December 17, 2013

What Exactly Is Christian Fasting?

by Lyndon Unger

Christian Fasting: it’s one of those “fringe” things in Christian belief that people are somewhat aware of but not a lot of people are clear about.  I’ve never actually heard any teaching on fasting from any church I’ve attended, and I suspect that’s a fairly typical experience for others too.  Due to the lack of instruction on the subject, the ideas of fasting range from “something that happened in Jesus’ day that we don’t need to worry about” to “the secret to spiritual break through.”

fasting breakthrough

Both of these cannot be true.  If fasting is irrelevant, it’s not the secret to spiritual break through.  If it is the secret to spiritual break through, it’s hardly irrelevant!

Along these lines, I got a phone call from a pastor friend of mine sometime ago where the topic came up.  My friend had mentioned another pastor in his area who said his elders “don’t make any decisions without prayer and fasting,” and my friend was wondering if he was missing something because his elders prayed but didn’t fast.  We talked a fair bit about fasting, but in the end we agreed that neither of us had any sort of serious biblical understanding of fasting. So we decided to hop on our computers and study the topic together.  Here’s the fruit of what we learned, and I’ll admit that we were both quite wrong on the topic.

Just going from the ESV, the term “fast” or “fasting” (being a time where one refrains from food or drink) appears 39 times in the Old Testament:

Jg. 20:26; 1 Sam. 7:6, 31:13; 2 Sam. 1:12, 12:16, 21, 22, 23; 1 Ki. 21:9, 12, 27; 1 Chron. 10:12, 2 Chron. 20:3; Ezra 8:21, 23, 9:5; Neh. 1:4, 9:1; Esth. 4:3, 16, 9:31; Ps. 35:13, 69:10, 109:24; Is. 58:3, 4, 5, 6; Jer. 14:12, 36:6, 9; Dan. 6:18, 9:3; Joel 1:14, 2:12, 15; Jonah 3:5; Zech. 7:5, 8:19.

There’s a consistent pattern when it comes to the concept of fasting:

- In Judges, the context is when Israel fights against Benjamin and is defeated twice.  Judges 20:26 comes after two battles (in which 40,000 Israelites die) and reads: “Then all the people of Israel, the whole army, went up and came to Bethel and wept. They sat there before the Lord and fasted that day until evening, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord.”   It’s clearly an expression of lament, for the army of Israel knows that the following day they’re going to come in full force against their brothers and slay them in battle.  In the beginning of chapter 21, the Israelites are lamenting because they basically wiped out 1 of the 12 tribes.

- In 1 Samuel the context is when Samuel judges Israel and they put away their Baals and Ashtaroths, and 1 Samuel 7:6 says “So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the Lord and fasted on that day and said there, ‘We have sinned against the Lord.’ And Samuel judged the people of Israel at Mizpah.” Again, it’s clearly an expression of lament (over sin).

- The pattern continues on consistently through the Old Testament. 1 Samuel 31:13, 2 Samuel 1:12, and 1 Chronicles 10:12 are all describing a fast in response to the death of Saul. 2 Samuel 12:16, 21-23 records David fasting in response to the impending death of his son.  1 Kings 21:9, 12, 27 describes a psuedo-fast proclaimed by Jezebel in order to set up Naboth and steal his vineyard (which adds a new twist to the story of Naboth; Jezebel fakes a time of repentance of sin and then hires two men to accuse Naboth of capitol crimes during the time when everyone is mindful of sin. Naboth then gets the brunt of their manufactured conviction).  Ezra 9:5 is a fast of lament in response to the sinfulness of Israel.  Nehemiah 1:4 records a fast that occurs in response to Nehemiah’s learning of the condition of Jerusalem, and in his fast, Nehemiah confesses the sins of Israel.  The pattern continues throughout the Old Testament.

- Only 2 Chronicles 20:3 and Ezra 8:21-23 are times where people are fasting to seek God’s direction/providence…and both are fasts that occur in response to the actual threat of death.  These aren’t fasts when someone is looking for a new job, a wife, is “feeling spiritually dry,” or is simply trying to overcome an ice cream addiction.

dirty-harry-ice-cream(do you feel hungry punk?)

In 2 Chronicles 20:3 the Moabites, Ammonites and Meunites are attacking Israel when Israel is already weakened internally from both battle and national reforms (meaning that the army isn’t full strength, and Jehoshaphat has recently made internal political enemies who may seize this attack as an opportunity to betray him and claim power for themselves – chapter 18 & 19).

