Preaching on Fasting As A Spiritual Weapon

Preaching on Fasting As A Spiritual Weapon

This is my last post on preaching on Spiritual Warfare.  If you are interested in reading all of the posts, here’s the first in the series.  Here is the first in the series that focuses on the weapons of warfare.   In this post we are going to look preaching on fasting as a spiritual weapon in the battle against the forces of evil.

Fasting Taught in the Bible

In today’s world fasting, voluntarily giving up food for a period of time, seems out of place in our world.  We have “fast” food to match our racing lifestyles.  It is just not regularly preached about nor taught many places.  Yet, when we look in the Bible, we find that it is a pretty prominent subject.  Here’s a list of people who fasted in the Bible:

Moses, David, Elijah, Esther, Daniel, Anna (widow in the temple who prophesied about Jesus), Jesus, Paul the Apostle.  One person I read said that there is more about fasting than about confession and repentance.  Jesus talked more about fasting than about baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

So, why have we ignored it?  I suspect there are a few reasons:  It got a bad reputation in the Middle Ages as it was limited to monks and nuns; it is seen as a Jewish custom, and therefore not applicable to us today; there’s a thought in our society that we need three square meals a day to stay healthy and well; and the legalism connected to it is often a turn-off for modern Christians.

Old Testament Fasting

The Old Testament only required on fasting day per year on the Day of Atonement.  You can read about this in the following passages: Leviticus 16:29-31; Leviticus 23:26-31; and numbers 29:7. On that day fasting was commanded to humble yourself before God as he pictured for us the beauty of forgiveness through the sacrifice of one goat for the sins of the priests, and then another goat released out into the wilderness to get lost after having the sins of the nation were confessed over its head.  This was the day that the blood of the killed goat was brought into the Holy of Holies and spread on the ark of the covenant.

We also read of other times when people chose to fast:

  • When war threatened.
  • When a loved one was sick.
  • When loved ones died.
  • When people sought God’s forgiveness.
  • When danger threatened, as Ezra prayed for protection traveling to Jerusalem.
  • To get clarity of God’s will, as Daniel fasted asking for explanation of a vision that he had.
  • To experience God’s blessing as Paul and Barnabas fasted and prayed as they installed elders.

As we are going to see, it is also a good thing to think about preaching on fasting as a spiritual weapon for your people.

Fasting Choices for your Spiritual Weapon

When we read the Bible we find that there are a variety of kinds of fasts.

  • There were three people who did a 40-day supernatural fast: Moses, Elijah and Jesus.
  • Fasting was usually one day, from sunup to sundown.
  • Occasionally it was longer, for 7 days.
  • Sometimes fasting was going without food or water, but usually it was going without food.
  • Sometimes it was a partial fast, giving up luxury foods for a time.

An Invitation to Fast as a Spiritual Weapon

There is one passage in the New Testament that has caused some to see an invitation to preaching on fasting as a spiritual weapon.  It’s in Mark 9.  Here it is:

23 “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

24 Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the impure spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.”

26 The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, “He’s dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.[a]”

The setting is this: Jesus has just come down from the Mount of Transfiguration.  As he encounters the crowd, a father is begging for a demon to be cast out of his son.  The disciples were unable to accomplish this.  So Jesus steps in and shows his power again.

Notice the footnote at the end.  Some early manuscripts say, “This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting.”  Translators and scholars have determined that the reference to fasting was not likely in the earliest manuscripts, but was probably added by a monk copying the scriptures by hand.  That may be, but it does show that Christians early on connected fasting with spiritual warfare.

Encouraging Your People to Fast as a Spiritual Weapon

Teach them to fast.  Here is a link to a good teaching on the power of fasting for growing in your spiritual life.

For further reflection, here is a short teaching on how to go about the details in your fast.