The Spiritual Discipline of Fasting and Prayer
- By Joseph Mattera
- Published 03/27/2010
Joseph Mattera has been in full-time ministry since 1980 and is currently the overseeing Bishop of Resurrection Church in New York.
Known as “a leader’s leader,” Joseph is also a virtuoso on the guitar. He has received formal education in Kingsborough Community College, Elohim Bible Institute, received ministerial training from The International Christian Center, and has received an honorary diploma from Zion Bible Institute. Joseph earned a Doctor of Divinity from the Christian Leadership Seminary, participated in BILD (Biblical Institute for Leadership Development), successfully completed a one-year certificate program with the Wilberforce Forum, and has earned a Doctor of Ministry from Bakke Graduate University, with a concentration in Biblical Worldview and Urban Ministry.Joseph and his wife Joyce founded Resurrection Church in 1984. A multi ethnic congregation of 40 nationalities, Resurrection Church has developed and sent out high-impact leadership and numerous non-profit corporations that have greatly impacted nations and the New York region, such as Children of the City (COC regularly ministers to more than 2,000 at-risk children with counseling, after school programs, tutoring, mentoring, and other holistic ministries) and The Ekklesia Leadership Institute (which held intensive monthly seminars and week-long summits with a focus of raising up the next generation of leadership with a Christian world and life view).Joseph also has hosted his own radio show “Light Your City” and a weekly cable television programs “The Ekklesia.” He is a regular contributor to Christian newspapers, and through the years has given numerous radio and television interviews and press conferences, including guest appearances on TBN. His first published book Ruling in the Gates was released in April 2003 and has already had international acclaim.
In recognition of his years of faithful service and significant influence, numerous local and national bishops and apostolic leaders consecrated Joseph to the Office of Bishop on April 29, 2006.
Joseph, his wife, Joyce and their five children live in Brooklyn, New York.
Text: Matthew 6:16-18
“Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
In Matthew 6:16 Jesus said “when” we fast. Thus, He was expecting His followers to fast. He also said that our Father in heaven will reward us for fasting in secret. The following are some principles related to the spiritual discipline of fasting.
I. Definition of Fasting
According to Scripture, fasting has to do with either totally abstaining from food (and in some cases food and water) or abstaining from certain types of food for a prolonged period of time.
1. No water or food: Moses on Mount Sinai with God (Exodus 34:28). This kind of fast is the exception and is not encouraged unless you have a clear word from God and are with the presence of God in the same way Moses was, or unless it is for only one day.
2. No food (possibly water as well): Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-2).
3. No food but vegetables: Daniel (Daniel 1:8-15; 10:2-3).
II. The Purpose of Fasting
1. To humble ourselves and show utter dependence upon God (Matthew 4:4).
The purpose of fasting is to humble ourselves by showing that we don’t live on bread alone but by the word of God (Matthew 4:4).
2. To hear from God more clearly (Exodus 34:27-28).
3. To let the oppressed go free (Isaiah 58:6; Mark 9:29).
4. To live a simple life so we have more to share with others (Isaiah 58:7).
5. To prepare for a transition or for a call into ministry (Luke 4:1-2, 14-18; Acts 9:3-9).
III. The Lifestyle of Fasting
1. Jesus lived the “fasted life” (Mark 9:29). It seems like He was ready to cast out demons even though He didn’t go away and fast and pray. This seems to indicate that He was on a regular regiment of fasting.
2. The Jews fasted 24-36 hours per week.
3. It is healthy to fast at least 24 -36 hours per week. This gives your body a chance to release undigested foods.
4. There were regular Solemn Assemblies in which the whole community of faith was called to fast during a crisis (Joel 1:14-15; 2:12-19).
5. Use fasting as a way to discipline yourself so that you train yourself not to overeat anymore. Jesus called overeating a sin (Luke 21:34--surfeiting and dissipation are overeating and over drinking; see also Proverbs 23:1-2).
i. Overeating healthy food is like eating junk food.
ii. Eating right before going to bed is very unhealthy because doing so doesn’t give the body a chance to cleanse the blood nor rest since it is busy digesting food.
iii. Try to eat a lot of low-caloric foods like raw salads and steamed vegetables before you eat lunch and dinner. This will cause you to eat less high-calorie foods and will aid digestion.
6. The healthier your diet the longer you can fast without any discomfort.
i. Those who feel called to live a fasted life can get a water iodizer, eat less, and try to have at least 50% of their diet composed of uncooked and unprocessed food so it is easier to fast without interrupting your schedule.
IV. The Way to Fast Properly
1. Drink distilled water if possible. Avoid drinking tap water, coffee, or soda.
2. Avoid chewing gum if on a longer fast.
i. Chewing gum activates your digestive enzymes and makes you hungry.
3. Don’t fast if you have health issues, or are on medications like anti-depressants, or have diabetes, or are pregnant.
4. On long fasts of seven days or more don’t drink only water or citrus juices.
i. Unless you are staying ahead of the acid curve by getting colonics or detoxing and cleansing your body.
ii. Green juices slow down the detoxifying process. Citrus juices detoxify you too fast.
iii. If possible, purchase a juicer and make fresh juice instead of purchasing old, pasteurized juices that have already lost most of their nutrients and enzymes.
5. Properly breaking a fast
i. Take just as long to break a fast and eat regularly as you took to abstain from food to begin the fast.
ii. After a fast of three days or more do not shock your system by overeating or eating things hard to digest. (Don’t break a fast with pizza, pasta, steak, hamburgers, etc.)
iii. After a three day juice or water fast start off with steamed vegetables or only soup. After a week or more of only water and juice, start off with only soup, then salad after a few days before you eat regularly.
iv. After a fast of 21-40 days you have to take about two weeks before you can eat normally.
v. Try to incorporate a weekly fast of 24 hours, a quarterly fast of three days, and an annual fast of 21 days.
vi. Use fasting as a way to discipline yourself so that you train yourself not to overeat anymore.