Intercession and Fasting Pt2

Fasting in the Old Testament was combined with wailing in sackcloth and ash to demonstrate true repentance for sin and to avoid God’s wrath. However since God isn’t in the punishing business anymore (1 John 4:18) and all the sins of a believer are forgiven when they become born again (Col 2:13), fasting for this purpose is senseless and rejects what Jesus accomplished at the cross.

Some people interpret Isaiah 58 as the type of fast that would please God under the New Covenant, however the context of this chapter is clear from the first verse:

The LORD says, “Shout as loud as you can! Tell my people Israel about their sins! (Isa 58:1 GNB)

If we read the entire chapter it’s clear that this was addressed to Israel under the Old Covenant. Even though some of the principles may seem good and righteous (i.e. to remove the chains of oppression, share their food with the hungry, do not refuse help to their relatives, etc. in verses 6-7), it is still clear God’s blessings in this chapter were dependent on Israel’s ability to perform these deeds. It actually becomes blatantly clear in the last two verses:

The LORD says, “If you treat the Sabbath as sacred and do not pursue your own interests on that day; if you value my holy day and honor it by not traveling, working, or talking idly on that day, then you will find the joy that comes from serving me. I will make you honored all over the world, and you will enjoy the land I gave to your ancestor, Jacob. I, the LORD, have spoken.” (Isa 58:13-14 GNB)

Under the New Covenant, God’s blessings do not depend on our proficiency in executing the 10 Commandments – Jesus Christ accomplished it all! Now we are blessed simply because we have faith in Jesus:

This means that everyone who has faith will share in the blessings that were given to Abraham because of his faith. (Gal 3:9 CEV)


Fasting to Drive Out Demons

When Jesus’ disciples could not evict the demon from the young boy and afterwards questioned why, Jesus answered them:

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus apart, and said, Why could we not cast him out?  20 And Jesus said to them, Because of your unbelief. For truly I say to you, If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Move from here to there. And it shall move. And nothing shall be impossible to you. 21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting. (Matt 17:19-21 MKJV)

Jesus’ answer in verse 21 did not refer to the demon – He was referring to their unbelief. He was saying “this kind (of unbelief) only goes out by prayer and fasting.” Jesus was simply expounding on His answer in verse 20 by telling them the secret of how to get rid of their unbelief.

So a fast is sometimes good for us, to rid us of our unbelief and to discipline our flesh. But it’s not to be used when asking God for something. What do we try to accomplish by accompanying a prayer request with fasting? Are we trying to prove to God that we are really serious? Do we need to beg and plead with our earthly fathers and throw in a fast for good measure when we ask them for something? Of course not!

We need not act as if we have to change God’s mind all the time, as though He doesn’t really want to bless us. His love for us is infinitely deeper than that of our earthly dads; God doesn’t need to be convinced of our intentions – He is on our side!

The Purpose of Fasting

The following are extracts from a great article written by author Ralph Harris from Life Course Ministries, entitled “A Needle to My Heart” (

I’ve been fasting this week.  It’s not because God likes it when I fast, it’s because I do.  Yeah, you read that right.  For me, fasting is choosing a weakness through which I will know and savor God more.  It’s all about satisfaction – mine.

In this case, I’m fasting from food, but in the past I’ve fasted from television, music (rather than listen to the stereo in my car on morning drives to work, I preferred thinking and listening for Him in quiet), news media, alcohol (I like an ale or a glass of wine now and then), and more.

It’s amazing how much I get used to turning to the things of this world for satisfaction, rather than to God, who satisfies me most and best.  Like many, I suppose, seeking God or reading the Bible or praying can become all about obedience and willpower (“I’ve got to do it!”) when I’m getting more satisfaction and better pleasure elsewhere.  Does that make sense?

I start to approach God and the things He likes as important things to do, rather than ways to know Him and like Him.  And what about letting Him show me why He likes me?  Reading the Bible and praying becomes a daily duration of time when I get my study and devotional time card punched.  Thunk-thunk!  Going to church becomes all about following through on commitment.  Giving money is about the pledge I made.  Yuck.  Round about then a college football game is much more exciting, or a bowl of ice cream, a shopping spree, a good movie, or a new electronic gadget.  What delight, right?

God no longer brings about the wedding of desire and satisfaction—fulfillment—because it has been joined together elsewhere.  What does God get?  Commitment and Study and Pledges of Obedience—and my frustration.  A lot of frustration.

But because He has crucified me to this world and this world to me (we’re incompatible), I can tolerate this hostage situation for only so long (Gal. 6:14).  A break-out is drawing near.

That’s where a fast comes in.  Through it I am needling myself, my true self, and saying, “Alert!  Wake up and be satisfied!  I can no longer stand surface satisfaction when I’ve been made for far deeper.”  To be sure, I still have strong longings for satisfaction—in fact they get stronger—but the Spirit brings out desires now natural for me.  I actually want God.  I truly want Father.

