On fasting: how does fasting relate to intercession?

Fasting. It might be called prayer that isn’t fun! Describing a particularly intense encounter with this aspect of prayer, Martin Luther said, “My flesh was wont to grumble dreadfully.”

Of course, consistency in prayer at any level is difficult.  That’s because, as a child once wrote, “Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint on his knees.”

But of all the levels of intercession, this one seems to terrify our enemy the most.  It saturates our petitions with an authority that comes in no other way.  To combine fasting with intercession is to add special power to our prayer.  It is authoritative praying that allows us to “fast” down enemy strongholds.

Authority is defined as the power to influence or persuade from knowledge and experience.  It is also the legal or rightful power to command or act in specific situations.

How does fasting relate to intercession?  Intercession is the denial of self in prayer so that our praying is focused on others; and fasting is a physical form of humility and self-denial for which Scripture indicates special power.  Fasting in conjunction with intercessory prayer is authoritative praying at its highest level.

Fasting, of course, is the practice of deliberately and voluntarily abstaining from usual nourishment, which, when performed in the context of prayer, brings supernatural power to our praying.  Fasting is to do without, or to practice self-denial.

Its meaning can be expanded to include temporary abstinence from anything in order to give more concentrated attention to spiritual matters.  Scripture reveals five distinctive aspects of this difficult-to-understand category of “authoritative praying.”

The psalmist said, “When I wept and humbled myself with fasting, I was jeered at and humiliated” (Ps 69:10, Ampified).  The New English Bible reads, “I have broken my spirit with fasting.”

Humility is at the heart of fasting.  Humility is a quality that manifests itself in how one acts in relation to God and others.  It is to lower one’s estimate of self by elevatingone’s estimate of others.And because fasting carries this quality of humility into the tangible, physical realm, it brings about a brokenness before God that can come in no other way.  Such brokenness not only honours God but also makes the intercessor’s heart more pliable to hear from Him.  He is thus more useful in carrying out God’s Kingdom plans.

Paul spoke of temperance (or self-control) as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23).  Temperance is the quality of moderation in one’s appetite and passions.  It is to take control over one’s flesh by not allowing anything to grow to the point of excess.  In this case it is to put to death that which is impure or excessive.

Note how fasting amplifies this action.  The psalmist said, “But for me, when (my enemies) were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I afflicted myself with fasting, and I prayed with head bowed on my breast …” (Psalm 35:13, Amplified).

Afflicted is a strong word in the text that might equally be translated torture.  Surely anyone who has fasted any length of time can readily identify with the use of this expression to describe fasting.

But the New English Bible suggests an even stronger translation:  “I mortified myself with fasting,” which could be paraphrased, “I put myself to death.”  Fasting truly helps us die to self, and death to self is the key to spiritual vitality and productivity.

In an age in which so many believers (prominent spiritual leaders included) are succumbing to the works of the flesh, surely a fresh call to fasting and prayer is in order.  Could it be that fasting is the key to overcoming Satan’s increased attacks on the moral well-being of even our spiritual leaders?

Paul certainly understood his need to keep his body in subjection. He said to the Corinthians, “I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”  (1 Cor 9:27, NIV).  Paul wasn’t speaking of engaging in some form of penance for his failures but of maintaining self-control when confronting fleshly desires.  And certainly this chief apostle knew that fasting and prayer was high on the list of maintaining that authority.

Third, fasting is a worship activity that increases spiritual receptivity by creating a climate for the Holy Spirit to speak.

Fasting often brings a heightened sensitivity to those making personal or corporate decisions.

Here we need to pray for all the leaders, both in the government and opposition parties

The author of Acts described such a circumstance regarding the sending forth oflabourers:  “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, ‘Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.’  And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:2-3, KJV, italics added.)

Here we see the combination of a spirit of worship with a spirit of fasting.  Another translation reads, “While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting …”  (NIV).

