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Major Christian Deliverance Principles: Keys for Self-deliverance and Ministry (book by Eric Gondwe)
Chapter 4. Prayer and Fasting: Major Deliverance and Healing Weapon
CHAPTER 4: PRAYER AND FASTING - SUB-TOPICS:
- Prayer and Fasting -Sowing to the Spirit
- Nature, Role and Purpose of Fasting
- How to Fast
- The Power of Fasting
- Occasional Food Fasts and Permanent Worldly Fast
- Seed time and Harvest time -No neutral ground
- Carrying Cross of Self-denial on Desires of the Flesh
- Major Prayer and Fasting Scriptures
Prayer and Fasting -Sowing to the Spirit
Fasting is the greatest spiritual discipline for seeking God's intervention. Combined with prayer they together make up the most critical weapons of spiritual warfare and deliverance in our lives. While we cannot manipulate God to fulfill our desires exactly as laid out to him fasting always (when done the biblical way) moves God to fulfill his intended will over the matters.
Our Lord Jesus said fasting would be necessary for his disciples after he ascended. “The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast,” (Matthew 9:15)
The early disciples remembered the words of their master and thus they made fasting vital. The outstanding work God accomplished through them speaks for itself.
The ministry of Paul started after a period of praying and fasting. “While they were worshipping and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set a part for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off,” Acts 13:2-3
Just not to be misunderstood, it is not a must to fast, as in making it a sin if one does not. Jesus said “When you fast...” implying that it’s an essential Christian discipline. Believers are not obligated to fast even if we’re expected to obey that we ought to fast. However Believers who opt never to fast could be limited in experiencing matters that can be realized in their Christian lives only through both prayer and fasting.
For those with health limitations it’s not wise to fast depending on the severity of the illness that can be worsened through fasting. It is worth consulting your doctor for further assistance. The following are among groups fasting is generally not recommended:
- People who are pregnant or breast-feeding,
- Children and teenagers since they are still growing and developing (in the bible only adults are known to have been permitted to fast),
- People in their senior or elderly years since their body organs need a consistent flow of body fluids and nutrients,
- People who are recovering from illness, injury or surgery (operation),
- People who are highly underweight,
- People who have diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, heart disease, and other chronic health problems.
The rest of us with healthy bodies it’s merely a choice we make - to fast or not to fast. As far as God is concerned health limitations are the only worthy excuse, not busy careers, family obligations or environmental factors.
Nature, Role and Purpose of Fasting
Fasting, that of abstaining from food, can become legalistic and ritual oriented when taken out of context. It can become a religious activity performed in order to influence God. Fasting, is not a tool to win God’s audience. God is always ready to speak to us and to help us. It is for our sake to tune ourselves to his wavelength in order to hear from him and effectively walk with him.
In his audio sermon on fasting, Ron Gartner makes an important point. He says fasting is not giving up meals and making a sacrifice so that God can speak to us or bless us. It is not an exchange of a sacrifice in order to obtain blessings.
He says, it is moving into a spiritual realm of faith and power by putting down (denying) our flesh desires. The Holy Spirit and the spirit part of us then take dominance in moving in an area of prayer (communion with God) that we cannot get into through any other way. It is moving into the spirit and walking in the spirit. This does not mean being foolish and turning our reasoning off. It is being wise with the mind of Christ while being submissive to the Holy Spirit.
Fasting may be unpleasant since our bodies are conditioned to be our masters. When they cry for food we quickly feed them. When they’re denied food they scream louder and louder at us.
Common body reactions include extreme thirst and hunger (of course), weakness, fatigue, headaches, and occasional dizziness. In the early stages of attempting to fast these reactions are more intense. They fade and fasting becomes easier as the body becomes more conditioned.
With more regular fasting our bodies become less “unruly.” God also helps us in our natural weakness of finding it difficult to fast. He always makes his grace abundant on his children that are sincerely willing to obey his word. “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work,” (2 Corinthians 9:8).
Regular fasting cannot kill the body. We may lose weight and strength during prolonged fasts but the spiritual breakthroughs in moving closer to God are too precious compared to anything we can lose.
How to Fast
There’re no rules on fasting periods. One can set apart a day every week without food and water. Or she can set three days aside every month to recondition her sensitivity to God. Water can be taken in a three day fast though it’s possible to do without it up to three days. Beyond three days water is essential for your body.
There is a story of one believer who fasted for 40 days without drinking water. He died on the fortieth day. He’s no doubt heaven-destined and probably had victories over matters he fasted for. However he went too soon for lack of knowledge on appropriate fasting principles. A prolonged fast from 4 days to 40 days needs water and probably a slice or two of bread (or three) per day.
