Chipo Sabeta and Africa Moyo
Fasting is an age-old strategy by Christians to push through prayers. Matthew 17:21 is quite poignant. It says: “This kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
This verse is critical in demonstrating the centrality of prayer in the life of a Christian.
Religious experts say prayer and fasting are inseparable cousins, who should be dealt and embraced equally.
While prayer is part and parcel of a Christian’s day-to-day life, fasting is seen as a strong weapon in the spiritual realm for one who wants to defeat “principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual forces of evil”. (Eph. 6:12).
Many churches/denominations across the country and even across the globe, embark on prayers and fasting at the start of each year.
Some fast for seven days, a number associated with perfection, while others fast and pray for 21 days.
Others abstain from food for up to “40 days and 40 nights”.
But there have been questions on why churches fast in January.
Some theologists say the January fast is almost similar to praying in the morning.
They say fasting at the beginning of the year helps Christians to establish the will of God for the entire year.
Christians believe if they pray and seek God, and give Him the first and best at the start of the year, He will respect that sacrifice and bless them for the rest of the year.
Different types of fasting
There are different types of fasting, which include absolute fast, also known as dry fasting. This one requires believers to abstain from all food and liquid for a defined period of time.
Water fasting refers to abstinence from all food and drink except water.
Other fasts may be partially restrictive, limiting only particular foods or substances, or be intermittent.
The Old Testament law specifically required prayer and fasting for only one occasion, which was the Day of Atonement.
Moses fasted during the 40 days and 40 nights he was on Mount Sinai receiving the law from God (Exodus 34:28).
Prayer and fasting also occurs in the New Testament. Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights before His temptation by Satan (Matthew 4:2).
There are plenty of reasons why one might fast.
Impact Christian Centre, Pastor Gwendoline Kanokanga believes that fasting slows your aging process.
She also highlighted various breakthroughs and results after fasting.
“Fasting slows your aging process . . . Deuteronomy 34:7, Moses fasted often, including two 40-day fasts. Moses was 120 years old when he died.
“His eyes were not dim nor his natural vigour diminished . . . water is a great flushing agent in fasting.
“It is also proven that fasting sharpens your mental process and aids and improves your sight, hearing, taste, smell and all sensory faculties,” said Pastor Kanokanga.
Fasting also helps Christians break the addiction to junk food and generally uncontrolled appetite.
Pastor Kanokanga believes fasting is key to healing the body.
She added that this year, if anyone wants new miracles, new closeness, new intimacy with God, then it’s time to fast and pray.
Fasting not a new craze
Fasting is not just a modern day fad, but something that’s been done throughout history, for religious and non-religious reasons.
It is effective as it forces one to prioritise and do more important things.
Businesswoman and owner of JanJam Boutique Cynthia Bizure-Sithole, said fasting is a tremendous weapon and source of power in the life of a believer.
She added that fasting is not a ransom to force God to go out of His will, but bring spiritual maturity and the perfect will of God.
“While I am physically drained, I experience more spiritual highs. I spend time with my family, reconnect with my creator. It’s both the anchor and highlight, and my favourite month of the year.
“I always look forward to it (and) after my fasting, there’s good energy, and I can feel the difference. I remember what it’s like to eat again (during the day),” said Bizure.
She said fasting has brought results in her family and businesses at large.
Bizure said fasting in the short-term is difficult but it would be worthwhile in the long-term.
“Naturally, this external, physiological, and spiritual change makes me think deeper about my business as well.
“This external change will bring about internal change, and help you zoom out and think of the big picture. It can be tough to do this during your day-to-day routines, so try fasting, and see if it can make you a better entrepreneur.”
Not just for Christians
Fasting is not just done by Christians. Muslims, apostolic churches and a number of other religions, also engage in fasting, although there are misconceptions.
Pastor Tavonga Mupoperi of Church on the Rock Ministries said while fasting, many people read the Bible, pray, or worship as the forefathers like Moses in the Old Testament did.
Pastor Mupoperi said fasting is found in over 50 times in both the Old and New Testaments.
“In the Old Testament it was often a way of expressing grief or a means of humbling one’s self before the Lord. In Psalm 35:13, David humbled himself with fasting.
“In the New Testament it was a means to grow closer to God through meditating and focusing on Him. In Matthew 4:1-2, Jesus went to the wilderness to fast for 40 days while in Matthew 6:16-18, we learn that we aren’t to look sombre while fasting so that it’s not obvious to others.
“Throughout the New Testament, fasting and prayer are often mentioned together. Following the example of Jesus and the early church, believers too can draw near to God while fasting,” said Pastor Mupoperi.
Sean Mbeulani, a member of Celebration Church in Harare, believes fasting and prayer do not only help Christians to focus on God, but it also brings them closer to Him and changes their hearts.
This month, Celebration Church is on a Daniel Fast, which lasts 21 days this month.
The Daniel Fast is a religious partial fast in which meat, wine, and other rich foods are avoided in favour of vegetables and water for three weeks in order to lose weight and get closer to God.
Other types of fasting
One can abstain from TV and/or their favourite movies. Others can boycott the social media, which is fast becoming one of the more common fasts in Christian lives.
There are intermittent fasts, which are normally a regular act of abstinence, typically one day per week. Under this type of fast, one can abstain from food and make other sacrifices, as a way of integrating the spiritual discipline of fasting into one’s life on an ongoing basis.
Another notable form of fasting is the occasional or longer group fasts, which can be called by a church or a group of churches, or encompassing the entire nation during times of crisis.
With the right leadership, calling groups to prayer and fasting can be a very powerful tool for people to draw themselves closer to their creator.