By Rosetta Thomas
One of the most profound statements that Jesus made is in Mark 9:29, when He indicated that there are certain situations that will not go except by prayer and fasting.
The scripture says:
And when he was come into the house, his disciples asked him privately, Why could not we cast him out? And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. Mark 9:28-29 KJV
This explanation came in response to a query the disciples made after Jesus delivered the madman in Gadara, following the disciple’s failed attempt to do so. These were men who communed and fellowship with Jesus and learned at His feet. I imagine that they did everything they were taught and exercised the authority they were given, but for them, this was a case which defied all odds. It in fact required added pressure, and that added pressure was fasting.
According to the Cambridge dictionary, fasting is “eating no food for a period of time” and it is also believed to involve abstinence from pleasure. In a fasting, the believer fills up with the Word of God and prayer, in as much as they deny themselves of food and pleasure. In order for a fasting to be effective, it must be done in a way that is acceptable to God. To this end, Isaiah 58:6-7 tells us about God’s chosen fast. Accordingly, we are told:
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? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Isaiah 58:6-7
How can fasting be effective?
In order for a fasting to be effective, it must first be done for a specific purpose and that purpose must align with the will of God. The will of God is to set free those who are bound, and fasting is one of the keys to the Kingdom which can be employed to accomplish this. Jesus rightly stated that the situation with the madman of Gadara is the kind that requires fasting because this man was bound by the bands of wickedness which came in the form of the spirit of insanity.
In the same breath, Queen Esther was confronted with a situation which forced her to rightfully call a fast, because the enemy had craftily put a plan in place to eliminate all the Jewish people in Shushan. In the end, the bands of wickedness were broken, those who were under oppression were set free and the man behind the plot fell into the very trap that he had set.
In order for a fasting to be effective, it must also be as discreet as possible, and it should not be done for a show. Accordingly, in Matthew 6:16-18 the scripture says:
“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. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 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.
Additionally, effective fasting requires one to be in good standing with God and this is necessary because if we regard iniquity in our hearts, the Lord will not hear our prayers (Psalm 66:18).
Fasting as a lifestyle
When it comes to the life of a believer, fasting is a necessity for survival and is expected to be incorporated in our lifestyle. We know this because in Matthew 6:16 the scriptures refer to “when you fast” and not “if you fast”, signifying that it is not an option. In addition to this, the Apostle Paul spoke about “fasting often (2 Corinthians 11:27), indicating that that was his lifestyle.
Waging a Good Warfare
It is necessary that fasting be engrafted in our way of life because it is one of the principal ways of overcoming the enemy. Life itself is characterized by constant warfare; the war of which is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers of darkness (Ephesians 6).
This essentially means that there are powers of darkness behind the scenes controlling and influencing what goes on in the natural world. In this regard we can see where, in the story of the madman in Gadara, people saw him cutting himself and terrorizing the area, but the real power in operation was legions of demons which possessed him. King Saul pursued David to destroy him for many years, but Saul was oppressed by a demon which was influencing his behaviour.
Today, many of us are either faced with situation or know of persons who are faced with situation which seems to defy all odds but there are powers behind the scenes influencing the outcome, and it can only be adequately dealt with through fasting and prayer.
We are told in scriptures that since the days of John the Baptist, the Kingdom of God suffereth violence and it is only the violent that is able to take it by force (Matthew 11:12). Breakthrough and deliverances are therefore not automatic but rather what we fight for and one of the ways we fight spiritual battles is with fasting and prayer. The madman in Gadara was bound for years but if the people of his day, including the scribes and pharisees had fought for his breakthrough by using prayer and fasting as outlined in Isaiah 58, he would have been delivered long before he did. He could have also gone on to live a fruitful life without wasting so many years in the dungeon of insanity.
Another point worth noticing is the fact that we are living in the very last of the last days and these times are characterized by an increase in the forces of darkness in the world. To name a few: unknown and mysterious diseases have been on the increase, crime and violence have taken over our nations, immorality and sexual perversion is on the rise, homes and marriages are breaking left, right and centre and there are social issues everywhere. How can we navigate through these turbulent times? We can do it through prayer and fasting.
In conclusion, it is important to understand that God has our best interest at heart. He wants to loose the bands of wickedness that have us bound, He wants to undo our heavy burdens and He want to set those of us in captivity free and break every stubborn yokes in our lives. When you and I are therefore faced with situations which put our backs against a wall, it is time to call a fast. When our nation is under siege, it is time to call a fast. When we are facing family crisis, it is time to call a fast and when our day of trouble as recorded in scripture (Job 14:1 & Psalm 50:15) comes upon us, it is time to call a fast. Truly, many challenges will confront us and some of them will surely be insurmountable. Unlike the case of the madman of Gadara, Jesus will not come physically to deliver but He expects us to be equipped to carry out the mandate. It is therefore imperative that we adjust our approach in seeking resolutions to our challenges because who knows, we may be dealing with the kind that can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.