In this sermon Pastor Babij teaches on the seventh way to resist the enemy: prayer and fasting. Pastor Babij specifically answers four questions about fasting:
1) What is it?
2) What is its purpose?
3) How to fast?
4) When to fast?
Pastor concludes with admonishment to practice fasting from time to time to win against intractable sins.
In 1 Peter 5:9, I’m going to be looking at the seventh way to resist the enemy. We’ve been looking at the Christian’s obligation for resistance. 1 Peter 5:9 says:
But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.
Part of the suffering we may be entering into could be that satan has his fingerprints all over it, so we have to be ready to resist. As Christians, it is our obligation to resist.
So far, we have been looking at other reasons why we are to resist in the faith, which means the body of doctrine given to us from the word of God. Secondly, to resist by discerning our strengths, weaknesses, and tendencies towards sin, and then fighting against them with the word of God. Thirdly, to resist the antagonist by maintaining a sanctified imagination.
Fourthly, to resist the adversary by putting off sin and putting on righteousness. Then, to resist by putting on Christ. Lastly, we resist by warfare praying. In 1 Peter 4:7, it says:
The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.
Prayer becomes a very vital part of the Christian life. Perhaps, the most battle that we will ever have is the battle for prayer and to make sure it stays within our life. It’s not only to keep awake and alert with all our faculties under control, but also to pray with the gathered assembly and also the private prayer we offer up all throughout the day.
As a believer, we are to be thanking Him, asking Him, petitioning Him, and interceding for other people. Last time, I ended with this quote:
The chief concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He laughs at our toils. He mocks at our wisdom, but he trembles when we pray.
In a sense, when we pray, we’re in the control room of God. We have a new and living way into His presence, so there’s nothing blocking us from going into God’s presence for prayer. When we are there, Satan trembles the most because he knows that the effective prayer of a righteous person can accomplish much. A praying believer, who is genuinely praying before God, has incredible power before the enemy to resist him.
In this seventh way, we are to resist by prayer and fasting. I want to examine the spiritual discipline that has virtually disappeared from almost all of modern Christianity. Fasting is a discipline, which most of us know little about, and even less practically experience its effects and benefits.
Yet, when we read Scripture, fasting is mentioned here. It’s not mentioned all the time, but when it is mentioned, it’s a significant reason why the people fasting and praying are doing that. So, on this Lord’s day, I would like to blow the dust off the cover of this subject and reintroduce it to us because it is a most helpful discipline that you and I may ever encounter in our Christian experience.
I would like to examine the subject by attempting to answer four questions. The first question is: what exactly is fasting? By way of definition, it says that this term
means fasting or abstention from food. It is one who’s not eaten or is empty. It is abstention from food for some religious purpose.
However, fasting should not be confined to food or drink. Fasting should really be made to include abstinence from anything which is legitimate in and of itself for the sake of some spiritual purpose. Of course to back that definition, we have to look at some Scripture. Before I do that, let’s pray:
Lord, as I come before You, before Your people, and as we look at Your word concerning this important subject, I pray that after today we would be more cognizant of what fasting is, and throughout our life, we would practice it from time to time, especially, Lord, since we see that there is a need for it today. Lord, help us to recognize when those needs come up before us and in our life. I pray this in Your name, Amen.
There are some Old Testament and some New Testament passages that I want to look up. The first one is 1 Corinthians 7:5. In the meantime, I want to bring out to you some of the differences in the translations that we have. I’m using the New American Standard Bible, the 1995 version. Some people have the new King James Bible they like to use, which is a good translation. Some people have the English Standard Version, which is also a good translation and perhaps the most popular today in our churches. I want to bring out some differences in those translations, so as we do that 1 Corinthians 7:5 says:
Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
The New King James Bible adds something to the verse:
Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
The other translations do not add it in because the shortest text is decisively supported by all the early manuscripts. The earlier manuscripts would not include that. However, the King James version Scripture or later manuscripts that would include it.
Nonetheless, the stress is still in the context that this is more than just praying here. This is serious praying. In the text, it says that there’s an important spiritual matter going on. There is an importance to come apart from something in order to focus more completely on the spiritual discipline of seeking the face of God.
In this passage, the husband and the wife break away from sexual union just for an agreed amount of time for the purpose of some spiritual matter in which they are engaged in fasting and prayer. There’s something that is heavy upon the heart of the husband or the wife and they are separating themselves for short agreed amount of time for the purpose of seeking God’s face about a particular matter in that person’s life
In the Gospel of Mark 9:15-29, we see that Jesus is going to talk to His disciples, and His disciples just failed in their mission. Remember, Jesus sent them out in the fields to heal the sick, to preach the gospel, and even to cast out demons:
Immediately, when the entire crowd saw Him, they were amazed and began running up to greet Him. 16And He asked them, “What are you discussing with them?” 17And one of the crowd answered Him, “Teacher, I brought You my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; 18and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it.” 19And He answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!” 20They brought the boy to Him. When he saw Him, immediately the spirit threw him into a convulsion, and falling to the ground, he began rolling around and foaming at the mouth. 21And He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22“It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” 23And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.” 24Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” 25When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again.” 26After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, “He is dead!” 27But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up. 28When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, “Why could we not drive it out?” 29And He said to them, “This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer.”