To be clear, no one has to fast to earn anything.  It’s a way of enjoying what you already have.  Any kind of fasting is toward satisfaction.  It’s a way of acknowledging, “Jesus, you have given me absolutely everything already for entirely nothing.  Hooray!  I’m full already.  So I want to hunger as a way of finding fullness.”

Intercession and Fasting Pt1

These are powerful principles when used in the correct way, namely in the context of the finished work of the cross. But the way that it has been turned into a tactic to try and twist God’s arm to do things for us, it is actually doing more damage to the body of Christ than those who propagate it can imagine.

Fasting and intercession is often a “whip” that is abused by people for the following four main reasons:

1)      It is used by legalists who try to beat the church back into obeying the Old Testament law

2)      To make believers beg and cry out to God to give them things that they already have

3)      To appeal to God to do things which He’s already done

4)      To plead with God to do things which He commanded us to do


Praying for God to “Heal the Land”

Recently a well known entertainer in South Africa sent out a request through his website to thousands of his fans to join him in a day of fasting, during which prayers and intercessions would be made for their country in the hope that God would “heal the land” like He promised in the Old Testament:

…if My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chron 7:14 MKJV)

This verse has been used wildly out of context. Note that it doesn’t start with a capital letter, which means it most likely forms part of the previous verse. Let’s read it in context with verse 13:

If I shut up the heavens, and there is no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send a plague among My people; if My people, who are called by My name, shall humble themselves and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chron 7:13-14 MKJV)

Aha… Since God doesn’t kill people or destroy their countries anymore under the New Covenant, it’s clear that these verses do not apply to us! God will not honor a day where people fast and beg Him “to heal the land” since we are asking Him to do something which He commanded us to do. God gave us the Holy Spirit in order for us to be His hands and feet here in the earth. He commanded us to go out to all the nations and make them His disciples (Matt 28:19). He commanded us to heal the sick and raise the dead (Matt 10:8) and take care of widows and orphans (Jam 1:27). So why are we asking God to do all this stuff?



After the cross, Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven where He sits at the right hand of the Father, continually interceding for the saints:

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died – more than that, who was raised – who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Rom 8:33-34 ESV)

So why does Jesus need to intercede for us with the Father? Is the Father against us? Are they at odds in their feelings for us? Of course not! Jesus is our advocate (1 John 2:1) who continually pleads our case with the Father whenever the accuser (the devil) tries to condemn us, as the apostle John wrote in Revelations:

For the one who stood before our God and accused believers day and night has been thrown out of heaven. (Rev 12:10b GNB)

Jesus’ atoning blood continually cleanses us so that the case of the accuser repeatedly gets thrown out of the court. All the evidence against us has been removed – he has nothing to prove his case with anymore!

So since it’s Jesus’ role to intercede for the saints, we actually seem to believe that He isn’t doing a good enough job if we try to assume that position – we are acting in an Anti-Christ manner if we think we have more compassion for other people than God. Jesus is the only person who was ever appointed to act as a mediator between God and man:

For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus… (1 Tim 2:5 ESV)

Often this type of prayer is also called “standing in the gap”, which implies the supposed “gap” between God and man. This gap is of course completely bridged when someone becomes born-again and their spirit is “fused” with the Holy Spirit:

But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. (1 Cor 6:17 ESV)

Do we really think we love other people more than God? Whenever we pray for God to have mercy or to divert His wrath and not punish someone, we act as though we are more merciful than God. How do we think that makes God look in the eyes of the world? Mostly if we intercede for other people (or for a country) it stems out of a belief that we can “change God’s mind” – as though He doesn’t really want to do anything about the problem in the first case – and that our praying will change His mind to make Him step in and finally do something. Do we really believe that we love other people or our country more than God does?

One of the very few scriptures in the Bible which tell us to intercede for people is this one:

First of all, then, I exhort that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (1 Tim 2:1-2 MKJV)

God has no problem with us asking for wisdom for ourselves or for other people:

But if any of you lack wisdom, you should pray to God, who will give it to you; because God gives generously and graciously to all. (Jam 1:5 GNB)

The principle of intercession has become an abused, ugly, trash word in lots of Christian circles. No wonder people (including pastors) burn out! They walk around with the weight of the world on their shoulders, when Jesus promised His yoke is easy and His burden is light.

The correct way to intercede would be to acknowledge the finished work of the cross and pray from a place of victory, not for victory. Most often this involves commanding life, favor, deliverance, healing and restoration into a situation and destroying the works of the devil!

In part 2 of this series we will take a look at Fasting – it might just take some more of the burden off your shoulders!