12 January 2014 - Do Christians Have to Fast?

Do Christians Have to Fast?

The answer is an emphatic Yes!, of course they need to fast often. Matthew 9:14 to 15 clearly explains this requirement. Here is the account: “Then the disciples of John came to Him,(Jesus) saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” This account shows us that the disciples of Jesus did not fast even though Jesus himself did fast because he understood the significance of fasting with the correct attitude. See Luke 4:1-12. In response to John’s disciples, Jesus says, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn,(fast), as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. “ Now, Jesus was taken away by his ascension, therefore Christians should fast as seen in the book of Acts.

Jesus goes further to explain the importance and need of fasting to the disciples after they failed a challenge from the community. In Mark 9, a man with a troubled son approached the disciples for help with his son who had been possessed by a demon from his childhood. Jesus found the man quarreling with his disciples after they failed to meet his need for help. Here is the account from verse 17. “Teacher, I brought you my son who has a mute spirit……I spoke to your disciples that they should cast it out, but they could not.”. Jesus goes on to set the boy free and help the troubled father. On seeing this the disciples were surprised and approached Jesus secretly to ask why they could not help the man and his son.

Jesus’ answer was, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”. This means that there are certain problems in life that we as disciples of Christ can overcome through prayer and fasting. If we fail, the people will remain in affliction. If we are to be messengers of the good news to the world, then we must be ready to help them with every problem including those that are solved by prayer and fasting. Christians must fast and pray in order to be the light and salt they are meant to be. In Luke 10:17 the disciples have a different report, “…then the seventy returned with joy saying, Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name.”, What had changed? The answer is found in Matthew 9 which mentions that certain demons only come out by prayer and fasting. The disciples started praying and fasting. There is an account of them asking Jesus to teach them to pray so they took it seriously.

There are numerous rewards to prayer and fasting. Jesus mentions this in Matthew 6: 16-18, “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like hypocrites, with a sad countenance…..but you, when you fast……and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”. Still on this account Jesus reiterates the need to fast and also confirms that God honours it and rewards it openly. Now that it is set that believers are required to fast often, the thing to remember is the attitude in which one approaches their fast.

Isaiah 58:3-7 helps with a good guide: “…Why have we fasted, they say and You have not seen? Why have we afflicted our souls and You have not taken notice?…” Here people expected a response to their fast from God but they did not get any because they had the wrong attitude in their fast. So God ignored them! God then explains the kind of fast he expects from us in verse 6 to 9. Fasting causes our voices to be heard in heaven. If we do it with the right attitude by cleansing our hearts and seeking the right things verse 9 says we will call on the name of The Lord and he will answer.

Matthew 6 has already said we must put away hypocrisy for God to respond positively to our fast. Fasting is an important discipline that every believer should engage in often especially at the beginning of the year. It will help us focus on God and things that matter as well as prepare us for the numerous problems and challenges our communities face. Jesus must always be that answer through you as a believer. To be continued……