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" Prayer and Fasting? "

"What is the deal with this fasting thing? I am hearing it from different sources. It doesn't seem necessary to me. Am I wrong? ...So much pressure that the church needs to repent for the sins of our nation. Don't we need to witness and pray and bring people to Christ? Not give up food for 40 days....especially during Lent of all times.. we are not Catholics.. We are saved, born again believers...who know Jesus paid it all...His final sacrifice...has done it.." This, a recent query/comment from a VW subscriber.

From another source via e-mail, information about anti-religious "monitors" in Alabama schools, with ACLU support, to eliminate and persecute any form of Bible study, witnessing and prayer in school. Even if such prayer is "silent" in one's own heart, that another doesn't "see" it. That prayer, even during emergencies when someone is dying, is to be banned. The encouragement that Christians need to "PRAY HARD" about this.

What does "pray hard" mean? To grunt and groan? Maybe sigh? Or does one hold one's breath, and... "PUSH!"

From another source, an "Intercessors Network." Talk of "prayer warfare" and "prayer targets." And "creating areas of refuge." Uh, let's see. "Prayer targets" is found in Ephesians 6, right? Whatever happened to, "The LORD is my strength and my shield; My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped; Therefore my heart greatly rejoices, And with my song I will praise Him. The LORD is their strength, And He is the saving refuge of His anointed. (Psa28:7-8) Where is prayer ever associated with aggression? Eph6:18 says "praying always with all prayer and supplica- tion.." "Supplication" is a word of "submission" to the Lord, along with entreaties. Not of militance.

This kind of talk is part of the whole "manifest sons - kingdom now - kingdom restorationist" kind of ideology. They speak of being "in touch with the prophetic dimension" (not the Holy Spirit) to study, research, compile data on areas where they presume to bind and caste out demons in geographic regions. They do this with "networking" via internet, e-mail, faxes so as to "PRECISELY DEFINE and FOCUS a PRAYER COVER to any one in need." I wonder how God has been able to "manage" for 6000 years without faxes and e-mail, to accomplish His will, and to protect His own...to know "where" the need of the moment was to provide the "cover"!! "Because You have been my help, Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice." (Ps63:7)

They teach that "intercession is the ability to react and act" and quickly dispatch "prayer warriors" to accomplish..??? I failed to see their Scriptural references for that one, too. Where were they when Daniel was in the den of lions? Daniel was much too simplistic, "My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths, so that they have not hurt me" (Dan6:22) And God did this without the internet and "prayer blankets."

Concerns that the Lord would "save us from poor praying." What's that?! Poor praying...?

They are concerned with "nations, community needs..where DRASTIC CHANGES are needed." As they say, "personal issues" is not part of their ministry. I thought God was a "personal" God..."I cried to the LORD with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill." (Ps3:4)

I'm sure we could go on and on with this tongue-in-cheek expose. But the query that opened this commentary raises some serious questions that Christians need to consider, as we see this current major push by the false prophets and their followers.

The expression "power of prayer" is on the forefront of every- body's lips again these days. We will try not to cover old ground here from articles (Jul-Aug,95).

The PSA's on local Moody radio encourage people where they can "sign up" to go pray in this "church", or that, at some "specific time" when the doors are open. As though to "schedule God" and plan His itinerary for Him!! But Jesus said that "men ALWAYS ought to pray."(Lk18:1) And Paul speaks of "pray without ceasing."(1Ths5:17) ..the Holy Spirit is the One Who actually does the praying on our behalf.(Rom8:26-27)

Thus, because the Holy Spirit indwells us (Rom8:9,1Cor6:19), prayer is the very definition of communion with God. Prayer is not something we "DO" but a POSITION of "BEING." Abiding in Christ. (Jn15:4,7)

So, what about "fasting" and "national prayer?" First of all let's understand one thing clearly. The USA never has been a "Christian" nation.. that prayer and fasting could hope to bring her "back to" God. While it is true that many of the founding fathers adhered to Scriptural principles, the nation has never been a "theocracy." In fact, the Constitution was specifically written to allow "diversity" of religious beliefs. Which, "the Lord Himself is God; and there is none other besides Him."(Deu4:35) Such diversity is NOT "Christian." However, the diversity has allowed Christians to worship God openly, without fear of reprisal.

Is "fasting" taught in Scripture? Did God command it? It certainly is mentioned a lot.

Fasting is the act of not eating food and/or drinking liquids. Moses did so in the mountain for 40 days and nights.(Ex34:28) As did Jesus 40 days being tempted. (Lk4:2)

The only command I could find on "not eating or drinking" is in connection with the Feast of Firstfruits.(Lev23:14) It seems the intent there is that produce from the new harvest was not to be eaten until the offerings had been brought.

The passage the commentaries CLAIM teaches fasting is the "Day of Atonement" in Lev.23:26-32,16:1-34. This is the once-a-year occasion with the "scapegoat" and the high priest going into the Holy of Holies with blood. However, nothing is actually taught in Scripture about "fasting." While it was a "sabbath" of rest, the other requirement was to "afflict your souls." (23:27,32)

Afflict means to be humble, oppressed, downcast, put down, become low, weaken oneself. It says nothing of "food" or eating. Perhaps "fast- ing" was something Israel did in response to God's command? If food and feasting symbolizes wealth, prosperity and happiness; perhaps it was "their way" of showing humility?

But God never commanded it. In fact, as Israel became apostate God reacts to their fasting, "during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me; for Me?" when you eat.. do you not eat and drink for your- selves?" (Zec7:6-7) And Jesus says in His day, "When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites"(Mt6:16) parading their holiness for men to see. Rather do it before God "in secret."(vs18) And God in Isaiah 58 expresses the fallacies of Israel's fasts, and tells them what true "fasting" should consist of. That it was not about "food" but the "heart." Which Paul reaffirms in Col 2:16~.

While fasting is mentioned in the N.T. there is no doctrine taught on it; as we recall that the Church started out as a "Jewish" entity; no doubt, carrying with it some of the Jewish "traditions."

But what we do see in the N.T. is God's original command refreshed. God had commanded to "afflict the soul." James says, "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. (James 4:7-10)

This is what God intended and desires. Not, necessarily, giving up food.

Amen!

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