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Fasting Day 10: Dr. Elmer Towns on Fasting

Elmer Towns on Fasting

Last March, Janet Parshall interviewed Elmer Towns on the subject of fasting. The interview was so informative and inspiring, I knew immediately I wanted to share it with you this year during Pursuit 21.

Elmer Towns co-founded Liberty University with Jerry Falwell. He serves as the dean of the School of Religion at Liberty. He has three masters degrees, and a doctorate. He has written over eighty books and is the recipient of the ECPA Gold Medallion Award for his best selling book, The Names of the Holy Spirit.

Dr. Towns is the author of:

He conveys Biblical truth in compelling, understandable ways—evidenced by the fact 2,000 people attend the Sunday School class he teaches at Thomas Road Baptist Church.

You can listen to Janet Parshall’s interview with Elmer Towns here.

My Favorite Quotes from the Interview

  • “A fast is a vow . . . to God. It’s a time vow. It’s a food vow. It’s a spiritual vow. It’s a prayer vow, an intercession vow. A vow is between you and God and you keep it to the very end.”
  • “Just stopping eating will not get answers to prayer. You have to spend time with God.”
  • It’s not what goes in your mouth. It’s what comes out of your heart. It’s the prayer of faith to God. . . . You focus on God only. You bring your request to God and . . . you demonstrate the sincerity of your prayer by the discipline of your body.”
  • You’re not fasting to get your prayers answered; you’re fasting to know God—to hunger and thirst after righteousness. And what is prayer? The one word to define prayer is relationship. Prayer is relationship with God. And therefore, fasting is almost like the exclamation point to that relationship. ‘Yes, Lord, I’m going to spend time with you. Nothing else—I’m not going to eat. You are more important than anything else.'”
  • “Fasting is a relationship. . . . It’s like prayer—sometimes I start praying and when I’m praying, I feel like my prayers are bouncing off the wall. And when I do that, I come back and say, ‘Now what’s wrong with my prayers. Why are they bouncing back to me?’ And I realize the greatest way to get answers to prayer is to start with worshipping God. When you worship God, His presence comes into your room. . . . The Bible says if you worship Him, He will come. … The Father seeks worship. So if you worship the Father, He will come to receive your worship. So when you are fasting, don’t focus on yourself; focus on God. Start with worship. . . . Praise him for what he has done in your life. And thank God. He will come to receive your worship. THEN you present your petition to Him.”

Highlights from the Interview

I’ve included the time code of the callers’ questions, as well as a few of Dr. Towns’ answers.

4:00 — How did you get interested in fasting?
Dr. Towns tells an incredible story about the first year of Liberty University! They were trying to get the school off the ground. They had no property or anything. Jerry Falwell wanted them to fast for a million dollars!

Towns got into the fast and was scared to death because his mother always said, “Eat … or you’ll get sick!” So he was afraid if he didn’t eat, he would get sick and would be unable to teach his students.

Dr. Towns also tells the story of his second success in fasting. Having moved to Lynchburg, he had a second mortgage on a house in Chicago. He and his wife began fasting on the 15th day of the month for the house in Chicago to sell. For six months they fasted on the 15th day of the month … and nothing happened. Then the realtor called and said, “Elmer, pray! I’ve got a hot one!”

The house sold. When Towns went to Chicago to close the house, he found out that the man who bought the house first came to look at the house the day after Towns and his wife began fasting for its sale. The man kept coming back about once a month to look at the house, unsure what he wanted to do.

Dr. Towns says he learned three things from this:

  1. If he and his wife had not kept fasting, the house might not have sold!
  2. Getting his wife to fast with him was a statement of faith. They believed God together.
  3. When you pray and you don’t get answers, fasting takes your prayer to a higher level of fulfillment.

8:35 — When you do a full fast, do you not eat anything at all?

Towns describes the different kinds of fasts.

  • Normal Fast – liquid only
  • Absolute Fast – no liquid and no solid.
  • Daniel Fast – a partial fast. “Daniel ate only vegetables on one occasion. And on a second occasion, he withdrew from delicacies. He did that for twenty-one days. A Daniel Fast is ten days or twenty-one days.”

13:29 — Is it wrong if you go into fasting thinking, “If I fast, God will do X, Y, Z”? We’re not trying to manipulate God into a position, right?

Dr. Towns answers:

That’s good works. I talk to people who think, “I’m going to go without food so God will give me such and such.” That’s like saying, “I’m going to go to church so I can get a raise.” Or, “I’m going to get baptized so I can get a brand new car.” Anytime you think you do something to gain merit before God, it’s called good works.

What you have to do, you have to come with a broken and humble spirit—hunger and thirst after righteousness. Sometimes when you get into a fast, God will tell you, “No, I’m not going to answer that. I’m going to do the exact opposite.” And if you’re yielded before God, you learn to do His will, not what you want.

 

25:19 — How do I prepare for a fast—physically, mentally, my office space, my home, my heart? What do I need to do in order to be successful at doing the fast?

The one illustration we do have in the Bible is Elijah. He was exhausted … and right before he began his 40-day fast, the Lord said to him, “Eat for the journey and the ordeal is arduous for you.” An angel came and fixed a cake for Elijah to eat right before the fast. . . .

So I would say to you, in the afternoon before you go on a fast, eat an apple. That takes a long time to digest and that’s very nutritious for you.

If you go on a one-day fast, you miss the evening meal. You miss breakfast and you miss lunch. Spend those times in prayer. Just stopping eating will not get answers to prayer. You have to spend time with God. … When I’m fasting, I spend about an hour and maybe ten or fifteen minutes in the evening. And again about thirty minutes at breakfast time. And again at lunchtime, an hour and fifteen minutes. Those times, over and above my regular prayer time, I spend praying to God.

 

36:19 — I’ve attempted to fast before. Is there something I’m supposed to see or feel differently? I don’t even know if I did the fast correctly. I know that it was hard to do and I got through it. Help me to understand.

Fasting is a relationship. … it’s like prayer—sometimes I start praying and when I’m praying, I feel like my prayers are bouncing off the wall. And when I do that, I come back and say, “Now what’s wrong with my prayers. Why are they bouncing back to me?” And I realize the greatest way to get answers to prayer is to start with worshipping God. When you worship God, His presence comes into your room. . . . The Bible says if you worship Him, He will come. … The Father seeks worship. So if you worship the Father, He will come to receive your worship.

So when you are fasting, don’t focus on yourself; focus on God. Start with worship. And praise him for all that He’s done. Praise him for what he has done in your life. And thank God. And He will come to receive your worship. THEN you present your petition to Him.

 

41:41 – Is it right to fast when confronting a serious issue in which you need God’s provision, guidance, or intervention?

Oh yes! I’d say, the bigger the issue, the more likely you are to fast. If you’re going to buy a house. … If you’re a boss and you’ve got to hire somebody or fire somebody. Or if you’re a pastor and you’re praying about a church opening up. … The bigger the issue, the more you want to fast about it.

 Questions: 

  • Are you keeping your fasting vow to God—your time vow, your food vow, your spiritual vow, your prayer vow?  Will you keep your vow to God to the very end?
  • Are you fasting to get your prayers answered, or to know God? Is spending time with Him more important than anything else?
  • In what ways have you experienced fasting as relationship with God—as the exclamation point to the relationship of prayer?
  • Are you starting your prayer time by worshipping God? When you worship God, His presence comes into your room—He comes to receive your worship. 
  • What did you learn from the interview that you didn’t know previously? 
  • What did God convict you of as you listened?  

FROM THE ARCHIVES


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