Ezra 8:21-23 reads “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, ‘The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.’ So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.”

Ezra knows that he may have made a BIG mistake in not asking the king for protection of the Israelites that were returning to Jerusalem, so he fasted and implored God to protect the people because, as Ezra 8:24-30 tells us, there was a large group of people (in the thousands) traveling with a millions of dollars in gold, silver and polished bronze (and all that without any escort).  If that doesn’t make a person worried for their life, I don’t know what will.

So it’s the consistent (in fact completely uniform) teaching of the Old Testament that fasting is an expression of tremendous sorrow/anxiety; usually lament over sin and sometimes fear of death, and it is a relatively rare occurrence.

This might help us make more sense of the New Testament teaching on fasting:

Again just going from the ESV, the term “fast” or “fasting”  only appears 17 times in the New Testament:

Matthew 4:2, 6:16, 17, 18, 9:14, 15; Mark 2:18, 19, 20; Luke 2:37, 5:33, 34, 35, 18:12; Acts 13:2, 14:23, 27:29.

As we will see, there’s a consistent understanding of fasting in the New Testament:

- Matthew 4:2 is Jesus fasting after he “was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (4:1).  I’m guessing that knowing that the devil was a-comin’ would make you fairly aware of your coming need for God’s power. The fasting 40 days is also likely typologically connected to Moses’ being on Mount Sinai for 40 days without eating (Ex. 34:28), a reference which I did not place in the list of Old Testament “fasting” references because of two things: (a) Moses may have fasted involuntarily (i.e. we don’t know if God simply sustained him and kept all hunger pains at bay…or any number of other options), and (b) Moses was in the actual, physical presence of God.  For those two reasons, I would not consider Moses’ fast an example of anything normative.

- Matthew 6:16-18 is Jesus condemning the Pharisees for their hypocritical fasting.  If fasting is a time of tremendous lament over sin, and the Pharisees were showing off during that time of lament by wearing sackloth and ashes and making a general display of themselves, then their showboating mocks the whole nature of the fast.  If repentance becomes an occurrence to boast about piety, then it’s not real repentance.

Sackcloth Prayer

- Matthew 9:14-15, Mark 2:18-20 and Luke 5:33-35 are all parallel accounts of when Jesus was questioned about why his disciples did not fast.  Jesus’ response makes a whole lot of sense if fasting is an expression of lament – “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” (Matt. 9:15).

- Luke 2:37 simply records that Anna was a prophetess who was regularly in the temple and regularly fasting and praying.  It appears to simply speak of Anna as a woman of tremendous piety, and that would make sense of her regular fasting; she was always mindful and repentant of her sin.  That would also be a reason why the Lord allowed her to live unto the day she saw the coming of the Messiah.  Anna was likely one of the most righteous women in Israel.

- Luke 18:12 records the rich young ruler boasting about his regular pattern of fasting (a pattern which was already condemned by Jesus in Matt. 6 as being indicative of a hypocrite).

- This leaves Acts 13, 14 and 27.  Acts 13:2-3 is the commissioning of Paul and Barnabas on their missionary journeys, and Paul was regularly in danger of losing his life for the preaching of the gospel.  I can’t understand the full sense of sobriety with which the church at Antioch sent Paul out (knowing that he may not come back), but I can hazard a guess that they were sorrowful to see him go.

Acts 14:23 comes just after Paul is stoned in Lystra (when men from Iconium and Antioch arrive to stir up the crowd into a murderous frenzy), dragged out of the city and left for dead (14:19).  Then, Paul arises (possibly when the disciples heal/resuscitate him) and goes to Derbe (14:20), preaches the gospel there and returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch (the 3 cities that were behind his recent attempted murder).  In those three cities he appoints elders, and “with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed” (14:23).  Again, this whole passage is one describing the life-threatening ministry of Paul.  How would you feel if Paul comes to your town, gets stoned, and then you’re left to complete the work that he started?  Would you be worried for your life?

Uh, yeah.  Paul commissions me while his head is wrapped in bandages and the blood is barely dry?  *Gulp*

Acts 27:9 is simply a passing reference to the regular annual fast held on the Day of Atonement.  No commentary one way or the other.

