Robert E. Henson
16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.
17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,
18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
It is well understood by those who practice fasting that it can be very disturbing to one’s flesh. This is precisely what fasting is meant to do. In fact, fasting is meant to subdue and conquer the flesh, plus much more.
The root purpose of fasting is to weaken the flesh, especially its proud spirit and its lustful desires. The more the flesh and its nature are weakened, the more fully and completely a person can submit to the will and ways of God.
The flesh – more often than the devil or the world is responsible for our failure to perform or accomplish God’s perfect plan for our lives. Fasting gives us a much better grip on our fleshly, carnal nature; thus, enabling us to bring it into subjection unto Christ.
Why Fasting And Prayer?
Is it possible to control the flesh by means of God’s power delivered to us through prayer? It seems obvious that the Scriptures indicate that the answer to this question is affirmative. The flesh can be brought into obedience by means of appropriate, consistent, and effectual prayers.
That leads us to this pivotal question – If a primary reason for fasting is the subjugation of the flesh, and if this control can be accomplished through prayer, then why do we even need fasting at all?
There are several valid responses to this question, all of which validate fasting. In the remainder of this chapter, we will consider a number of solid reasons as to why we should practice the scriptural discipline of fasting.
Freeing Up Prayer Time For Other Purposes
If a person depends on prayer alone to control their flesh, without fasting, the subjugation of one’s flesh in this way will, of necessity, absorb very much of such a person’s prayer time. Many people would readily admit that the prayer time allotment in their life is already considerably short of what they would like it to be. If much of this limited time is absorbed on one’s self, then, quite logically, it follows that there is little or no time for other types of quality prayer. Some of these other focuses of prayer are urgently needed, such as prayer for the church, for the needs of others, for our nation, for laborers, and for the harvest.
When the discipline of fasting is employed in our lives, there are two very significant effects.
First, fasting more easily brings the flesh under control than just relying on prayer alone. Second, fasting reduces the amount of prayer time that must be used for subjugation and surrender of the flesh; thus, freeing the individual to focus on other types of praying that are so powerful and effective. This advantage of prayer and fasting should not be overlooked.
We human beings are creatures with some built-in and strong primal instincts. The most powerful of all instincts is self-preservation. After that come thirst, hunger, reproduction, or the sexual instinct, and then a number of instincts of less strength.
When a person fasts, he or she directly challenges the second and third most powerful of their human instincts. If successful here, the individual automatically has better control over all lesser instincts, including the sexual instinct. Simply put, the more we fast, the stronger control we will have over our carnal desires.
Many persons struggle greatly with the sexual instinct. Such persons can greatly reduce the intensity of the conflict if they will just engage in some bona-fide fasting.
A number of articles and books have been written on the physical values of fasting. Fasting does have a purifying effect on the body. It allows the body to rid itself of toxins and poisons; thus, it assists the body to be healthy. This is a worthwhile side benefit of fasting.
Fasting also can benefit the mind. After a certain point in fasting, the mind becomes more easily focused and its perception is sharpened.
Some time ago, a friend of mine went on a fourteen-day fast. He mentioned to me that, after a few days of fasting, he needed considerably less sleep and was much more alert. He was amazed that fasting had so quickened his mind and enabled him to see and grasp the very essence and heart of issues, rather than being encumbered by nonessential details.
This benefit of fasting is certainly worth considering.
Of course, the greatest benefit of fasting is the spiritual results. Some victories can only be assured and won through the intensified faith produced by prayer and fasting.
“Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?”
This verse declares that fasting does each of the following:
-Cuts asunder the manacles of wickedness
-Lifts heavy and depressing burdens
-Sets free the oppressed
-Breaks every yoke
Jesus noted, in Matthew 17:20-21, that certain kinds of devils can only be cast out by a faith that is reinforced with prayer and fasting.
Is it appropriate to say that we believers need more fasting now to turn back the fiendish assault of hell on our world? I believe so. Certainly it’s needed to push forward the cause of worldwide revival and gather in the harvest of the last days.
It should be noted that the Bible gives us some explicit instructions on how to fast. These should be carefully followed.
Also, fasting must be balanced with all other spiritual disciplines, Christian virtues, and weapons of spiritual warfare. Fasting was never intended to be an isolated discipline.
I began this chapter with the title, Why Fasting? I close this chapter with this encouragement – Try Fasting!
The above article “Why Fasting” is written by Robert E. Henson. This article was excerpted from chapter 16 in Henson’s book “Living A Balanced Life, In An Unbalanced World.”
The material is copyrighted and should not be repainted under any other name or author. However, this material may freely be used for personal study or purposes.