FASTING with Prayer in the Early Church: What the New Testament really says — Fasting isn’t only to calm the flesh and draw near to God. Now there is even clinical evidence showing tremendous health benefits!

A woman really did surprise me in a comment, today, saying: “Fasting is not taught in the New Testament.” So I thought I’d clear the air to show what the New Testament does teach about fasting.

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In the new covenant, fasting isn’t specifically required, but holiness is, and fasting helps us calm our flesh so we can rest in God and find Him during prayer — and be real-going-to-heaven, full-of-fruit Christians. We must abide in Christ to be free.

Rom. 8

1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who don’t walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

5 ..the mind of the Spirit is life and peace….

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13 For if you live after the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are children of God.

There is much historical evidence that early Christians did fast two days a week. For example in the Didache  (70-100 AD) we see:

But let not your fasts be with the hypocrites [probably those living under the old covenant law – editor], for they fast on the second and fifth day of the week. Rather, fast on the fourth day and the Preparation (Friday).

And it’s interesting that this two day period just happens to turn out to be extremely healthy physically:

[ BBC video ] “Eat, FAST and Live Longer” with Mike Mosely — When IGF-1 levels drop, the body slows production of new cells and instead, repairs existing cells. DNA damage gets fixed and age-related diseases don’t happen!

Jeff Fenske

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Now is the time to fast:

Lu 5:33-35 [Also Mt.9:14-15 & Mk. 2:18-20]

Then they said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?” And He said to them, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.”

~

Fasting with prayer builds faith and conquers unbelief (Jesus had the Holy Spirit in him, the way Christians do today, but the disciples didn’t, until Pentecost):

Mt. 17:18-21 [Also Mk. 9:17-29]

Jesus rebuked him, the demon went out of him, and the boy was cured from that hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately, and said, “Why weren’t we able to cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your unbelief. For most certainly I tell you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will tell this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. But this kind doesn’t go out except by prayer and fasting.”

~

Fasting with prayer helps us draw near to God:

Ac 10:30

So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing,

~

The Holy Spirit gave important guidance while they were praying and fasting — BIG decisions need BIG guidance:

Ac 13:2-3 

As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent [them] away.

Ac 14:23

So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.

~

Couples agreeing to fast and pray at times:

1Co 7:5

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.

~

Don’t make a big deal out of it:

Mt 6:16-18

“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.”

~

An 84-year-old widow’s example, even before the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost:

Lu 2:37

…and this woman [was] a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served [God] with fastings and prayers night and day.

~

We also see in the Didache  (70-100 AD), this interesting passage that here includes fasting for those who persecute us:

There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways. The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you. And of these sayings the teaching is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there for loving those who love you? Do not the Gentiles do the same? But love those who hate you, and you shall not have an enemy. Abstain from fleshly and worldly lusts.

Related:

Bob Mumford’s classic guidance book is still available: “Take Another Look At Guidance” (I don’t remember if Bob talks about fasting in this book, but one of his points is that ~”big decisions need big guidance.” Fasting helps us get clear guidance — and so does praying in tongues, by the way — which helps excise demons)

Study: Intermittent fasting promotes brain health — Fasting for one or two days each week is like ‘exercising your brain muscles’

“Fasting is about CHOOSING voluntary WEAKNESS so that Christ may abound even more within us” – Mike Bickle

5 thoughts on “FASTING with Prayer in the Early Church: What the New Testament really says — Fasting isn’t only to calm the flesh and draw near to God. Now there is even clinical evidence showing tremendous health benefits!

  1. You are wrong re fasting. All the good health or bad health in the world will not get you into heaven. Do not play the worlds game.
    Tis not Irene but husband replying so please leave it at that.

