What is fasting? Stated simply, biblical fasting is refraining from food for a spiritual purpose. When you eliminate food from your diet for a number of days, your spirit becomes uncluttered by the things of this world and amazingly sensitive to the things of God.
During the years that Jesus walked this earth, He devoted time to teaching His disciples the principles of the kingdom of God. In the Beatitudes, specifically in Matthew 6, Jesus provided the pattern by which each of us is to live.
That pattern addressed three specific duties of a Christian: giving, praying, and fasting. Jesus said, “When you give …” and “When you pray …” and “When you fast.” He made it clear that fasting, like giving and praying, was a normal part of Christian life. As much attention should be given to fasting as is given to giving and to praying.
Could we be missing our greatest breakthroughs because we fail to fast? Remember the thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and hundredfold return Jesus spoke of (Mark 4:8, 20)? Look at it this way: when you pray, you can release that thirtyfold return, but when both prayer and giving are part of your life, I believe that releases the sixtyfold blessing. But when all three—giving, praying, and fasting—are part of your life, that hundredfold return can be released!
If that’s the case, you have to wonder what blessings are not being released. What answers to prayer are not getting through? What bondages are not being broken?
Matthew tells the story of a father who had a demon-possessed son. Having exhausted every attempt to cure the boy—even taking him to the disciples with no avail—the father’s plight seemed impossible. Then he heard that Jesus was near. Going to the Master, he cried, “Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water. And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him” (Matt. 17:15, KJV).
When the boy was brought to Jesus, He “rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour” (v. 18, KJV). But what made the difference? Why couldn’t the disciples cast out the demon and cure the boy?
That’s what they wanted to know, too, so later that night, when they were alone with Jesus, they asked Him. Jesus replied, “Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matt. 17:20–21, KJV).
Now, I’ve read that passage many times, and I’ve even taught from it on occasion. But each time, I’ve focused on the statement “and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” I think a lot of people stop right there, but Jesus didn’t because He knew there was more—much more.
See, that funny little word howbeit is the connection—it’s the key that unlocks the power in the statement “nothing shall be impossible unto you.” Jesus told the disciples they needed faith, even faith as small as a tiny seed. But that wasn’t all. Long before this incident, the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness, where He spent forty days and forty nights, taking no food. “Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” For Jesus, casting out that stubborn demon wasn’t impossible.
If Jesus could have accomplished all He came to do without fasting, why would He fast? The Son of God fasted because He knew there were supernatural things that could only be released that way. How much more should fasting be a common practice in our lives?