So there you have it. We have explored every passage in the entire Bible that addresses the topic of fasting…no wait.  There’s one more that may come up:  Matthew 17:21, but my response there is easy:

 pray_fast(this is not how you drive out demons with “prayer and fasting”)

Matthew 17:21 isn’t in the canon of Scripture.

Allow me to tag Dan Wallace into the ring:

Here’s the textual note from Matthew 17:21 in the NET Bible:

“Many important mss (א* B Θ 0281 33 579 892* pc e ff1 sys,c sa) do not include 17:21 “But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” The verse is included in א2 C D L W Ë1,13 Ï lat, but is almost certainly not original. As B. M. Metzger notes, “Since there is no satisfactory reason why the passage, if originally present in Matthew, should have been omitted in a wide variety of witnesses, and since copyists frequently inserted material derived from another Gospel, it appears that most manuscripts have been assimilated to the parallel in Mk 9.29” (TCGNT 35). The present translation follows NA27 in omitting the verse number as well, a procedure also followed by a number of other modern translations.”

Now we’ve explored every passage in the entire Bible that addresses the topic of fasting.  There’s not as much as one would think, and the Old Testament understanding of fasting (the cessation of eating/drinking as an expression of lament over sin or facing imminent death) is not redefined in the New Testament, but rather continued.

Moreover, the regular practice of fasting is condemned as hypocrisy (or negatively portrayed) every time it is mentioned with one exception (Anna in the temple).  It is never prescribed, but only described, and it is never performed as a component of a regular effort to seek the Lord’s will in making common decisions.

Never.

So, feel free to fast.  You’re definitely allowed to; it’s not bad.  I would recommend that if you’re a Christian, you should offer a biblical fast, which is either a fast in the face of imminent death (where one is seeking the Lord to avert their/another’s apparently imminent death) or a fast in response to conviction over your sin and involves repentance; turning from sinful thoughts and habits, and replacing sinful thoughts and habits with righteous thoughts and habits (if you repent and don’t have a tangible change of what you’re thinking and doing, you’re not repenting).

I hope this has been an informative blessing to you, and I hope you’ve learned as much as I have!

Lyndon Unger

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Lyndon is a pastor/teacher who’s currently between ministry work and in the Canadian Mennonite Brethren Witness Protection program. If you think you saw him somewhere...you didn’t.
  • http://thecripplegate.com Jesse Johnson

    Thanks for your work on this Lyndon. I have a sincere question:

    You make a compelling argument that fasting is connected to life-threatening threats (grave danger–is there any other kind?), but are you saying that it should be normative in the NT in those same circumstances?

    Specifically, the Acts examples are all around praying for somebody else in a life threatening situation. If I buy into what you are saying, then is it your position that when praying for someone else in a life-threatening situation (disease, going to war, churches that support missionaries in East Africa), that fasting is for them?

    If look at those same verses, and come away saying that churches that support missionaries in life-threatening situations, or that have people facing life/death trials, should feature fasting as a basic spiritual discipline, am I wrong?

    • http://michaelcoughlin.net/ Michael Coughlin

      placeholder so I’ll be notified of responses to the question.

      • elainebitt

        Subscribe to the comments below Michael. All the way down, on the left hand side, you’ll see “subscribe”.
        If you don’t see it there and you’re using firefox, try another browser. Since firefox’s last update a few weeks ago nothing works the same with disqus.

        • http://michaelcoughlin.net/ Michael Coughlin

          Thanks for the tip, Elaine. But I only want updates on JJs comment, not the entire post.

          Funny you mention that. Disqus isn’t linking correctly to the comments in my Chrome browser either.

    • Lyndon Unger

      Jesse – Good question!

      I’ve looked into it a hair, and I’m actually thinking that I’d have to write a follow up post in order to properly address a specific follow up question:

      *** Were there any other clearly life threatening situations into which any church in the NT sent individuals where the scripture doesn’t record an incidence of fasting? ***

      Now after a really quick search and think session, the only examples I can imagine that would be relevant here would be two:

      a. 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5. Now seeing that Acts 17:1-14 records that the Jews in Thessalonica were mob-forming trouble makers (bad enough that Paul was sent away by the church in order to escape those Thessalonian Jews…twice – Acts 17:10 & 14). In 1 Thessalonians 3:1-4, which would logically come after the founding of the church in Thessalonica, Paul sends Timothy to check on them after Paul’s efforts to visit them are confounded (repeatedly) by Satan (1 Thessalonians 2:17-18). I’m guessing that Timothy would have faced some serious danger, but there’s no mention of fasting.

      b. James 5:14 – I’d openly admit that there’s mention of sickness, but no mention of imminent death. That being said, I don’t think people call the elders for a runny nose. There’s no mention of fasting here, but I’d also point out that this is a general admonition for a wide variety of circumstances…and it contains no caveat for “imminent death”.

