April 19th | Text: Acts 14:21-23
Prayer and Fasting were practiced in the Old Testament. Ezra prayed and fasted while seeking protection. Nehemiah wept, fasted and prayed during a time of mourning. When Daniel perceived that Jerusalem would be desolated for seventy years: Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. (Daniel 9:3) There are many references to fasting in the Old Testament but almost never to just fasting; you will always find prayer and fasting, mourning and fasting, weeping and fasting, etc.
Prayer and Fasting were practiced in the New Testament. In Acts 13, the church at Antioch prayed and fasted before sending out Paul and Barnabas. “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” (Acts 13:2-3) Paul and Barnabas pray and fast for the elders appointed to each church in the following chapter. While Old Testament fasting is often associated with weeping or mourning, New Testament fasting is often associated with establishing believers in Christian service. It is part of the dedication of ministers and missionaries.
Jesus fasted. After his baptism and before beginning his public ministry, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting. Just like in Acts, Jesus dedicates himself to the task at hand with a season of preparation.
Jesus taught others to fast. He explained on at least one occasion why his disciples did not fast (while the bridegroom was with them) but that they would fast later (after his death, burial and resurrection). His instruction on fasting was to the larger audience of Jews regarding how to fast correctly. “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:16-18)
Fasting is a spiritual discipline that we seldom hear anything about. But the many references throughout scripture are hard to ignore, particularly when Jesus and the early church fathers so often prayed and fasted. There is a right and wrong way to do it (taught by Jesus in the New Testament and the prophet Isaiah in the Old) but when done correctly is a valid expression of faith. Fasting, like prayer and tithing, demonstrate a dependence on God’s provision.
Unity Baptist will join other members of our community in a time of prayer and fasting May 1st and 2nd. Click this link to read more about that event. We wish to dedicate ourselves to work God has called us to as a church; and as myself and my family have only been here a few months, this is something of a dedication as pastor. Please be in prayer during the coming days and weeks, and considering joining with us in prayer and fasting. Ask for God’s will to be done, to him be honor and glory.