Fasting beyond 40 days is not biblical. It’s not a sin to fast over 40 days but it’s a health risk. There is no scriptural record of anyone fasting beyond 40 days. This should be a medical health alarm because beyond 40 days physical health is likely to start deteriorating. It can bring health complications that may be hard to reverse. On the other hand fasting within biblical limits has lasting health benefits – though it’s the spiritual benefits that are more important.
After ending a 40 day fast I weighed 130 pounds (58.9 Kg) at 6 foot (1.83m). It was like coming out of a concentration camp with a chest showing all the bones of the ribcage. Only the Lord enabled this fast since I had a six-day full time job at the same time. Two to three slices of bread where taken every midnight. On two or three occasions a small portion of beans was taken after feeling completely weak.
Headaches can come once in while but this ought to be endured during the fast. Headaches only signal the cries of the body. They’re to be ignored for as long as they don’t worsen. The victories from the fast cannot be quantified to this day.
If there is any mountain for the Lord to move allow fasting to facilitate the work. Seek him to enable you rather than making all kinds of excuses. After all it’s you that stands to gain over all the matters you’re burdened with. It’s such a privilege to give birth to these matters after much travail through fasting. And God’s work goes beyond the matters of concern thus making the victories through fasting hard to quantify.
Prayer and fasting is like sowing in tears. It’s a sacrifice yet a more than worthwhile one. “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy. He who goes out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves (bundles of crop harvest) with him,” Psalm 126:5-6.
I believe a 40 day fast ought to be once in a lifetime –if one has the grace to even do it. It ought not to be done more than once if you are enabled to fast up to 40 days. Only Moses is said to have taken two 40 day fasts in the bible. If you want to be like Moses it’s no sin. However note the health precautions. Our bodies have been designed to work in certain ways. Fasting helps them when it’s done within limits that our bodies have been framed.
Outside these limits fasting becomes detrimental. Victories come but at health costs that were not even necessary. After one 40 day long fast it is advisable to stick to 2 to 3 day fasts afterwards. Besides 3 day fasts without food or water can be as overcoming as a 40 day fast when taken multiple times. For instance one can purpose to fast a total of at least 40 days in a year taking 2 to 3 day fasts.
How often one needs to take such fasts depends on the grace one has. Allow the Lord to equip you and enable you rather than use your own limitations as yardsticks. At one point he may enable you to take 3 day fasts three times in one month, at a later period once, and so on. His enabling rather than yours should win the day. But do your part in allowing him to work through you. Plan ahead when you sense his leading. When that day comes make no excuses. Commit yourself rather than flip flopping.
A fasting program ought to include prayer, intercession, reading of God’s word (i.e. one way of listening to God), allowing God to speak from within. It can also include worshipping him with songs of praise on multimedia or personally. Listening to or watching sermons focusing on areas you are burdened with is also edifying.
Allowing God to speak from within is not waiting to hear a strange voice. It is God speaking from within. His Spirit dwells in you so he speaks from within. You will be able to grasp matters in your life and the lives of others in ways you never perceived them before. That is God speaking to you and revealing his ways to you. What he says is always supported by scripture.
If it’s something contradicting scripture then it’s the voice of a stranger, Satan. Satan also speaks to our hearts with his temptations and appeal to the flesh. His voice can be recognized by its appeal to the flesh, the fallen nature and contradiction of what God has told us in his word.
Scripture also tells us to move out of our comfort zones and stretch our hands to those who don’t have whatever basic needs we have. We share whatever resources we have with them and with extended family members that may be underprivileged.
Many forget that charity is part of our Christian pillars and has its level of blessings or curses, depending on how we carry ourselves. See Isaiah 58:6-9 outlined below for the fast that God desires. Without engaging in most of these areas, fasting only becomes a form of dieting or hunger strike.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
“Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I,” Isaiah 58:6-9
In our New Testament (Covenant) era Jesus said we should make fasting a secret. It should not be like the Pharisees who blew the horn and covered their heads with oil to show everyone how holy they were. No one needs to know unless one has health ailments that fasting may affect. Particularly short fasts, fasting ought to be between you and God.
Anointing ones head may be necessary since Jesus said so. “When (not, if or in case) you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you,” Matthew 6:17-18.
Notice after saying “put oil on your head,” he also said “wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting.” So you can anoint yourself and then wipe the oil out. It will not be a problem if you don’t apply any oil. Application of oil when fasting was the Jewish custom. Jesus did not want to discredit the oil so he included its relevance but attacked the wrong motives for its application. Some anointed themselves to show everyone they were fasting instead.
One may be asking on how to use the anointing oil if one decides to use it. It’s any oil that you have, even basic cooking oil. It does not have to be some special oil straight from Jerusalem.