      That’s not a definitive answer, by any stretch, but it does demonstrate at least one example of “sending gospel laborers into a dangerous situation” where there is no explicit mention of fasting, as well as at least one example of “praying for healing” where there is no explicit mention of fasting.

      I’d probably lean towards the idea that fasting in the scenarios you mentioned is definitely acceptable and biblically defensible, but not mandatory. I’d suggest that this would be a matter of conscience, but one where there’s a realistic scriptural argument to be made.

      That’s a good “connect the dots” thought, and I’d probably lean in favor of saying “I don’t think you’re wrong, but don’t judge me if I don’t”.

      Is that a wishy-washy answer enough for you?

  • http://michaelcoughlin.net/ Michael Coughlin

    Good work. This topic is so confused. Allow me to relate.

    A young lady I met at a conference was telling me about when her friend’s husband finally got saved. She told me, and a carload of people driving back from lunch, that they had prayed and fasted for 30 days for him to come to Jesus. She said, “We were so happy when he got saved!”

    I replied, “I bet you were! You must have been starving!”

    Confused, she asked me what I meant. I, of course, assumed that she had not eaten for 30 days – because what other type of fast is mentioned in the bible?

    She reassured me that her and her friend had only done a breakfast-fast.

    Of course, the purpose of the illustration is to show the immense inanity of an unbiblical fast – which you did sufficiently from scripture and Clint Eastwood in your post.

    • Reagan

      You’ll also hear about fasts from Facebook, cell phone, or TV. Especially, among young Evangelicals. Sure, it’s certainly a good thing to take a break from the tech and get in the Word more, but it’s not a fast.

      • http://michaelcoughlin.net/ Michael Coughlin

        Weird – because even if it WERE a fast – I vaguely recall a section in Matthew 6 (maybe I’m remembering wrong) where Jesus commanded his disciples to do such a thing in secret…

        • brad

          Hey guys,

          Just wanted to jump in on this thread real quick. I am learning that fasting is really helpful. In the big picture of the Bible, anything that our hearts hunger for more than God is an enemy. So, I think it is ok to fast from things like social media. That seems like a biblical fast. But the point of fasting is not to just stop eating or watching TV, but to feast on God! As we do that our affections and hunger for Him grow!

          And I also wanted to point out that Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 don’t mean that all corporate fasting is hypocritical or wrong. There are all kinds of examples of corporate fasting in the Bible. The issue is really a heart issue. Are you fasting to be seen by the Father or to be applauded by men? It is possible to fast with other people without fasting in order to be seen by others.

          Finally, just an encouragement that fasting can be a very good thing. It can really stir our affections and desires for Jesus as we feast on Him!

          • http://michaelcoughlin.net/ Michael Coughlin

            Good points, Brad.

            1. I have no problem with people avoiding things that separate them from God. I would consider that more of “eliminating idolatry or laziness” rather than a biblical fast. As was pointed out, biblical fasts involve completely going without food, not just giving up a vice for a short period. Call it a fast if you like, just don’t equate it with biblical fasts.

            2. No one has said corporate fasting is wrong. I’m sorry if my comment came across that way. The tongue in cheek joke was made to make the point that most times you read about the “fasts” people proclaim on the internet, they are directly contradicting the spirit of fasting by letting others know about it. Usually, I sense an air of pride in the post where you wonder why the person posted it – if not just to get the praise of men. That’s not the only reason why someone would post about a fast…but it seems commonplace. Of course, if I fast with my brothers for a reason we would all know, but we still don’t need to let all our twitter followers know.

            3. No doubt fasting IS a very good thing, when done scripturally as no one has said otherwise. I just don’t think making Jesus a priority is fasting. I’m not fasting while I go to church and not eat for 3 hours. I’m just going to church and worshiping. I’m not fasting if I skip breakfast everyday for a week and pray instead; I’m just acting differently.

            Fasting in the Bible always involved completely going without food. It was important to be doing it for the right reasons, usually because a person was too preoccupied to think of eating, and Jesus commanded us to not make a falsely humble show of the whole deal.

