As I blogged yesterday, our church is about to enter our annual Week of Prayer. Many of our congregants will be fasting while others cringe at the very mention of the word. Folks equate fasting with suffering, being crabby, headaches, bad breath, etc. There’s something scary about saying, “I’m not going to eat today.”
Though Jesus taught about it, it may be one of the most misunderstood and feared of the spiritual disciplines. It’s rarely taught on or preached about and if there weren’t 77 references to fasting in the Bible, I’d be convinced it was of the devil. It goes so radically against our flesh; the gluttonous, self-indulgent side that fears denying life’s pleasures.
WHAT IS FASTING?
It is voluntarily skipping meals or certain foods for spiritual purposes.
- Normal fast – no food, may drink water or clear liquids.
- Partial fast – limited meals or abstain from certain foods. Many try a Daniel fast.
- Absolute fast – nothing taken into the body, including water. Not recommended for more than one day. Many people may not be able to fast due to health reasons, and if there’s any question, consult your physician.
People fast in varying lengths: 1 meal, 1 day, 3 days, 7 days, etc. Many people who fast for a day go ahead and break it at midnight. That’s between the individual and God but I recommend people just go til the next morning. Otherwise, it becomes a legalistic, minute by minute ordeal…and the focus is still on food. J
Fasting must be accompanied by prayer otherwise it’s dieting (and a very bad way to lose weight anyway)! It gives us an opportunity to deny ourselves, make more time for seeking God, and loosens our dependence on our flesh (pride, worldly concerns). It helps us to focus more on Christ, seeing that He alone can meet our needs.
“The idea of fasting doesn’t enter the mind of most Christians….it reduces the power of self so that the Holy Spirit can do a more intense work within us.” – Bill Bright
Fasting isn’t an option but expected of all believers in our devotion to God. Matthew 6 says, “When you give, pray…when you fast.” IMPORTANT: Fasting isn’t a way to make ourselves suffer in order to win God’s favor. If it’s not in His will, fasting won’t change His mind. Fasting doesn’t change God’s mind but changes the way we pray!
“I know fasting can not only draw us closer to the bridegroom, but it can also accomplish beneficial results in the lives of others who have deep needs.” – Elmer L. Towns
WHY DO WE FAST?
It sharpens our intercession “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?…Then you will call, and the Lord will answer” (Isaiah 58:6, 9a). We can fast for greater passion for God and a greater burden for the outsiders. It helps to become more sensitive to the Holy Spirit with greater spiritual hunger and yearning for God.
It helps us in seeking God’s guidance (Judges 20:26-29). The 11 tribes of Israel lost to the 12th, Benjamin. They fasted to gain God’s direction in how to win the battle.
It helps us express repentance and return to God. “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?…Then you will call, and the Lord will answer” (Joel 2:12).
- Renews spiritual vision and passion.
- Be careful: when you ask the Holy Spirit to search and probe, He will.
- Can bring revival to an entire nation (Jonah 3:1-10).
While fasting, the body will flush out impurities, particularly with an increase in drinking water. The same thing will happen spiritually: all of the sudden we become aware of how sinful we are and how He wants to purify us.
For humility. “Yet when they were ill, I grieved for them. I even fasted and prayed for them, but my prayers returned unanswered”(Psalm 35:13). Fasting brings a greater yieldedness and brokenness before God. We lose dependence on self and elevate God!
To overcome temptation (Matthew 4:1-11). We are always under attack, but especially when we’re fasting. Jesus was tempted with things of the world: possessions, prestige, fame, fortune, power, but while He fasted, His desires died. At a crucial moment, while He was launching His ministry, He died to self, agenda, and desires.
To demonstrate love and adoration for God “Yet when they were ill, I grieved for them. I even fasted and prayed for them, but my prayers returned unanswered”(Luke 2:37). That was her life: worshipping, obedience, sacrifice and dedication to God.
- Set a time limit. If you don’t set a “deadline” with your heart, you will with your stomach.
- Prepare for it gradually. Don’t gorge, especially the night before because it’s the “Last Supper.” That will only make things worse. Eat less.
- Begin eating again slowly. When we engage in extended fasts, we need to begin eating again slowly; simpler foods clear liquids, etc. so our stomachs can get reacquainted with food.
- Maintain personal hygiene. Bathe, brush your teeth, especially because your body will be getting rid of toxins. I’ve broken out with acne while fasting before.
“Fasting is calculated to bring a note of urgency and persistence into our praying, and to give force to our pleas in the court of heaven.” Arthur Wallis
- How is God speaking to me about fasting?
- What are some reasons we personally may want to fast?
- When am I going to do it?
- If fasting can revive an entire nation, what can it do in our lives? our family, church, school, work, etc.?