Not only did the disciples see the worth of fasting as they faced the issues of reaching the lost, but as the result of their fast they were able to receive specific guidance from the Holy Spirit.  Indeed, it is possible that had they not fasted, the Holy Spirit might not have spoken.

Ezra, too, recognized the power of fasting in seeking guidance.  When the scribe proclaimed a fast prior to leading God’s people from their Babylonian captivity (see Ezra 8:21-23), he noted three specific focuses for the fast:

First, Ezra called the people to humble themselves before God and seek of Him a “right way for us.”  Guidance was clearly the first focus for their fast.

Second, they sought God with fasting regarding the care of their “little ones.”

Finally, God’s people sought the Lord with fasting for protection of “all their possessions.”

In looking at the details of this fast, we immediately note the significance of the first focus.  Ezra knew it was possible that enemies would attack them along the way.  Already he had told the king they needed no military escort.  But suddenly the reality of the situation faced Ezra squarely.  Ordinary prayer wasn’t enough.  A time to fast and pray was essential.  Fasting is a key to hearing “the right way”!

Fourth, fasting is concentrated spiritual preparation for Holy Spirit-empowered service that increases the believer’s spiritual power.

Recall the baptism of Jesus as pictured by Luke:  “Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness”  (Luke 4:1).

Here we note that Jesus was “led” into this season of fasting by the Holy Spirit.  God’s Spirit must always be our Guide as we encounter any level of spiritual warfare.

Jesus’ fasting lasted forty days, during which time Satan confronted Him repeatedly.  But Christ returned “in the power of the Spirit” to Galilee.  Note how this differs from Luke’s earlier words that Christ was “filled with the Spirit” before going into the wilderness (see Luke 4:14).

This seems to suggest that whereas Christ was filled with the Spirit before the fast, after the fast, He went forth in the power of God’s Spirit, with the Spirit flowing out of Him.  Jesus went into the wilderness with internal power, but He emerged with external power.

Something had happened during those forty days of fasting that brought added spiritual power.

And significantly, that power was first released during the fast itself to thwart Satan’s attempts at leading our Lord into temptation.  Thus, Jesus not only defeated Satan with the power of the Word – “It is written” – but with the power of a fast that surely amplified the employment of the Word.

In all this we discover again that Christ is our supreme example of an intercessor.  And here we see Him fasting His way to victory.  Thus, those who would ask to be like Jesus will sooner or later follow His leading to a life sprinkled with seasons of prayer and fasting.

Finally, fasting is a specialised service ministry that increases spiritual usefulness for the totally committed believer.

One of Scripture’s most remarkable women considered fasting her calling.  The Bible says, “Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel  … of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fasting and prayers night and day”  (Luke 2:36-37).

Interestingly the Authorized Version’s expression “there was one Anna” (italics added) has special significance.  Of the Bible’s 2 989 characters mentioned by name, there indeed is only one Anna.  Further, she has a ministry no one else is pictured as possessing.  Anna served God by praying and fasting day and night.

Naturally, this is not to say Anna never ate or slept.  God never calls anyone to a level of ministry that requires such intensity of effort that ends up destroying the very temple (our bodies) that He has commanded us not to destroy (see 1 Cor 3:16-17).

But it is interesting to note that the Scripture refers to Anna’s “fasting” and “prayers” in the plural.  This suggests that Anna experienced recurring occasions of sustained fasting and prayer.  Note also the phrase night and day.

Anna was sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s direction, even if it meant sustained times of prayer at night.  Fasting and prayer was Anna’s specialized ministry as a committed believer.  It is a calling available to any believer in Zambia who would begin his or her ministry of prayer and fasting for the present, future  well-being of Zambia with periodic appointments with the Lord, during which self is denied for a portion of a day (or even an entire day or two) as the Lord leads.

Let us all stand in the gap and pray night and day for our beloved country of Zambia.For our leaders, both in government ,churches , opposition parties and all NGO’s .

For now God bless you all and be blessed in all you do. May God cause His face to shine upon you.


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