In the New King James, Mark 9:29 reads:
So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
In this passage of Scripture, Jesus is not saying some demon exorcism prayer is required. Rather, he is saying that whatever we take to the spiritual battlefield in our own strength, our own pride, and our own self sufficiency, we have already lost the battle before it began.
Unbelief carries a danger with it that can severely handicapped a believer, leaving them with a powerless and ineffective life. If you want to maintain influence, power, and overcome your enemy and your weaknesses, you must pray. Without complete dependence on Jesus, the able One, you can have no power at all. Thus, prayer and faith testify that spiritual power is not in oneself, but in God alone.
The solution to their failure was a deeper and more consistent prayer life where prayer turns faith into action. Prayer maintains effectiveness in power, and continual contact with Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, maintains effectiveness in power in life and Ministry. It could be that you don’t see great things in your personal life and in your church life because of lack of prayer. Matthew 17:21 says:
“But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
The New King James also adds that into the text. However, the ESV does not even insert this passage. Personally, that’s why I have a disagreement with ESV. They should just leave it there because the King James set a standard that we should keep those verses.
However, the point is that there is a stress on prayer that is connected with fasting is with doing something in our life that is bringing us to a place where we are seriously morning in our heart about something. We have a serious issue that is coming to our life and it seems like nothing is working. Nothing is taking care of this issue. You’ve prayed about it, you have asked other people to pray about it, yet there seems to be nothing moving here. Then, that becomes a time where we have to step back and break away. It’s a time where we not only pray, but fast.
In Daniel 10:1-3, Daniel is very heavy in his heart. He is disquieted in the spirit. He’s very anxious in the spirit. In this section of Daniel, there’s two reasons why he is anxious in the spirit. Daniel’s concern had to do with the returning exiles from after the Babylonian captivity. They were going to come back to Jerusalem, and they were going to have to build the walls of Jerusalem and reestablish the temple. As Daniel saw about fifty thousand people come back to Jerusalem, he’s realizing that they’re not going to be able to do the job without the help of God. They don’t have anything, they were just in exile, and they’re coming back to Jerusalem.
He’s realizing that the job to rebuild the temple is not going to be an easy task. In fact, the prophet Ezra 4:24 says:
Then work on the house of God in Jerusalem ceased, and it was stopped until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.
The work to rebuild God’s house was stopped in 536 B.C. and it resumed in 520 B.C. resulting in a delay of sixteen years. However, we know that right on schedule, God finished the temple and 515 B.C.
Now, maybe Daniel was wondering why things had to be so hard and heavy. Daniel said the message was true and one of great conflict. In fact, in the context of Daniel, it could refer to a great earthly war, it could refer to spiritual warfare, and it also would include the forces between God and Satan that go on behind the scenes.
It goes to show that all true endeavors for the Lord will meet with some level of opposition and struggle. Brethren, don’t be discouraged and don’t think it’s a strange thing that the Christian Life is a life of tussle and continual battle it is that’s the kind of life it is.
There’s a second reason for the disquieted spirit within Daniel, which drove him to ask God for more understanding about what’s going to happen to the people of Israel in the future. At the time, he was eighty-five years old, and he wanted to find out more about what will be in store for Israel, so Daniel prayed three times. However, this time he takes the cannon out, which fasting. Daniel 10:1-3 says:
In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a message was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar; and the message was true and one of great conflict, but he understood the message and had an understanding of the vision. 2In those days, I, Daniel, had been mourning for three entire weeks. 3I did not eat any tasty food, nor did meat or wine enter my mouth, nor did I use any ointment at all until the entire three weeks were completed.
From this passage of Scripture, we know that Daniel was engaged in fasting and prayer for twenty-one days. Daniel had access to the official reports coming back to the government about the conditions of the first arrivals to Jerusalem, the people coming, and the progress reports on the building projects. Most of the news deeply concerned him
In Daniel 10:2 the Hebrew verb gives us a sense of the depth of Daniel’s concern over the condition of the Jews, who had return to Palestine. Daniel kept himself continually morning for three weeks and was deeply concerned to the point where he didn’t eat any tasty food, meat, or wine.