God is more interested in our faith than in what kind of oil is being used. It can even be petroleum jelly like Vaseline if you cannot afford any oil. Jerusalem oil, Olive oil, cooking oil or Vaseline oil will all have the same effect if applied in faith.
You can pour some oil in a smaller bottle for future use. Take some oil and apply it on your forehead and pray that God uses it as a point of faith in anointing you and consecrating you.
Your consecration enables you to be under his agenda of fasting. Anointing oil is for consecration, being set apart as holy vessels for the Holy Spirit to work through. “He (Moses) poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron's head and anointed him to consecrate him,” Leviticus 8:12
The oil is meant to be an act of faith in receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit. The anointing of the Holy Spirit enables us to fast for the right reasons and to flow under the power and influence of God. He is also the one who moves into our lives to break yokes and overcome spiritual strongholds –spiritually, physically, materially, socially and so on.
The Power of Fasting
Richard LaFountain gives a good summary on the power of fasting. Detailed people like me would have written another book just to say the following:
What Is Fasting?
Fasting is going without food to pursue and/or focus on something more important.
1. Fasting helps subject our bodies to our spirits. (I Cor 9:27)
2. Fasting is disciplining the body, mind, and spirit. (Prov. 25:28)
3. Fasting is subordinating our flesh-desires to our spirit-desires. (Gal 5:17)
4. Fasting helps set the priorities in our lives. (Mt 6:33)
5. Fasting is longing after God. (Ps 63:1-2)
Why Should We Fast?
1. Honor God - Mt 6:16-18, Luke 2:37, Acts 13:2, Mt 5:6
2. Humble Yourself - 2 Chron 7:14-15
3. Discerning Healing - I Cor 11:30, James 5:13-18, Isaiah 59:1-2
4. Deliverance from Bondage - Mt 17:21, Is 58:6-9 (loose bands of wickedness)
5. Revelation - God’s vision and will - Dan 9:3, 20-21, Dan 10:2-10, 12-13
6. Revival - personal and corporate - Acts 1:4, 14 / 2:16-21, Joel 2:12-18
7. Repentance - personal failures - Psalm 51: Jer. 29:11-14, James 4:8-10
LaFountain’s summary above shows that fasting is so critical in our Christian lives. Unfortunately few Christians take fasting seriously. If we all did there would be great revivals world over, breaking of bondages (yokes) in our lives and other people’s physical lives, spiritual areas, and loosing the bonds of Satan’s wickedness in people’s lives in their physical health, spiritual blindness and deafness to the gospel, marital, family, financial, mental and career bondages.
We would also be able to hear from God over most of our repetitive prayers. “Is not this the fast that I Choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the things of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share you bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house...Then shall you call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, here I am,” (Isaiah 58:6-7, 9)
Few believers ever dream or attempt to fast for 40 days. Breakthroughs that would come after the 40 days can take an entire lifetime to realize, if at all. But let’s focus on at least three days of fasting. It’s good to start on an incremental level to reduce the cries of the body after starting a fast. The first time can last a day. Next can be two days. Then three days. Anyone who reaches three days can easily prolong the fast to even 40 days since the body stops crying and kicking after two to three days.
This is our one major discipline that moves mountains. Unfortunately it’s a rarely practiced discipline in the body of Christ. Some have even assumed that breakthroughs come when we go after demon spirits in thin air and command them let go of our blessings as if they have any. They bombard these spirits, calling it spiritual warfare prayer or deliverance prayer only to come under more attacks.
God said when we humble ourselves through prayer and fasting he, himself takes care of these spirits that have gained legal access into our lives. Our consecration to him closes their legal entry and enables him to rebuke all the devourers and weeds around our lives. He rebukes them, not us. Our only role is to focus on him over what he requires of us, and not to focus on whatever demon spirits are up to.
Prayer and fasting constitute our true spiritual warfare prayers and deliverance prayers. We bring matters before God in humble submission and seek him to deal with them in his power and might.
The outcome is twofold: first is victory and deliverance over matters being submitted to him. Second, we draw closer to God, experiencing his grace, love and power. Going after demonic spirits in thin air and calling it spiritual warfare prayer or deliverance prayer is our invention that the bible does not support. No wonder it leads to more bondage instead of deliverance.
Occasional Food Fasts and Permanent Worldly Fast
Most people God greatly used began their calling in intense prayer accompanied with one type of fasting or another. Although fasting is basically abstaining from food, self-denial from other things of the flesh is also fasting. For instance, couples are advised to mutually deprive each other of intercourse whenever necessary for more effective prayer. “Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer,” (1 Corinthians 7:5).
There are many things of the flesh (of worldly value) that hinder sensitivity to the spirit of God. Some require occasional fasts like intercourse for couples, interaction with certain people. Some require frequent fasts like certain foods and quantities, certain books and multimedia, etc.
