Jesus taught in Mathew 17:21, “However this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting”.
Matthew 17:19-21 talked about how Jesus spoke with authority, He cast out the evil spirit. Jesus answer shows some circumstances, problems and demons cannot be dealt with effectively without fasting and prayer. Fasting combined with prayer is the key to mastery over the impossible.
While Christ was present, His power and presence caused evil powers to flee. If the disciples failed, the Lord was at hand to deliver. But after He was gone, it would be necessary for them to advance into the place of dominion that He lived in.
Fasting in the early church:
The teaching of Jesus was the inspiration for the early Church. There were no revival meetings or fasting prayer meetings that they could attend. They had to start revival themselves. They had to start to pray and fast themselves.
Act 9:1-9 talks about the conversion of Saul. Apostle Paul’s Christian journey started with a fast. Acts 9:9 says, ‘and he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank”. In vs 11, Paul was praying.
God could have sent Ananias the first day, but He did not. Those three days of prayer and fasting prepared Paul for his deliverance. People who have serious afflictions would do well to pray and fast like Paul until they have the assurance for the answer. If a person’s faith is too weak to secure deliverance on his own from some chronic affliction, he might be completely healed if he would pray and fast before hands were laid on him by a minister of the Gospel.
Fasting opened the doors of the gentiles to receive the gospel:
Cornelius was a godly man a centurion who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always” (Acts 10:2). He had not yet received the message of salvation through Christ, but his soul was crying out to God for a full revelation of His will. He was praying and fasting one day and at about three o’clock in the afternoon, and angel suddenly appeared before him. The angel told him that his prayers and works of charity pleased God. He told Cornelius to send for Peter and Peter would tell him about the way of Salvation.
In the days of the apostles many people prayed. What was it about Cornelius’ prayer that pleased God? his deep sincerity. His prayer was accompanied by fasting.Acts 10:30,31 says, “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 bring clothing, and said, “Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God”.
While Peter preached about “how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38), the Holy Spirit came and fell on Cornelius and his whole household.
Fasting without sincerity will accomplish nothing, as was the case with the Pharisees. But fasting and praying in sincerity is powerful: it moved heaven for Cornelius. In this case, it opened the door for the gentiles to receive the Gospel.
Fasting preceded the first missionary journey:
The time came when the call of God to reach the unevangelized began to weigh heavily on the hearts of Paul and his companion, Barnabas. They had been ministering in the church of Antioch. Paul remembered how the Lord had spoken through Ananais at Damascus, saying that Paul was to be sent on a mission to the gentiles.
Considerable time had now elapses, yet Paul had never gone to the gentiles, nor had the Lord made it clear how or where he was to go. Now he and Barnabas, as well as some of the others, thought it was time to obtain the answer from God. So they enter into a fast.
Acts 13:2, “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate tot Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them”.
How many days they fasted we do not know, except that they stayed before the Lord until the answer came. God could have given them specific directions without the fasting, but He did not. There was a reason why a fast was in order. A spiritual battle needed to be waged and won against the power of darkness so that when they went out on the field, the way would be open before them. And they ministered to the Lord, the answer came.
One might think that having received divine instructions, the apostles would have left immediately. But they did not. Now that they knew what the Lord wanted them to do, they desired the blessing of God on their plans more than ever. So it was that the whole church fasted and waited on the Lord before a move was made. Finally hands were laid on Paul and Barnabas and they were sent on the world’s first missionary journey.
Their first stop was at Cyprus. The Spirit of God moved right from the start. Even the interest of the proconsul of the country, Sergius Paulus, was stirred. He called for the apostles because he wanted to hear the Word of God. But Elymas, the sorcerer, used his influence to try to turn the proconsul away from the faith. Because of those days, of fasting in Antioch, Paul was ministering under a powerful anointing, Suddenly, he looked straight at the magician and rebuked him, informing him that judgment was coming on him for a time. Immediately Elymas was struck blind, The proconsul, astonished by what had happened, became a believer.
The first stage of this historic missionary journey was a great success. No doubt this success came because their ministry had been preceded by prayer and fasting.