And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting.

Mark 9:29 (KJV)

Every year my church has two months of consecration. We go on a month of fasting and prayer for February and October. We always expect, after a fast, for a manifestation of the Holy Spirit, and we had such an incredible manifestation today in our Sunday service that it brought the house down. Although fasting is a personal endeavor, there’s a lot to be said for being in unity. I’m reminded of Acts, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31 NIV). Fasting and prayer are generally, as I’ve said about fasting, personal endeavors.

If you look in your Bible at this verse from Mark, there’s a good chance it won’t say anything about fasting unless you read the footnote. I say there’s a good chance because the top three Bible translations are the New International (NIV), New Living Translation (NLT), and King James Versions (KJV) of the Bible and only the King James includes fasting amongst the three for Mark 9:29. Furthermore, of the 27 other Bible versions I typically use for comparison, only 10 of them include fasting in this verse.

Most of these Bible translations don’t include fasting as part of this verse, so let’s take a look at the Bible and see what other sorts of examples we might find of people fasting.

The first case of fasting we see in the Bible is from Moses.

Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.

Exodus 34:28 (NIV)

We can see that Moses fasted when he went to spend time with the Lord. It was during this time that the covenant of the Lord was established with the people of Israel. Although we don’t need to deny ourselves food and water to be present with the Lord it does help, when we fast, to turn away from the things of the body to focus on the spirit. By putting away food and water we can see from Moses’ example that he turned away from everything else to focus on the Lord.

After King David has committed adultery with Bathsheba, the Lord decreed that the son brought about by their union would die. Scripture tells us, “David pleaded with God for the child. He fasted and spent the nights lying in sackcloth on the ground” (2 Samuel 12:16 NIV). I believe David fasted for two reasons. He was sorrowful for what he had done and fasting was a means of showing repentance before God. Secondly, David was seeking the Lord’s mercy for his situation. David hoped the Lord would spare his son and fasting was a means of showing the Lord his sincerity.

When you’re thinking about all of the kings of Israel and Judah, David stands out as being the most faithful to the Lord. King Ahab, on the other hand, is almost an antithesis of David. However, even Ahab, one of the vilest and evil kings of the Bible, upon hearing the prophetic utterance of Elijah, over his family, “tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, and fasted” (1 Kings 21:27 NIV). The Lord took notice of Ahab humbling himself and fasting before Him. Therefore, the Lord told Elijah, “Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the calamity during his days, but I will bring it upon his house in the days of his son” (1 Kings 21:29 NIV).

We have seen three examples of people fasting before the Lord. Each one of them fasted to show the Lord their sincerity. Moses fasted so that he might better focus on God and His word so he could better lead the Israelites. David fasted to show the sincerity of repentance with the hope of seeing the Lord’s mercy. Ahab fasted as a means of humbling himself before the Lord. These were all individuals who fasted. What, I wonder, might happen in the case of corporate fasting?

Most of us know the story about the prophet Jonah. The Lord told Jonah to go and preach to the people of Nineveh.

“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

Jonah 1:2 (NIV)

When Jonah finally gets to Nineveh he tells them, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (Jonah 3:3 NIV). We are told, “The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth” (Jonah 3:5 NIV). That’s really amazing. However, what’s really amazing is the decree the king of Nineveh had proclaimed:

Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

Jonah 7-9 (NIV)

It wasn’t enough for the people to go on a fast and repent in sackcloth. The animals too had to go on a fast and wear sackcloth. Can you imagine going to your dog or cat and telling them they have to fast? They’d revolt. What strikes me as interesting here isn’t the fasting animals as much as the attitude behind the fast. “God may yet relent” is a powerful statement. It tells me these people were sincere in their repentance because they only hoped God would relent. Just like David, who hoped the Lord would spare his son. Unlike David, the Ninevites were Gentiles who weren’t in covenant with God. Therefore, God could have ignored their repentance and overthrown them, but He didn’t.

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Jonah 3:10 (NIV)

What stands out to me in these examples of fasting is that people fast when they want to show their sincerity to God. The other thing that stands out to me is people showing their sincere repentance to God. Fasting isn’t always part of repentance for Moses wasn’t repenting and Jesus, when He fasted, wasn’t repenting. Fasting is a way of letting God know we mean business and that’s what I think Jesus meant when he said, “This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29 KJV).

Do you have something you want out of your life? When you cry out to the Lord, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24 KJV), you might need to show the Lord you mean business and add a fast to that prayer, because these kinds only come out with prayer and fasting.

Do you know God? God knows you and He loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, right now, and He wants you to know Him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, be freed from death, and live eternally with Him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation today:

Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my Lord and Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.