Others require permanent fasting. These constitute things that are either directly sinful or indirectly sinful. Anything that does not add to our closer walk with God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is a seed of the flesh. It therefore requires a permanent fast. Otherwise, by partaking of it quenches the God’s Spirit whom we desperately need in our daily walk with God. Each seed sown to please the flesh and sinful nature eventually adds up for its due level of harvest.
Seed time and Harvest time -No neutral ground
The law of sowing and reaping applies to whatever we think of, say or do. No neutral ground. “A man reaps whatever he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit will reap eternal life (Galatians 6:7-8).” Every thought, word, or act is a seed either to the flesh or to the Spirit.
Seed sown to please the sinful nature therefore eventually bring some level of destruction in our lives. Anything that brings destruction upon an individual is sinful. Thus a Christian who’s serious about desiring to always grow in her walk with God, hearing from him and fulfilling his will is expected to guard against things that look innocent on the outside. Otherwise they’ll bring destruction in one area or another in her walk with God.
We usually think of destruction as physical death. In that case all of us end our lives in destruction. In scripture, it is the isolation of the spirit part of us from God. It is alienation from the Spirit of God. A person engaging in thoughts or activities of the flesh is thus alienating himself/herself from God. The greater the intensity of involvement in activities of the flesh the wider the distance he/she separates herself from God. It therefore, becomes more difficult for her to hear from God.
That is a challenge to those of us who desire to walk with God and effectively hear from him. We’re called to permanently fast over things of the flesh – things of worldly value. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does – comes not from the Father but from the world,” (1 John 2:15-16).
Carrying Cross of Self-denial on Desires of the Flesh
Our Lord said we must carry our cross of self-denial from all worldly things if we desire to follow him (Luke 14:27). Paul, like the other early disciples did just that. He said, “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world was crucified to me, and I to the world,” (Galatians 6:14).
He said he was crucified and died to worldly desires, though like Christ, he also died to save the world. This too is our calling: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God,” (Colossians 3: 2-3)
Setting our minds on things above demands forsaking things below. These include most secular programs, music, magazines, books, certain places, certain forms of entertainment and activities, and so on. One cannot partake of things below and expect to effectively hear from God and fulfill his will.
For instance, watching secular films only contributes to increased spiritual deafness. It only opens the individual’s spirit to the many voices and images of the world which easily crowd out God’s voice. Whatever we give our attention to takes charge of our hearts.
Not only do our hearts become increasingly impure to hear from God, we also partake of other people’s sins in these programs. We share their sins. For instance, on sexual sins, our Lord said, “Anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” (Matthew 5:28). The sin therefore does not have to be physically committed for the individual to account for it. That sounds harder than the Old Covenant law under Moses. But thank God we have the Holy Spirit and the grace of God to help us in the New Covenant under Christ.
And an avenue like fasting has been given to us to connect with the Holy Spirit who enables us to live lives worthy of our Christian calling. Try fasting over some sins and you’ll see how easily they will drop off. No binding and loosing of demons and so called spiritual warfare prayers needed.
If the sinful tendencies return get back into fasting, for longer periods if necessary. And continue the fight for as long as you’re here on earth. Fasting breaks demonic strongholds, demonic attacks and helps us to walk in the spirit, not the flesh, to sow to the Spirit, not to the sinful nature.
It’s a mystery how fasting works in bringing such outcomes. Or shall we say it’s a mystery how God works through fasting in bringing such outcomes. Why we’re so keen to guard our flesh interests is also another mystery -a mystery of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:7 (KJV)). May God enable us to overcome appetites that have nothing to do with our walk with him and the glorious promises lying ahead of us.
The issue of sowing to earthly verses spiritual things can be a long and controversial one. It’s tempting to justify certain things of the flesh we’re not willing to give up. In a nutshell, self-denial is a prerequisite to a closer walk with God. Many types of non-food fasts are required to silence the flesh and exalt the spirit.
Major Prayer and Fasting Scriptures
“When (not, if or in case) you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you,” Matthew 6:17-18
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I,” Isaiah 58:6-9
“His disciples asked him privately, "Why could we not cast it (the demon) out" And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting,” Mark 9:28-29, Matthew 17: 21, (in KJV, ISV bibles)
“And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: And I prayed unto the Lord my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments…O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” Daniel 9:3, 19
Faced with great invasion king Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast and prayed: “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. O our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?.... But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir….O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you,” 2 Chronicles 20:6-7,10,12
“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity,” Joel 2:12-13
“While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them,’” Acts 13:2
“Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust,” Acts 14:23.
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From the book titled: Major Christian Deliverance Principles: Keys for Self-deliverance and Ministry © 2008 Eric Gondwe