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Fasting - The First Works of Jesus
by Colonel Janet Munn

Greater Works – Who Me?

Jesus said to his followers, “As the Father has sent me, I also send you” (John 20:21) and “whoever believes in me, the works that I do they will do also; and greater works than these will they do” (John 14:12). How can this be? What does it mean that we are sent by Jesus? How are we to do the greater works to which Jesus referred?


Jesus Our Model

Mahesh Chavda is a pastor and author of The Hidden Power of Prayer and Fasting. He points out that just as a gymnast must first master elementary moves like a forward roll and a cartwheel, prior to mastering more advanced moves, so must the disciple of Jesus Christ develop the “first works” of Jesus prior to demonstrating the greater works promised by Him.


Before Jesus began his public ministry, first, he went into the wilderness, led by the Spirit, to fast for forty days (Luke 4: 1-2). However, Jesus returned from the wilderness in the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:14). At Jesus’ baptism the Holy Spirit came upon Him. Following the fasting Jesus went forth in the power of the Holy Spirit. If fasting was key for Jesus to operate on this earth in spiritual power, so it is for His disciples. Times of fasting and prayer are the first works we are called to do if we want to do the greater works of Jesus Christ.


Authority vs. Power

Jesus clearly told the disciples that He had given them tremendous spiritual authority (Matthew 10:8), yet when faced with a boy suffering demonic torment, they found themselves unable to set him free. Upon Jesus’ arrival on the scene, the demon was readily driven out, the disciples rebuked for their spiritual impotence. Jesus explained that His effectiveness results from a lifestyle of prayer and fasting (Matthew 17: 14-21).


There are challenges we will face, confrontations with evil we will encounter, that will only result in victory through prayer and fasting. We neglect such a lifestyle to our own detriment.


Fasting – What it is and what it isn’t

In our overeating western culture, it could readily be said of us, “our god is our stomach”, as Paul referred to in Philippians 3:19. Fasting is abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. Through fasting we put our flesh in its place and give the Spirit first place; we tell our bodies, our appetites to wait; we declare that we do not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. In fasting we proclaim that our hunger and thirst after God and His righteousness is greater than our hunger for our next meal.


God does not change. He will not be manipulated. Our fasting does not persuade Him to do something against His will, nor do we impress God with our piety through fasting. Rather we are changed through fasting. The psalmist David said that he humbled himself with fasting (Psalm 35:13). John wrote, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. We ought to lay down our lives for our brothers” (1 John 3:16). Fasting is a way to lay down our lives for one another. When we become aware of someone in need, we can enter into a period of fasting and prayer, laying down our appetites, our physical comfort, for the sake of another as we focus our energies instead on the Lord, on the Scriptures and on intercession. Jesus amplifies this when he spoke of the necessity of those who follow him, to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him (Matthew 16:24).


The Lord’s Expectations

In the Old Testament, fasting appears to be a pre-requisite for revival. In Joel chapter 2 prior to the prophecy of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all flesh, later quoted by Peter at Pentecost, the people of God are challenged to “declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly” (Joel 2:15). Then God promised, “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people” (Joel 2:28). Is it possible that greater revival, an increase in the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit on all people is delayed in our day, at least in part as a result of our lack of fasting, our self-indulgence rather than our self-denial? How often do we really say “no” to ourselves, to our own appetites and cravings for the sake of seeking the face of God through fasting and prayer?


In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught the disciples how they were to pray and how they were to fast, with an underlying assumption that they would do both (Matthew 6: 5, 16-17). When his disciples were criticized for their lack of dietary restraint relative to John the Baptist’s disciples, Jesus assured the critics that when he, the bridegroom, was taken from them, then they would fast (Luke 5: 35).


Benefits of Fasting

As mentioned earlier, in fasting we humble ourselves and we know from the book of James that God gives grace, favor, to the humble (James 4:10). Jesus’ example reminds us of the power over temptation connected with fasting (Luke 4). Throughout the book of Acts the early Church gathered corporately for periods of prayer and fasting in order to gain clarity and guidance regarding the will of God. This He made known to His people when they were together seeking Him in prayer and denying themselves of food as they sought Him. Imagine if we as Salvation Army leaders began to make major decisions only as we met together in fasting in prayer, rather than by committee meetings planned around meals!