  2. 1 Cor. – fasting is not in many manuscripts.
    The gospels and much of the preaching was directed to the Jews who were still under the Law.
    As for Acts, that occasion when they prayed and fasted before sending the two out, was under the jurisdisction of the apostles of the Lord Jesus excluding Paul, who was the newcomer in a sense. The church in Jerusalem never left its Judaism – instance the book of Galatians when some from Jerusalem intruded into the Pauline scene – wrongly – still following parts of the Law.
    Paul did not. The epistles did not command or encourage fasting. It was all prayer in the Spirit.
    Paul’s account of his afflictions in the KJV does including fasting but remember, 1611, old English and after all we fast all night and break our fast at break-fast. The original manuscript reads ‘hungered’ as is often the lot of missionaries or apostles – my husband had to eat sweet potatoes day after day – I myself boiled rice thrice one Christmas Day – just a small side-dish. That was my dilemma.
    As for fasting, we struck a whole nation, Indonesia, where all the numerous Pentecostal churches fasted and prayed ten days annually before Pentecost for folk to be baptized with the Spirit. Their churches without exception were void of that experiences. We ministered to hundreds of churches and places, where maybe 1% had Acts 2:4 and often prayed for pastors and wives (Pentecostal?) up to twenty eight years in the ministry – without the baptism. They always received when we prayed for them and indeed generally 1009% in the churches also received in our meetings. They fasted diligently! We never.
    So it has always been.
    In an island, three daughters of the Pastor had demons similar to the person where Jesus said, KJV only, ‘This kind goeth not out except by prayer and fasting’ Manuscripts do not include this verse. Anyway, it was something that my husband cast out those demons, without fasting. The daughters were right ever after and nightly would walk with him the many miles needed to have the next meeting.
    It is not by might nor by power (of any kind even a fasting production) but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.
    It is the Spirit’s power manifesting through the servant of the Lord who is not full of fasting but full of the Holy Ghost as was Stephen, Peter, James, John and Paul.

    1. Irene,

      I’ll respond to your statements, which I’ll italicize and indent, twice.

      1 Cor. – fasting is not in many manuscripts.

      The NIV and many modern translations rely heavily on the intentionally altered Egyptian texts, whereas the KJV, NKJV, WEB, etc. rely on the much more reliable Syrian texts. The Egyptian scribes intentionally removed thousands of words, the worst (in my opinion) is the second half of Romans 8:1, which most pastors now use to justify once-saved-always-saved.

      This is from my Who-Goes-To-Heaven Scriptures — Narrow is the Way | Who are the Children of God? article, in the Romans 8 section:

      Romans 8:1 is one of the most commonly mistaught scriptures, largely because of certain faulty modern Bible translations like Rupert Murdoch’s NIV. See:

      What is HORRIBLY WRONG with Modern Bible Translations like the NIV? Most modern versions slavishly depend on the Egyptian and Vatican corruptions of the New Testament!

      Westcott and Hort Magic Marker Binge! Would you take a magic marker to your Bible and cross out words from passages? Do you read the NIV?

      NIV alterations that greatly affect Christian doctrine — including my pet peeves. The NIV is destroying the church! Here’s proof.

      Is Murdoch’s NIV the ‘N’ew ‘I’lluminati ‘V’ersion? Has the Word of God Been Corrupted to Bring US Into the New World Order?

      “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” The NIV stops there, but the KJV, NKJV and others keep Paul’s complete thought: “who don’t walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (WEB)

      And we know this is the correct interpretation to what Paul means to be in Christ Jesus because of what Paul also says in verse four (as well as verses 12-17) : “that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us,who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

      I don’t consider the NIV and these other translations to be real Bibles.

      The gospels and much of the preaching was directed to the Jews who were still under the Law.

      Jesus totally clearly brought in the new covenant in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7). He upped the ante, and taught how we need to not only have pure actions but pure hearts too. Those listening couldn’t fulfill this until the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost.

      He did tell the one guy to tithe, though, which I believe is an exception, because the Levitical priesthood was still in effect until He died on the cross.

      But in this text, it doesn’t matter, because Jesus said the disciples would fast after Jesus died on the cross. This text alone should be enough to prove that tithing is for new covenant believers.

      But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.”