          • Brad

            Good points too, Michael. Here are my initial reactions…

            1. I think we are using the term “biblical” differently. You seem to equate the term with the literal teaching of the Bible. I am thinking more in terms of theology and application. I also see fasting as giving up a good thing for a season. Food is not a vice, it is a good thing.

            2. Communication is difficult, especially in blogs. There are words and paragraphs we write, and then there is a message we actually communicate. We can quibble over words, but, as an average reader, I was discouraged from fasting by the article and comments. I just wanted to write a word of encouragement for fasting.

            3. Not sure what to say to you comment #3. I don’t think anyone thinks going to church is fasting. However, most would consider skipping breakfast everyday for a week to pray as a fast. In that situation, I am fasting or breaking from my normal and good routine to be with Jesus and feast on Him.

          • Reagan

            Hey Brad,

            Thanks for sharing your thoughts. You’re right that anything our hearts hunger for more than God is an enemy. That’s the point of the command to Love the Lord with all of ourselves—heart, soul, strength, and mind (Luke 10:27). To love something more than God is idolatry. And as Lyndon demonstrated in his post and Michael in his reply to you, biblical fasting (abstaining from food) was done because of great lament or sorrow not because food had become an idol and they needed to focus more on God.

            That, I think is where the breakdown comes with the concept of fasting from technology or other things besides food. Aside from biblical fasting ALWAYS having to do with food, the Bible does not tell us to simply take a short break from idolatry. Imagine if you had a little pagan god in your house, you would never presume to ‘take a break’ from worshipping it so that you could grow closer to the true God only to return to it after you broke your fast. No, as a worshipper of the True God you would eradicate that idol from your life (Deut. 12:3).

            We don’t fast from idols, we destroy them.

            So yes, if Facebook or whatever is a distraction for you, and you find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time on there, then sure, take a break and reorient yourself to what matters. But it matters that we don’t call it a fast because calling it a fast confuses what fasting really is. And if the thing distracting you from fully loving God is an idol, then get rid of it! Because our pattern of life as Christians should not be one of punctuated times of faithfulness to God interspersed with periods of idolatry, but of on-going “feasting on God.”

            The point of Lyndon’s post, I think, was not to say, “fasting is stupid,” but to answer the question, “What is biblical fasting?” And the answer to that matters.

          • brad

            I think I agree with most of your post. From what I can tell, you seem to equate fasting from abstaining from an idol. I think of fasting as abstaining for a time from a good thing in order to feast on the good thing Himself, God.

            Also, a feast, by definition is not an everyday meal. We don’t feast everyday on food. Instead we eat and enjoy meals. But every once in a while we feast! That is what a fast is to me. Fasting is a special time of feasting on God and His word that is different from the meals – daily Bible reading, Sunday worship etc.

          • brad

            “you seem to equate fasting from abstaining from an idol”

            Should read: “you seem to equate fasting WITH abstaining from an idol”

          • Reagan

            That’s actually the opposite of what I was trying to say. I apologize if it was unclear. I was saying that fasting is NOT simply abstaining from idols, it’s something completely different.

            I’m not going to rehash my comment, so I’ll just say this: It doesn’t matter what you or I “think fasting is”, or what “fasting is to me” it matters what the Bible says a fast is. And that definition of a fast is precisely what Lyndon demonstrated in his very helpful post.

            I’ve admitted that the type of “fasting” you are talking about can be helpful. And I think that’s great that you want to set aside special time to really focus on God. So why am I quibbling about this at all? Because it’s not fasting. Anytime you define a biblical concept for yourself instead of letting the Bible define it you’re heading for trouble.

            There is a real danger in misunderstanding fasting as more akin to asceticism than to the biblical fast of grief or sorrowful repentance. And this is my concern with Social media and TV “fasts”. Asceticism is, at best, useless in our fight for sanctification (Col. 2:23) and at worst a breeding ground for spiritual pride.

            So bottom line: let’s let the Bible define what a fast is.

          • Brad

            No worries, Reagan! Thanks for the apology!

            The bottom line for me is really two-fold.

            #1. While Lyndon did a great job of researching the term “fast” in the Bible, he really didn’t get into the theology of fasting. It was more of a compilation of proof texts. I can’t fault Lyndon for this; he only had 1 blog post to communicate what he learned! For a more thorough theology of fasting, I would encourage you to read a book by Pastor John Piper called A Hunger for God.