This looks like all the earmarks of a bread and water fast coupled with no attention to personal grooming. Until the end of the three weeks, he did not use any ointment, so you can see the weight of his heart. The practice of fasting is a discipline that should be taken up from time to time, especially if there is a situation in your life that is weighty, and it brings a mournful feeling to your soul. That can only be brought before God at the exclusion of all the regular functions of like food, like drink, like bathing, and personal hygiene.
Sometimes, you have to pull yourself apart. Secondly, fasting is voluntary. It’s not required, forced, or motivated by self-seeking or self-interest. Also, fasting is a personal matter between an individual and God, so that means that fasting must be done unto God before the eye of the father. So then, what is the purpose of fasting?
As we move on, the purpose would be for prayer and meditation. A specific prayer intention is in mind. For example, in Acts 13:2-4, prayer and fasting are offered up to God for a specific reason:
While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. 4So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus.
When people are set apart for some work God has them to do in the world like a mission project – short or long – their Church came together, and they prayed and fasted.
When people are set apart for some work God has them to do in the world like a mission project – short or long – their Church came together, and they prayed and fasted, so the right people would go out and the people would be ready to go out. They would always have the intention of the church and the thought of the church that they were going to go out with the prayer of that church.
Thus, they set them apart by fasting and prayer. Then again, in Acts 14:23, they were setting apart elders in the church, and they were identifying them and then ordaining them:
When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
In that case, they were setting apart the elders of a church and they did that by pray and fasting. The elders and leaders of a church is a serious matter, and they must be qualified men. They have to be men who are really full of wisdom and the Holy Spirit, so they are the ones that are going to be part of leading the congregation, so the congregation gets together in praise and they fast for who’s going to be the next the next elders.
Then, it would be that of just seeking God. In 2 Samuel 12:21-22, Bathsheba had a son, who grows ill and is ready to die, so David sought God:
Then his servants said to him, “What is this thing that you have done? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.” 22He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the LORD may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’
He knew that fasting and prayer got the attention of God. If God was going to save the child, then that was his last resort. He prayed, but God did not say the child. That child died because of the result of his own sin of committing adultery with Bathsheba and committing Uriah, her husband, to the hottest part of a battle, in which he died and lost his life.
Though, we see that fasting was part of the mindset of the people of God to get a hold of God and to seek out his face. Then, there is the story of Esther when the degree was sent out to slaughter the Israelites throughout all the regions and provinces. As a result, she gets everyone to fast and pray. Because of that, the people were saved, and God delivered them in that particular case. Esther 4:16-17 says:
Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.” 17So Mordecai went away and did just as Esther had commanded him.
In this case, God did deliver, so the Jews were allowed to fight on their behalf and reverse the curse that would come upon them by slaughtering all the Jews. In Ezra 8:21-23, this is for an acknowledgement of our entire submission and dependence upon God. In this case, it would be asking God for protection and for a safe trip:
Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions. 22For I was ashamed to request from the king troops and horsemen to protect us from the enemy on the way, because we had said to the king, “The hand of our God is favorably disposed to all those who seek Him, but His power and His anger are against all those who forsake Him.” 23So we fasted and sought our God concerning this matter, and He listened to our entreaty.
God listened to them. Meaning, fasting manifests our dependence, humility, and devotion on the living God giving him full time at a particular point in our life.
This leads me to another question: how do we fast? Fasting for the sake of just doing it would be wrong to do. Also fasting for direct, immediate results as if fasting was some kind of magical thing we do. We should never think of it in a magical way like rubbing up a magic bottle. That’s not the point and that would be a wrong way to do it.
Then, fasting for the physical and confusing with the spiritual when it is really a motive to lose weight and cleanse the body. You know for sure those are some selfish or carnal reasons. That may be a benefit of a fasting, but that’s not the motive that drives you to do it. Rather, it’s a mournful and heavy heart that drives you to do it.
Lastly, another wrong way to do is fasting to show yourself more spiritual than others with no heart devotion, like the Pharisees in Matthew 6, only to be seen by men. You don’t want to draw attention to yourself in that way. In fact, in Matthew 6:16-17, we see there is a right way too fast, and it should be as unsuspecting as possible:
Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17“But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face.
In other words, this fast is unsuspecting. People don’t know you’re doing it, and only you know you’re doing it. Maybe some people close to you may know you’re doing it. I you know when your wife says, “well how come you’re not eating today?” Then, you have to say your fasting. You can tell her, but it’s not like you put it in the church bulletin or prayer sheet. No, it’s between you and the Lord, so you’re breaking away from things, so you can fast.
Secondly, the right way to do it would be with honorable motives. Again, Matthew 6:16 says:
…for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting.