      As for Acts, that occasion when they prayed and fasted before sending the two out, was under the jurisdisction of the apostles of the Lord Jesus excluding Paul, who was the newcomer in a sense. The church in Jerusalem never left its Judaism – instance the book of Galatians when some from Jerusalem intruded into the Pauline scene – wrongly – still following parts of the Law.

      This is clearly not true, in Acts 15 they decided what old covenant commands (I don’t consider fasting to be a command) they would still keep. They decided two keep only two.

      Paul did not. The epistles did not command or encourage fasting. It was all prayer in the Spirit.
      Paul’s account of his afflictions in the KJV does including fasting but remember, 1611, old English and after all we fast all night and break our fast at break-fast. The original manuscript reads ‘hungered’ as is often the lot of missionaries or apostles – my husband had to eat sweet potatoes day after day – I myself boiled rice thrice one Christmas Day – just a small side-dish. That was my dilemma.

      I didn’t say Paul did in my fasting article.

      […]

      In an island, three daughters of the Pastor had demons similar to the person where Jesus said, KJV only, ‘This kind goeth not out except by prayer and fasting’ Manuscripts do not include this verse. Anyway, it was something that my husband cast out those demons, without fasting. The daughters were right ever after and nightly would walk with him the many miles needed to have the next meeting.

      ‘This kind goeth not out except by prayer and fasting’ is in real, unaltered Bibles. The Westcott and Hort altered ‘Bibles’ seem to take out key verses that help the kingdom happen.

      But what if you would have fasted, how much more could you have seen in the Spirit and done?

      Jesus said this certain type of demons required prayer and fasting. At the very least, fasting helps us be closer to God so we’ll even know what to do, and then be able to do it.

      It is not by might nor by power (of any kind even a fasting production) but by My Spirit, saith the Lord.

      It is the Spirit’s power manifesting through the servant of the Lord who is not full of fasting but full of the Holy Ghost as was Stephen, Peter, James, John and Paul.

      Fasting isn’t a production, nor is it “by power,” but a way to help quiet our own flesh so we can be more attuned to and led by the Holy Spirit. And we don’t get “full of fasting.” I wonder why you are so against fasting.

      Hardly anyone is doing miracles today in America. Most ‘Christians’ don’t even fast willful sin, let alone food on occasions. Most don’t take time to seek God, turning off all electronics, etc.. Most don’t even know how to hear God’s voice (including most pastors), partly because the voices of familiar spirits muddy the waters. Most have opened the sin door and never fully shut it, so evil spirits can remain in them.

      And most worship isn’t really worship, but just songs about God blessing us. Most ‘Christians’ aren’t really submitted to God. They’d rather watch TV or surf the net than to pray and fast.

      And as America has gone so has most of the world, including Indonesia. The world is still waiting for ‘ONE’ to happen according to John 17, “that the world will know.”

      Most American ‘Christians’ are just playing church. Most refuse to take up their crosses and follow Christ, which requires denial of flesh, so the Spirit can reign.

      Fasting helps Christians abide in Christ, so His will becomes our will, and then whatever we ask for in prayer will be done — and our joy will be full (John 15).

  3. hansjdb@gmail.com

    I agree mostly with Jeff. Fasting is a good means to mortify the deeds of the flesh. But fasting without praying, seeking God etc is not more helpful than the fast non-christians do. Which is still helpful. When we fast as born-again christians we have more time to seek God, our focus on God is increased etc. This might not be biblical proof, but many great men of God fasted much before they got to the place where they are now. Even Jesus did… Why did he fast? I know that Wigglesworth didn’t fast much and Blake doesn’t fast (much or at all) neither, but many great men of God do and did fast. About Matthew 17:21 and the parallel in Mark I don’t know. Could it also be that it talks about unbelief?

    Why did things happen in the New Testament when fasting? Just coincidence?

    If people say fasting is something from the law and we thus should not fast I have the following thought:
    In the law people were commanded to tithe and give offerings. Does this mean we should not give at all?

    You don’t go to heaven because you fast, but fasting is a means to increase focus on God and mortify the deeds of the flesh.

    So, I encourage people to fast. Jesus said we will fast.

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