Series 57


by Francis Dixon
(Scripture Portion: Mark 9:14-29, KJV)

In this passage we have the account of the distressed father, the impotent disciples, and the mighty Saviour. Verse 29 is the key-verse, where the Lord Jesus linked prayer and fasting together. He added fasting to prayer and He clearly said that there are times when prayer needs to be accompanied by fasting before it can be effectual. We all know something of the experience of prayer, but how much do we know from practical and personal experience about fasting? What is fasting? A simple definition: The voluntary denial of things that ordinarily, and in themselves, are quite lawful and legitimate, in order that the face of God may be sought in earnest, definite, persistent prayer. Fasting may have reference to:-

  1. 1. Food – look up 2 Samuel 12:16-17; Esther 4:16; Jonah 3:7-8.
  2. 2. Sleep – look up 2 Samuel 12:16.
  3. 3. Pleasures and comforts – look up John 7:53; 8:1.
  4. 4. Sexual relations – look up Exodus 19:14-15; 1 Corinthians 7:5.

It is clear from these references that there should be times in the life of every Christian when one or other of these things is deliberately put aside in order to earnestly seek God in prayer, so that His rich blessings may be outpoured. This should be the case in the life of every church. But when should fasting accompany our praying? Here are some answers from the Scriptures:-

1. When COMMUNION needs to be deepened and FAITH has to be restored.

How possible it is to lose that special sense of God’s presence only to find that our faith, instead of being strong, has become weak! Whenever we are aware of any deficiency in our communion with God, or any doubting of His loving plan and purpose for us (if ever we find ourselves questioning the truth of Romans 8:28), we should at once ‘proclaim a fast’ – that is, set apart a definite time to earnestly seek Him in persistent and believing prayer, and in the devotional reading of His Word. Search your heart. Are you getting slack? Are you out of touch with God? If so, set aside a time when you will seek His face, so that the sense of God’s blessing and the power of His Spirit may be restored in your life.

2. When PRAYER needs to be empowered and VICTORIES have to be won.

Study Mark 9:29 carefully. Some prayers need fasting to ensure victory – Jesus said so. How often we pray and nothing seems to happen! How often when we pray we feel we are asking the Lord to do a very hard thing! – but the fact is that prayer should always prevail, and nothing is too hard for the Lord. Look up Genesis 18:14. If prayer is not securing the answer you seek, fasting should be engaged in. If we fast and pray our praying becomes a very definite and serious business – much more so than if we ‘just pray’. Read through the above definition of fasting again in the light of Mark 9:29.

3. When CONFESSION needs to be made and FORGIVENESS has to be sought.

Read 2 Samuel chapter 11, and 12:1-17 on your knees, and notice 12:16-17 in particular. Then read Psalms 32 and 51. If a child of God falls into sin, that sin will be forgiven immediately it is repented of and confessed (1 John 1:9); but there should be a time of voluntary humiliation before God concerning the whole matter. Read through 1 Samuel chapter 7 and compare James 4:9-10.

4. When SIN needs to be exposed and WRONG has to be put right.

Read through Joshua chapter 7 to see how the sin of one man caused defeat, but note the fact that Achan’s hidden sin was only detected after prayer and fasting. Together these will reveal the hindrances in our own lives and in the work of the churches in which we are working for the Lord – look up and compare Psalm 139:23-24; Acts 5:1-11.

5. When GUIDANCE needs to be received and DECISIONS have to be made.

In Luke 6:12 we read that Jesus went to the mountain alone to pray, and in verse 13 we read that He chose and called the twelve men who were to be with Him during His three-year earthly ministry. We constantly make decisions, and how important it is, especially with those bigger decisions, to set aside a time when we can unhurriedly seek God and get to know His will. (See Acts 13:1-5).

6. When SERVICE needs to be rendered and POWER has to be secured.

What would happen if every preacher of the Word fasted and prayed before preaching until he received power from on high? Well, there is no doubt really as to what would happen – look up Judges 20:26; 2 Chronicles 20:2-30; Esther 4:9 8:17; Ezra 8:21-23. If we would fast and pray we should be endued with power (Luke 24:49) and God would bless our witnessing in a worldwide way that would glorify Him in the salvation of souls – Acts 1:8.

7. When REVIVAL needs to be experienced and TEARS have to be shed.

God wants us all to be a joyful people but also a tearful people. Look up Nehemiah 1:3-4; Acts 20:19; 1 Peter 1:8.

There are some situations where prayer alone is not enough. It must be accompanied by fasting, as Jesus Himself said (Mark 9:28-29 KJV). Pray that God will teach us not only to pray (Luke 11:1) but that when circumstances demand it He will teach us to fast and pray.