            #2. The practical take away for me, is that fasting should be a part of our lives on a regular basis, even according to Lyndon’s definition. Because,if we are on mission, and if we are authentic with our lives, we will often have times where we don’t want to eat because we want more of God. For example, how can we not fast for our lost neighbors, if we really believe God’s word and His glory is more important than food? And how can we not find ourselves in danger, and desiring God more than comfort or safety or food, if we are truly ministering to our neighbors…to the lost…to the demon-possessed etc? And how can we not fast for our children, showing them that Jesus is more important than food!?

            I hope this is an encouragement! I hope this helps you see that Jesus and His glory is more important than food!

            Blessings! Hungering for God with you,
            Brad

          • Lyndon Unger

            Brad, I’d simply say that if the Bible defines the term “fast”, it also thereby determines the proper perimeters of the theology upheld by the term.

            If you are giving up XBOX or anything else and calling that a “fast”. you’re not fasting.

            If you are hungering for “more of God” and skip lunch, you’re not fasting.

            You cannot turn a biblical term into a metaphor without imminent spiritual danger.

      • Lyndon Unger

        Ha! Agreed that people call many things a “fast” that aren’t a “fast”.

        Once, someone asked me what I was “giving up for Lent”. Not wanting to get into the whole “I don’t celebrate Lent” speech, I simply said “I’m giving up on my penchant for giving up. I often don’t make it all the way through giving something up at lent, and my own lack of lenten discipline has frustrated me no longer! This year I’m going to stick this through! How about you?”

        They confusingly nodded at my thoroughly nonsense answer, which seemed to satisfy them enough that I had a moment to wander away and pretend to answer a phone call by placing a paperclip on my ear and talking to myself.

        (I made up that last part about the paperclip, but I’m sleepy and my memory and daydreaming are blurring into one another right now. Time for bed!)

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks for the good thoughts Michael!

      You’re totally right to comment on the “immense inanity of an unbiblical fast”, and I’ve completely had to overhaul my understanding of “fasting”. It’s funny how every time we think we have our theological ducks FINALLY accounted for and lined up, we hear a whole bunch of mysterious quacking from a room that we’ve never even entered.

  • http://almostreadytogoamish.blogspot.com/ Johnny

    This was a very helpful overview of the subject. Fasting is definitely one of those subjects that I rarely if ever hear from the pulpit but that has enough of a presence in Scripture that I think the church could be blessed by hearing more teaching on the topic.

    As for me, I find fasting problematic because I’ve got a large family and there’s always the need to dispose of leftovers, plus there’s always something laying around to be eaten… :) <. But I have privately and quietly fasted in the past and I’ve found the experience humbling and one that does help reorient your focus towards Christ and to constant prayer.

    Hey, didn’t Piper write a book on this subject?

  • Ray Adams

    “it appears that most manuscripts have been assimilated to the parallel in Mk 9.29”
    Is the parallel in Mark 9 not to be considered? My understanding of the quote to place outside the canon Matthew 17:21 was to say that the Matthew manuscript improperly copied the Mark manuscript, which is valid. If the Mark passage is valid, then what is the teaching? Doing warfare with Satan is one of those life-threatening situations where fasting is pertinent?
    I suspect that in any case in our Spirit led church age the manifestations of physical dependency for access to God rooted in that very strongly physically typological age of the First, might be seen as fading away. Which also might help to explain why the Spirit hasn’t prompted any conferences or teaching on this subject. Although, indeed I have heard frequent messages, admittedly all confusing to the subject.
    Thank you for your survey and helpful analysis. Would love to hear your comment on Mark 9

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks for the thoughts Mr./Mrs. Guest!

  • Reagan

    Really appreciate this, Lyndon. This truly is a confused topic in our day. Earlier this spring Gary Gilley published an article on fasting in which he came to similar conclusions. Though, he tackled fasting from the perspective of “spiritual disciplines” / Christian mysticism. In case anyone’s interested: http://www.svchapel.org/resources/articles/133-spiritual-formation-movement/806-fasting-and-spiritual-direction

    • Lyndon Unger

      Thanks for the link Reagan!

  • GRD

    Matt 17:20 And Jesus said unto them, 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.
    Matt 17:21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
    ………………….
    “This kind” may be in reference to unbelief or faith; not necessarily in casting out devils.