Pioneers of Prayer and Fasting

Queen Esther called her people, the Jews, to join her in a corporate fast for their deliverance as a people. Anna served in the Temple in Jerusalem around the time of the birth of Jesus Christ, with prayer and fasting. She lived a fasted lifestyle (Luke 2:37) as did John the Baptist. It was during a period of fasting and prayer that God spoke to the gentile Cornelius, the Roman Centurion about contacting Peter which then led to a major shift in understanding regarding the gospel and the Spirit offered also to the gentiles (Acts 10:30-31). The Apostle Paul fasted for safety and deliverance during a fierce storm (Acts 27) and Daniel fasted individually as a gesture of repentance on behalf of the sin of the people (Daniel 9). Jesus began his public ministry immediately following a forty-day fast.


The early church fathers, Polycarp and Tertulian fasted, as did Martin Luther, John Calvin, John Knox and John Wesley. Wesley was so committed to fasting that he would not approve a candidate for ministry if he did not fast twice a week! How would that policy change our Candidates’ Councils and us?


Whenever he became aware that his spiritual power or anointing was weakening, Charles Finney would immediately commence a three-day fast. Following the fast, the presence of God would radiate so powerfully through Finney that people would fall under overwhelming conviction upon his entrance into a room, a building, or even the city limits.


Jonathan Edwards and Charles Haddon Spurgeon would fast and pray in order that they would be able to preach well! A fruitful endeavor indeed.


Types of Fasts

Elmer Towns outlines various types of biblical fasts and their purposes, in his book, Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough. These include the Samuel fast, in which people join together to seek God’s guidance for them corporately (1 Samuel 7) as well as the Ezra fast, a corporate fast for protection (Ezra 8:22). The Elijah fast is an individual fast to cry out for God’s help in time of trouble and discouragement. The Disciples’ fast is for spiritual power to exercise authority over the demonic (Matthew 17:21) and the Saint Paul fast is an individual fast for increased light – for an opening of the eyes of the heart (Acts 9: 17-19). God’s covenant people agreed together to fast for deliverance from danger and evil in the Esther fast (Esther 4:16) and the Daniel fast is one in which the individual fasts for physical health and strength.


When You Fast . . . .

What is the Lord calling you to by way of fasting? Are you to enter into a short-term fast, like Finney’s three-day recharging of the spiritual battery? Or disciplined observance of the 40 period of Lent, a season of fasting?


Is God calling you to a fasted lifestyle, like the prophetess Anna or John the Baptist, in which you live in a such a way that you are continually fasting from something or some things? Perhaps you are to give or significantly reduce your intake of certain unhealthy foods. Perhaps you have some hobbies or recreational activities that are not in themselves evil, but that can sometimes take too high a priority in your life and you need to fast from them for a period of time. This will help to re-establish in your heart, your affections and in your calendar, that loving the Lord your God is the number one passion of your life. This could involve fasting from the computer, the Internet, the television, the telephone or sports or movies – anything that can work its way too high up on our list of priorities.


May God help us to enter into the “first works” of Jesus, and from that may we see a great unleashing of the “greater works” in our midst.



How would a lifestyle of fasting and prayer change the way we currently do business?


What would integration of fasting into our ways of doing and being mean for each of us individually and for The Salvation Army corporately?


Do you desire to be like Jesus? What are you doing by way of intentional discipline to move toward that goal? Could fasting help?


How much are we willing to deny ourselves, to sacrifice, in terms of our bodily appetites, that the Kingdom of God would be more strongly established in these days?


Do you desire to be about the “greater works” of the Lord Jesus? Are you seeing them to the degree that you desire? If not, why not? Could ongoing fasting and prayer, individual and corporate, be part of the answer?





Chavda, Mahesh. The Hidden Power of Prayer and Fasting, (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image, 1998).

Foster, Richard. Celebration of Discipline (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978).

Towns, Elmer L. Fasting For Spiritual Breakthrough (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1996).

Willard, Dallas. The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (New York: Harper & Row, 1988);








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