“And He told them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” Mark 9:29 HCSB
Today in the Catholic tradition marks the first day of lent. Lent is recognized by Catholics all over the world by going to their churches and having an ash cross marked on their foreheads. This day is called Ash Wednesday. Lent is a forty day period of fasting that starts forty six days before Easter, symbolizing the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting and praying. I am not a Catholic, nor do I participate in their traditions such as lent or Ash Wednesday. However, fasting is clearly expected of all Christians.
The bible does not give us a mandate to fast and pray for any certain length of time. The bible does however give us several examples of people praying and fasting. Ester fasted for three days, Israel fasted for seven days, Daniel fasted for three weeks, and Moses, Elijah, and Jesus fasted for forty days. Nor does the bible give us a prescribed method of fasting. We find in the bible absolute fasts, (no food or water), partial fasts, vegetable fasts, and even fasts from sexual relations. There are a multitude of examples in both the Old and New Testaments.
Fasting is clearly not a spiritual diet. It is for the sole purpose of seeking God for a singularly specific reason. It is a time of demonstration to God of how serious we are for the need in which we are praying and seeking God for. It is a time when we are willing to deny ourselves and seek God.
In this text of scripture we find a father who has a son that is demon possessed. The demon that has possessed him is trying to destroy him. While Jesus was up on the mountain the father brought his boy to the disciples for them to cast the demon out. Jesus had already given the disciples authority to cast demons out and they rejoiced that the demons were subject to them in Jesus name. (Luke 10:1-20). However, they could not cast this demon out. Jesus came down off of the mountain in the midst of their failure to cast the demon out of the boy. Jesus with no trouble at all cast the demon out. Later that night the disciples asked Jesus why they could not cast this demon out. Jesus then said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
Clearly in the New Testament church fasting and praying was a regular part of life. Not so much today is it? If have preached on fasting plenty of times only to be told by people who have been in church their whole lives that this was the first time they have heard a sermon on fasting. What a shame. Could it be that our prayers are not being answered because we sling shot quickie prayers to the throne of God thinking that is sufficient? Are we not willing to deny ourselves for the purpose of modern day fathers and mothers who stand at the feet of the church looking and longing for a move of God on behalf of their children of whom Satan and his demons are trying to destroy. Will we not fast for their sake or even the sake of our own children, churches, community, and nation? Or are we too consumed with us?
Jesus gave us very specific instructions for fasting in Matthew 6:16-18. Jesus said in this text, “When you fast”, as if it is an expectation from Him. Will you join me in praying and fasting for our children, churches, communities, and nation? They stand in great need. The good news is, we have a great God!