kind of self-control….
   But none of these should be the reason Christians should fast in
    their service to God. Col.. 2:20-23 “ If you have died with Christ to
    the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in
    the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 "Do not
    handle, do not taste, do not touch!" 22 (which all refer to things
    destined to perish with the using)-- in accordance with the
    commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which
    have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in self-made religion and
    self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value
    against fleshly indulgence.

MAIN REASON IS TO DRAW CLOSER TO GOD
 Biblical fasting should be done in conjunction with prayer.
   When done properly …
         Humbles the soul Ps.35:13
         Chastens the soul Ps 69:10



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         And prayers of humble people are more likely to be
          heard by God…Ezra 8:21-23 “Then I proclaimed a fast there
          at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before
          our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones,
          and all our possessions. 22 For I was ashamed to request from
          the king troops and horsemen to protect us from the enemy on
          the way, because we had said to the king, "The hand of our God
          is favorably disposed to all those who seek Him, but His power
          and His anger are against all those who forsake Him." 23 So
          we fasted and sought our God concerning this matter, and He
          listened to our entreaty.

WHEN SHOULD CHRISTIANS FAST?

 Occasions requiring divine help.
   Temptations
   Serious illness of self or loved ones.

 At a congregational level.
   When appointing leaders.
   Sending missionaries out to the field.


 When the occasion call for it.
   God is more likely to answer prayers of the persistent having
    the right attitude. Luke 18:1-8 and Matt. 6:17-18

CONCLUSION:
        Never fast to be seen of men. Mt.6:16ff
        Not as a ritual Mt. 9:14-17
        Not without true repentance. Isa.58:3ff
        Not just because it sounds like a neat thing to do.
        Be serious.
        Start slowly……fasting only brief periods of time.
        Fast when you have time to spend in prayer.
         (Remember its purpose)……..To humble oneself and
         seek God’s favor.



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