by Dr. Ray H. Hughes
Jonathan Edwards, a revivalist in the Colonial days of New England, gave himself to regular seasons of fasting and prayer. It was following an all-night prayer meeting that he preached his famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Such piercing conviction of sin ensued that sinners seized the backs of the seats and some held to the pillars of the church lest they should drop into hell.
John Knox was known to fast regularly and, through travail of his soul, saved Scotland from Catholicism. Mary, Queen of Scotland, feared his prayers more than the armies of England. J. C. Morrison said, “Every great leader who moved his age mightily fasted.”
Epiphanius, an ancient author, wrote: “Who does not know that the fast of the fourth and sixth days of the week (Wednesday and Friday) are observed by Christians throughout the world?” John Wesley followed this pattern in his personal life and encouraged the pioneering Methodists to do the same. He once said, “While we were at Oxford, the rule of every Methodist was to fast every Wednesday and Friday in the year in imitation of the primitive church.”
The great revivalists of all ages placed a great deal of emphasis upon fasting to humble the souls of the people, to entreat the presence of God in their meetings, and to make men sensitive to the operation of the Holy Spirit. But the interest in our times is more toward feasting that fasting, and fasting is an almost forgotten avenue to power with God.
Fasting is that extra dimension in communion with God. It is the secret to power and divine direction. A study of the manifestation of the power in the New Testament church will reveal that fastings accompanied their prayers, because they were aware that some things cannot be accomplished without prayer coupled with fasting.
When the disciples approached Christ about their powerlessness and their inability to cast out devils, His answer was, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29). This is the biblical route to power, and all of the plans, programs, and projects will not serve as substitutes for this vital practice.
It was when the New Testament church was worshiping the Lord and fasting that the Holy Spirit told them to send forth Barnabas and Saul for special work (Acts 13:2).
When elders were ordained, it was with prayer and fasting that they were committed to the Lord (see Acts 14:23).
When people fast often, God works mightily. This denial of self makes one sensitive to the will of God and to the operation of the Holy Spirit. But fasting is a sacrificial act, and most Christians shrink back from sacrifice and self-denial. However, in these changing times when people are looking for new modes of ministry and new vehicles of transmission for the message, fasting is a constant method for men to have power with God and for churches to move against satanic forces. Only those churches and ministers who will give themselves to prayer, fasting, and the ministry of the Word will be able to make an impact upon these times.
While we are looking for new ways and means to reach a changing society, let us not forget the God-ordered way to power which has been and will be relevant to every generation.