Fasting and Prayer #1
On this publishing social medium, Hub Pages, I have written on prayer, defined it, talked about the uses, and explained the types of prayers that we have in the bible. Based on this it is not in my intention to write on prayer but fasting. However, fasting is usually associated with prayer thus some few articles would also be dedicated to fasting, but occasional references may be made to prayer where necessary to enhance full grasp of the reader.
When we have heard a word repeatedly, we sometimes think we have full knowledge or some degrees of knowledge about the word and would think it is of no need reading neither studying the subject again.
In the same wise when we have been engaging in an activity over the years, perhaps from our childhood days, we would think studying it, drinking from others cistern about the word is no need, but experience has shown that when we read about the account or study it, we shall see that we shall gain one or more things from other people’s works.
Based on this I want us to open our hearts and minds as we read this crucial subject which Jesus equally points his disciples to while on earth that sometimes carrying out this exercise is needful if they really want to make appreciable impact in their generation.
“Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Mt. 17:21)
It is my believe (perhaps I may be wrong, thus, I stand to be corrected) that everyone who comes to the world wants to make appreciable impact in the world, everyone who comes to the world wants to touch their generation positively. Some do not know how to go about this, and they would go about it all wrong, go about it illegally, thus, bringing troubles on themselves. While some would follow the normal channel and would become the cynosure of all eyes, they would become people that others look forward to in the world.
Going about making impact in our generations in a legal way is why Jesus told the disciples about fasting, that they would need such to make some needful changes, they would need that to combat and pull down the strong holds of the enemies.
Like the disciples, we also need this (fasting) to make appreciable changes in our dispensation because we are the living disciples of Christ today.
Types of Fasting
We need to know that we have two types of fasting which are believers and unbelievers’ types of fasting. However, since this article is centered on believers, I will not bother myself about unbelievers type of fasting.
What Fasting is Not
Having said that there are two types of fasting and the one this article would be concentrating on is believers’ type of fasting, I will want us to know what is not fasting to enhance our understanding of what fasting is. When we know what something is not, we shall know what something is, or better say, what something is would have meanings to us the more.
(i) It is Not Dieting
We need to know that fasting is not dieting. Dieting is the practice of eating food in regulated and supervised fashion in order to lose, gain or maintain weight and or to prevent and treat diseases such as obesity or diabetes. Some people because their spouses have been complaining about their weight, they would start reducing what they are taken, as a measure to reduce their weight and at times would call this fasting. Dieting, cutting down your food is not dieting.
(ii) It is Not Designed to Punish Flesh
Prophet Micaiah after telling the King that he should not go to war that all the false prophets that he has arranged for himself and who were prophesying to him were misleading him was asked by the guards to be kept in the prison and be fed with food and water of affliction.
“And say, thus saith the king, put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread of affliction and with water of affliction, until I come in peace.” (I Kings 22:27)
Hebrew word for affliction here is “לחץ”, Romanized form is lachats (pronounced as lakh'-ats) which means distress, oppression.
When we are fasting we are not under some force, higher force that coercing us, suppressing us to undertake the exercise in Christianity. We, therefore, should stop seeing fasting as if it is designed by some sets of people to punish our flesh, distressed our flesh.
(iii) It is not some kinds of work commanded by Christ but it is recommended
When we know that it is not commanded by Jesus but highly recommended for our growth and development spiritually we shall apply more heart to fasting and not see it in negative lights again.
(iv) It is Not to Manipulate or Dodge Drudgery
Fasting is not to manipulate our body or avoid our works in offices and other places. Some people fast so that they would circumvent their jobs in the offices or other places. Christian fasting is not like that, it is not designed to dodge our works.
What is Fasting?
Believers know that often fasting would not be mentioned without prayer in the holy bible. Thus, prayer and fasting go hand in hand most of the times
“And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” (Lk 2:37)
“And they said unto him, why do the disciples of John fast often, and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink?” (Luk 5:33)
Fasting in Hebrew is written as “צם צום”, Romanized form is tsôm tsôm (phonetic spelling is tsome, tsome) while the Greek word for fasting is “νηστεία”, the Romanized form is nēsteia (phonetic spelling is nace-ti'-ah) which means abstinence from food for religious purposes.
The above definition shows that fasting means deliberately abstaining from food
Having seen the Hebrew and Greek definitions of the words used for fasting in the bible, let us see some of the definitions that scholars have given to fasting.
The followings are the meanings of fasting as given by teachers and Scholars
1. It is abstaining from all or some kinds of foods/drinks especially as a religious observance: We should note that it involves religious observance, involves the person who is doing it wanting to know more from God (or deity).
“I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled” (Dan. 10:3)
2. It is a willing abstinence/reduction from some or all food, drink, or both for a period of time: It is not something that is done out of one’s wills, the will of the person is involved. (Est 4: 15-17)
3. It has Duration: It means reducing foods/drinks that one takes for a certain period; it is not an endless practice as if one is on hunger strike. (Est 4: 15-17)
4. It is Elimination and Substitution: It is giving up something in order to replace it with something else, specifically replace it with prayers,
5. Bringing Flesh Under Control: It is a means of bringing flesh into submission to the Lord so he can strengthen us to have mastery over ourselves,
6. The Focus is on Spiritual Growth: Scripturally speaking, fasting is abstaining from food, drink, sleep, sex to focus on spiritual growth. (1Sa 21:4)
7. It is Denying Flesh and Growing in Prayer: It is denying the flesh what the flesh desires so as to glorify God, enhance our spirit and go deeper in our prayer life,
8. It is Not Life Sentence: It is temporarily giving up something in order to better focus on God
“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.” (I Cor. 7:5)
9. Fixing Gaze on God: It is fixing our gaze/focus on God, this is how we can grow spiritually, but if we focus ourselves on what people say, we may miss out the reason for undertaking this wonderfully blessed exercise. (Jud 16:28)
10. Servant Living Lifestyle: Christians fast is a lifestyle of servant living (Jn 13:13ff)
11. It is Sacrificial Lifestyle: Believers fast is a sacrificial lifestyle before God (Isa. 58:3)
These are some of the meanings of fasting and we shall see that it should be done for spiritual purposes alone not for self-gratifications.
In the next article I shall be talking on why we need to fast.
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