We want to have honorable motives that we’re not doing it for anyone. We don’t do it to feel or to appear more spiritual, so our motives are clean before the Lord. A third way to do it correctly is as secret as possible. It’s between you and the Lord. It’s between you and no one else, so you are bringing your request to the Lord and maybe no one else may know what those requests are. This is the thing that God would want you to do to break away from all the distractions of life in there. Definitely, you have to leave your phone somewhere and your computers shut off because all those distractions are over the top when it comes to focusing your attention on anything.
In continuation, keeping it as secret as possible. Matthew 6:18 says:
so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
Your Father in heaven knows that you are in this position, that you want to get His attention, and he sees that’s the most important part of fasting. Lastly, you forget yourself and you give yourself entirely to God. Leading me to the last question: when should you fast?
Well, when you are compelled or led by a spiritual reason. You want to detach yourself from the world of the material so that your thinking becomes rightly focused upon God. If you have ever fasted before for a spiritual reason, one thing that happens about after the second day when your stomach stops grumbling and wanting food, you start not desiring food. Your attention span almost gets so precise and focused about what you’re doing that you just kind of get pulled into it.
Actually, you begin to forget some of the things that are going on in your life for the sake of getting a hold of God. One man said this about fasting:
God’s chosen fast is the fast which he has appointed. It’s what you set apart for Him, to minister to Him, and to honor and glorify Him. It’s that which is designed to accomplish His sovereign will.
Many times the spirit of God may bring it up on us to seek God out for the sake of God’s will being done in our life concerning a particular matter. A second reason for when to fast is when your soul is burdened in the battle against spiritual wickedness, and you are aware it is the Lord that you must intervene with. Your soul is burning.
Remember, battle is a wearying time, especially spiritual battle where you’re battling against your own sin, the sin of someone else, and the mindset of the world. Also, you’re battling against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Lastly, you should fast when you need to express mourning for your sins and gain self-control and spiritual discipline to run the race and accomplish God’s work. That you are going to discipline yourself and your body because you want to run the race better.
We know, from Scripture, that some things we have to lay aside in our life is not always sin. I’m going to put away the things that are not profitable to me. Actually, they are a disadvantage to me, but they’re not sinful. They just hinder me from running the race. They hinder me from spiritual maturity. They hinder me from going forward. In fact, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:26-27:
Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
Too many people are slaves of their bodies. Their bodies tell their minds when to eat, how much to eat, when to sleep, when to get up and so on. Instead of your body being in control, your mind needs to be in control of your body.
The spirit of God needs to be in control of you. In fact, part of the fruit of the spirit is self-control. I can actually say no to things that I once always said yes to. Instead, Christians need to run to win and that means self-renunciation and self-discipline, so that God is glorified in our bodies. 1 Corinthians 6:20 says:
For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.
In conclusion, fasting is a season of spiritual, earnest, and elevated devotion of the entire being upon God. It is set apart to a special task or objective. It is accompanied by a soul deeply lowered before God, fervently engaged, and pleading for His blessing whether it is occasional or a special blessing.
There’s really only one application for this message: it’s about time to seriously consider, from time-to-time, to implement this very powerful and spiritual weapon. It is a cannon. It is more than just praying, which we do to seriously seek out the face of God concerning a particular matter. This is definitely a way that we resist the enemy. Fasting would be one of those pieces of armor that we put on that really can send Satan running from us and giving God the glory and victory over a particular thing in our life.
As mentioned, it is not required to do this. This is not commanded in Scripture. This is something we voluntarily do from time to time, but I just want you to be aware that this. This is in Your arsenal. This is in your weapons bag against the enemy. Once in a while, take it out and use it, especially if there’s something going on in your life hat’s heavy and there doesn’t seem to be a change. Even if it’s for victory over a particular sin that’s kept you in bondage for many months and years. Then, it would be a time to say:
Lord, I’m tired of this thing controlling my life. I want to come before you in this time of prayer and fasting. Please give me victory over this thing, so I can put it to death and put it away from me forever. That I may go on and live for you with all my heart, mind, soul and strength.
There are going to be times where you and the Lord get together and accomplish something in the time of prayer and fasting. I know that I’ve done it before and it is an incredible time in your Christian walk and life. It is a very beneficial time. I would say that almost every time I’ve done it, I’ve gained victory over the things that were burdening me in my life at that time, and never have they returned again. Let’s pray:
Lord, thank You for Your people and for the word of God. Lord, for the instruction in the Scripture that we looked at on how prayer and fasting go together and how they are such a useful weapon before the enemy, before the flesh, and before the world. Lord, I pray as Your people, we would take more seriously than ever the admonition to take on this particular weapon, so we can resist the enemy, overcome the flesh, and give You glory in something that has been burning us in our life. That we can put to death the sin that has been keeping us in bondage. Lord, so we can be freed up more than ever to worship and serve You with the time You give us and the time we have left on this Earth. I pray that for us, Lord, not only individually, but as a church body. I ask You this in Christ’s name, Amen.