Fasting | Matthew 17:14-21

March 28, 2014

Book: Matthew


As the pastor was preaching one Sunday there was a loud whistle from one of the back-row seats. As the people turned back they found it was a 6-year-old boy who was pinched to silence by his mother. After church, the mother asked the boy, “Why did you whistle in the church and embarrass me?” The boy said, “I fasted and prayed so that I could learn to whistle and God finally answered me when in tried in the church.”

We must admit the boy believed in fasting and prayer and I wonder if sometimes we believe in fasting and prayer as much as the boy did.

 HF: This morning we are going to see why, when, and how we are to fast in the presence of God.

 Fasting means abstaining from food. Every religion in the world teaches fasting.

The Hindu definition of fasting – The word for fasting i.e. Upavasa itself means to move near (to the Supreme) and by implication to overcome helplessness.

The Muslims, the Buddhists etc fast. Medical science asks patients to fast. On the other hand, the Bible also teaches us to fast. Many times our fast is a mix-up between the worldly and the biblical way of fasting.

How is our fasting different? We fast not as a ritual we fast to seek divine intervention in our life. Fasting is a delight for a child of God.

Mark 2:18-20 18Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?” 19Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.

As long as Jesus was with his disciples they never fasted even though they had the opportunity to fast. Fasting was not required because Jesus was physically present with the disciples. Jesus delivered, guided, and protected them. But Jesus is telling when he goes away from them to heaven they will have to fast to overcome the powers of this world. – On that that they will fast.

In order to see the power of fasting and prayer, we need to go to Matthew 17.

Jesus went to the mount of transfiguration with Peter, James, and John.

There Jesus was transfigured and his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as light.

Upon his return, they are met by the other disciples and the crowd waiting for deliverance.

Matthew 17:14-16 14When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. 15“Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. 16I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”

Now when the disciples prayed for this demon-possessed boy they could not heal him.

Can you imagine the disciples failed in their ministry at this point?

Previous to this Jesus had already given the disciples the authority to heal the sick and cast out demons in His name and they did a tremendous ministry. The disciples went about preaching and healing the sick. But now their ministry was challenged by the demons. No matter what they tried they had been unable to deal with it. The disciples had an unanswered prayer. They tried everything they could but still, they had an unanswered prayer in healing this demon-possessed boy.

  1. Fast if you have unanswered prayers.

If you have an unanswered prayer and if you are dealing with it for a long time, God is speaking something through that situation.

Reason for unanswered prayers.

  • Sin. God removed King Saul as king because of his sin. Then King Saul prayed for guidance from God but God never answered Saul’s prayers. Had Saul repented God probably would have spoken to him. I Samuel 28.
  • Praying against God’s will. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 Apostle Paul prayed that his ‘thorn in the flesh be removed. Paul’s payer was never answered and his torn in the flesh was never removed as that was the will of God in his life. Prayers against God’s will, will never be answered.
  • Satan opposing prayers. Know that satan will sometimes block your prayers from being answered. You need to break the spiritual opposition. In Daniel Chapter 10, Daniel’s prayer is resisted by Satan for 3 weeks. Finally, in fasting and prayer, Daniel got his reply.

If you have an unanswered prayer you need to fast and pray because if you have sinned God will reveal you your sins. If you are praying against God’s will he will let you know, and if satan is opposing your prayer God will release your reply in fasting and prayer.


Something that God answered while you were fasting and praying.

Many of us are praying for certain needs for a long time. Many of you who had been actively involved in ministry are waiting for a next turn in your ministry. For the right answer, we need to fast and pray.

See what Jesus did with an unanswered prayer. Matthew 17:17-18 17″O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment.

What were the disciples supposed to do? Fast, pray, and minister in faith. But they took the physical presence of Jesus for granted. See what Jesus says to them Jesus replied, “How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” 18Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment. Praise God for Jesus who can answer all our unanswered prayers.

Suddenly Jesus delivered the demon possessed boy. In the presence of Jesus there is solution for all our unanswered prayers. Today Jesus is not physically present with us, we need to fast and pray and release the power of God in our lives.

Now the disciples are wondering why they could not cast out the demon?

Matthew 17:19 19Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

The disciples have been casting our demons and healing the sick. Their prayers were answered before. They had ministered effectively before. They had great success in their ministry. But they are now worried and asking Jesus what is different this time, why could we not cast out the demon. Oh we tried everything we knew. We prayed just as we heard you pray. What went wrong Jesus? We are so frustrated. Their circumstances changed. What was happening normally is no longer happening that easily.

  1. Fast when your circumstances change.

We all experience change in circumstances in life. Suddenly some circumstances change for many of us. People who have good relaxed job start to get stressed and pressured at job. Good business suddenly tends to show a decrease in profit. People who were good to you suddenly without any fault of yours starts to avoid you. You know your lifestyle and if there is a change in events or circumstances we need fasting and prayer to deal with such situations. We need the supernatural power to deal with such circumstances. Do not pull on by your own strength. Stop, fast and pray.

Now, look at the reply of Jesus

NKJV Matthew 17:20-21 20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

Jesus answered the disciples, “Your unanswered prayer and change in circumstances can change with just a little bit of faith – a faith of a mustard seed.” If you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

Here Jesus is giving another tip for this mustard seed faith to develop. Unanswered prayer and change in circumstances can go by faith which can be developed only in fasting and prayer.

Godly prayer with fasting releases breakthrough spiritual power.

How do I fast and pray?

  1. Do not fast like hypocrites.

Matthew 6:16 16“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.

  1. Fast in secret.

    Matthew 6:17 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Fast secretly. Except for corporate fasting and church fasting when you fast let it be a secret.

  2. Fasting must be coupled with fervent prayer.

    Mathew 17:21
    21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” There is no spiritual value in hunger alone. We need to pray and fast otherwise it is just dieting.



Have you ever watched a bird sleeping on its perch and never falling off? How does it manage to do this? The secret is the tendons of the bird’s legs. They are so constructed that when the leg is bent at the knee, the claws contract and grip like a steel trap. The claws refuse to let go until the knees are unbent again. The bended knee gives the bird the ability to hold on to his perch so tightly. From sleeping birds, we can learn the secret of hanging on to a life with God. That secret is the knee bent in prayer. It is only when we bend our knees before God in prayer that we can hang on to a life with Him.

Jesus said that his disciples will always not have his physical presence of him and then they will fast and pray. Now is the time that Jesus is not physically present with us. Now is the time for us to fast and pray. You may be having unanswered questions or a change/shift in situation or circumstances beyond your control fasting and prayer is the only answer. This week the church is fasting and praying. I request you to participate in this fasting prayer and see deliverance as a whole.

God Bless you. Let us pray.