Fasting and Prayer #5
Having shared words on prayers, definitions, why and other types of prayer in series of other articles titled “prayer”, I introduced fasting in my first article, defining it and telling us its types. My second article is centered on why we need to abstain from foods. Third and fourth article is centered on benefits of fasting. In this article however, I shall write on classes of fasting.
Classes of Fasting
As we continue with this subject I will want us to see some of the subdivisions of fasting.
Some people do not have intention of fasting, neither are they dieting but conditions forced them into that position. Let us see some of the conditions that can force people to be fasting.
(a) Lack of Food at Home
People in the developing world and in war-torn areas have been forced into compulsory fasting when they do not have foods to eat on many occasions. (Gen. 21:14ff; 1 Sam 30:11-12)
“And they found an Egyptian in the field, and brought him to David, and gave him bread, and he did eat; and they made him drink water;
“And they gave him a piece of a cake of figs, and two clusters of raisins: and when he had eaten, his spirit came again to him: for he had eaten no bread, nor drunk any water, three days and three nights.” (1 Sam 30:11-12)
(b) For Fear of Death
When people are not sure of what we betide them they tend to go on hunger strike, refrain themselves from eating for days. (I Kings 18:13; Acts 27:33)
“And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, this day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing.” (Act 27:33)
(c) Bad Dream Which Makes One Lose Appetite
When one has a bad dream which one is seeking for a meaning for, but which one cannot readily find meaning or its interpretation one would lose his or her appetite.
“And they dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, which were bound in the prison.
“And Joseph came in unto them in the morning, and looked upon them, and, behold, they were sad.” (Gen. 40:5-6)
(d) When Loved One is in Trouble
When our loved ones are in troubles and we do not know what to do to help them we shall be forced into fasting.
“Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of musick brought before him: and his sleep went from him.” (Dan 6:18)
King Darius loved Daniel but he cannot go against the law which they have made, thus he sealed up his judgment, but his heart became restless because of his lover and friend and would not allow the regular things that his servants used to do for him to be done for him that night, because of his lover and friend, he fasted.
(e) When One is Disturbed
When we are disturbed, we shall lose appetite and would not be able to sleep until our mind finds solution to that which is troubling our minds. (Est 6)
These are spontaneous fasts, not authorized by anyone, but because of the prevailing circumstances and the condition we are passing through we embark on this.
Authorized fasts have to do with fasts commanded by leaderships of the people to embark on for certain reasons which the leaderships will clearly state to the people.
(i) By Kings
We know that in the medieval periods it is Kings and Queens that usually rule countries and towns. Thus, we have found Kings authorizing fasting for the people in the scriptures.
- Gentile King: An example of a gentile king that authorized fasting for the inhabitants of his country was the King of Nineveh.
“And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water:
“But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands.” (Jon 3:7-8)
- Israeli King: King Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast throughout the land of Judah because of the war that the Kings of the region wanted to wage against his country.
“And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.” (2 Ch 20:3)
It has also been found in the bible that some queens also proclaimed a fast in the land.
- Queen Jezebel: Wrote a letter that people should fast, she alleged Naboth falsely because she and her husband wanted to possess the man’s inheritance.
“And she wrote in the letters, saying, proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people:” (1 Ki 21:9)
- Queen Esther: When the Jews in the Kingdom of Ahasuerus was to be wiped out, the Queen told her uncle, Mordechai that they need to fast and should be proclaimed to all the Jews in the country.
“Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.” (Est 4:16)
Priests could also proclaim a fast in the land, for people to repent and seek the face of the Lord.
- Ezra the Priest
“Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.” (Ezr 8:21)
It is also possible that elders and leaders of the land proclaim a fast because of the economy and other untoward thing happening in the land.
- Because of Recession: Fasting could be proclaimed because of recession by Godly leaders.
“Sanctify ye a fast, call a solemn assembly, gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land into the house of the LORD your God, and cry unto the LORD,” (Joe 1:14)
- Repentance: They have been fasting wrongly before, but God through prophet Isaiah told them that such is not the fasting demanded of them, their fasting should be that of repentance, helping the needy, letting the oppressed go and so on.
“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” (Isa 58:6)
(v) Leaderships of the Church
They can call on people to fast and pray when the church is in dire need.
- When Meeting: The leaderships could tell people to add fasting to their prayers or when they are coming into the assembly they could be told to refrain from eating until the prayer be over.
“And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” (Act 13:3)
- Ordination Period: The people could be told to fast till after the ordination be over, or after the ordination may decide to go somewhere and fast and pray.
“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.” (Act 14:23)
(vi) Family Head
Cornelius a captain usually command his subjects to fast at certain periods, thus the bible says he fears the Lord with his entire household.
“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,
“A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.
“And Cornelius said, four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,” (Act 10:1-2 & 30)
God Authorized Fast
We can see in the bible that God commanded some people to meet with him in fasting, most of them were prophets. Examples include Prophets Moses, Elijah, and Ezekiel etc
“For I have laid upon thee the years of their iniquity, according to the number of the days, three hundred and ninety days: so shalt thou bear the iniquity of the house of Israel.
“And when thou hast accomplished them, lie again on thy right side, and thou shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days: I have appointed thee each day for a year.
“Therefore thou shalt set thy face toward the siege of Jerusalem, and thine arm shall be uncovered, and thou shalt prophesy against it.” (Ez. 4:5-7)
Self Willed Fast
There are occasions when people would desire to fast themselves this kind of fasting is not commanded by leaders neither anyone, it is a fasting originating from the heart of the person. Let us see some of the occasions when this happens in the bible.
(i) Time of Happiness: The disciples were not sad during the time they were gathering together for this prayer; they would have been happy because their great persecutor have been arrested by God and has been saved. The fast they thence proclaimed among themselves during this period stems out of happiness. (Acts 13:1-4)
(ii) Unhappy/Sadness: Sadness could also make someone fast as it happened to Hannah. Because of the ridicule she almost always experience from her wife, she was not happy and fasted. (1 Sam. 1:13ff)
(iii) Apprentice: When we are learning something we can also fast, especially when we are in the school of the ministry we need to fast to know God the more as prophet Elisha did while following prophet Elijah. (II Kings 2:3)
These are the classes of the christian fasting. In the next article I shall be talking on types of christian fast.
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