Throwback Thursday – Dr. Mary Ruth Swope on Fasting
Blow the trumpet in Zion, Consecrate a fast, Call a sacred assembly; Joel 2:15 (NKJV)
Welcome to my first Throwback Thursday! On Facebook, Throwback Thursday is a day for posting old pictures of you or your family and friends. I have decided to expand approach by posting about great men and women of our faith. I will use this day to review good books I have read, post famous quotes, or tell stories of missionaries or preachers of revival. Since my focus for the month of August is fasting, I will recommend my favorite book on fasting, The Roots and Fruits of Fasting written by a godly woman named Dr. Mary Ruth Swope. She has multiple degrees in nutrition and has extensively researched the Bible on the topic of fasting. Dr. Swope not only talks about the spiritual purposes of fasting, but the many healthy reasons to fast as well.
I think that often people try to use fasting as a type of hunger strike to convince God to answer their prayers. Even though I do believe that fasting can help you receive answers to prayer, I think you are missing the point of fasting if you only do it to persuade God to answer your prayers. We must not act like toddlers and throw a hunger strike or tantrum to get our own way when it comes to our prayer lives. There are 74 verses in the Bible on fasting and several different reasons are given for fasting. Fasting can be used for guidance, wisdom, and healing. There are examples in the Bible of corporate fasting for safety and protection as described in the book of Esther. In the book of Joel national fasting was used for economic restoration. In the book of Jonah fasting was used by a non-Jewish nation to bring about national repentance. Fasting is also a means of dying to self. The longer you decide to fast, the more you have to learn to die to self. Paul says, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” Phil. 4:11-13 (NASB). Even though Paul does not mention fasting in this verse, it does teach that Paul learned the secret of being filled and going hungry. He also says, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection” 1 Cor 9:27 (NKJV). If we can learn to discipline our bodies by fasting, then we can discipline our bodies to do any kind of work for the Lord. Whenever I do a long term fast, I am amazed at how the other areas of my life become more disciplined as well. The longest fast I have ever done was a 40 day Daniel Fast. I will talk about other long term fasts on Friday.
The reason I like Dr. Swope’s book on fasting is because she gives several biblical reasons to fast as well as teaching you how to do it safely. If you have never tried fasting, then I recommend you try some type of fast. I don’t recommend a 40 day fast to begin with, but try something simple like a breakfast fast or denying yourself your favorite food for a determined length of time. Dr. Swope says, “The record of the whole Bible indicated that prayer and fasting combined constitute the strongest weapon committed to God’s believers. Just as faith needs prayer for its full growth and development, prayer needs fasting for the same reason. Nothing more powerful than prayer and fasting is available to the people of God. It is our greatest, single spiritual weapon.” p. 24
“This being true, it is easy to understand why Satan has and will continue to do everything in his power to keep people from recognizing and using this warfare weapon. The enemy of our souls has blinded our eyes to the truth about fasting and prayer.” p. 25
“The problems we face in America cannot be solved by lawyers, by government officials, by financiers – or by anybody but God’s people.” p. 25
If you have a desire to pray for America and want to move the hand of God, then do like Israel did in the book of Esther or what Ninevah did in the book of Jonah and fast and pray for our nation.
Swope, Dr. Mary Ruth. The Roots and Fruits of Fasting. Dr. Mary Ruth Swope, 1998.
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