One morning I woke up and had planned on fasting all that day, I felt kind of religious about how I was going about it and actually was not looking forward to skipping my morning cereal. Feeling convicted about it I thought to myself I need to learn more about fasting and so I went to the Word to see what it’s all about and why the heck I should bother!
As I found, there are different occasions for fasting with many ways to abuse the practice. One should not fast to convince God to do what they want, it’s not about changing God’s mind, it’s about changing yours.
Fasting has many effects on ones mind and spirit (not to mention the body!). One way that fasting effects the believer is that it reminds us of our fickle state of being, and how much we need God to help us daily. As we fast and pray let it humble you and place you in a posture of worship and reverence toward God who never grows weary or weak. Also when fasting and enduring the hunger pains, which for me usually kick in around 12 hours after waking up, one should meditate on this – “we should hunger for God’s presence, truth, and Word the way we long for physical food. Food is eaten so the nutrients can spread throughout our body and keep our cells living and blood pumping, just as God’s Word should fill our mind and life completely thus giving it true life directly from God.
Luke 4:4 – But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.'”
Another element of fasting to take in to consideration is the disciplinary aspect that it holds. Please understand, we should not fast with the focus on ourselves, what we can get out of it or what benefit it is to us, the fact that fasting disciplines the flesh is just a positive after effect. You should not fast just to learn to control your desires better. That being stated, when you fast properly you will find that your flesh subsides and becomes progressively submissive to your spirit (the way it should be, Gal 5:22-25). Many serious Christians I have known have experienced God the most while fasting, they received their most impacting and revelatory visions, dreams, answers and miracles during a period of fasting. It disconnects your from this world and primes you to connect with God’s world. This principle is true even when you are not fasting – the more you get rid of yourself the more room and permission God has to enter in.
The third and most important aspect to fasting is the element of sacrifice involved in denying yourself food (or any other item or service of value). God sees the heart, He always has! So what is the one thing that grips the heart of man – sacrifice. When you offered your best looking, first born, pure bred, and presumably best tasting animal something clicked in their minds – God requires sacrifice. Thankfully Christ was “The sacrifice” for the sin problem but our life with God still revolves around giving something up for God to work with. When you fast you are sacrificing your comfort, your quality of living, and your time to God. And God sees your heart. Most of the misuse of fasting has to do with individuals having the wrong heart (or intention) while fasting.
Compare fasting the act joy of sky diving to fasting all food except water. What’s the difference? How often do you sky dive? If you’re a typical person – not very often. However eating food – again, big assumption here: eating is a regular practice you enjoy very much. It would be silly to fast something you don’t do often or don’t enjoy, conversely it is most effective to fast something that has value and frequency in your life. The greater the personal value the greater the sacrifice and the more you tell God how much He is worth to you. I am not against fasting things like entertainment, internet, TV, chocolate etc. However, I recognize that fasting food (either all or 1 meal a day for example) is the most effective form of fasting. How can I say that? Because to most people food has a great value to the individual and it done at least 3 times a day.
So let’s get to the practical side of things: what do you do when you are fasting? Well you should pray, a lot. I like to use the time I would have spent eating on prayer. And in between those times, pray more.
Heck, ask for a day off from work and devote it all to prayer and fasting and reading God’s Word.
You may be going through a tough time in life: parents getting a divorce, YOU getting a divorce, unemployment, an employment offer, a wayward child, an upcoming ministry opportunity etc. FAST! Give something up to God, and tell Him “You are more important, I seek you”. Ask for answers humbly, desire more of God and less of yourself, and expect changes to happen inside of you.
Scriptures mentioning fasting:
- Judges 20:26 (inquiry)
- 1 Samuel 7:6 (repentance), 31:13 (mourning)
- 2 Samuel 1:12 (mourning), 12:15-23 (healing plead, mourning)
- 1 King 21:27-28 (repentance)
- Ezra 8:21-23 (plead)
- Nehemiah 1:4-11 (plead), 9:1-3 (repentance)
- Ester 4:3 (mourning), 4:16 (plead), 9:31 (plead)
- Psalm 35:13 (healing plead), 109:24 (plead)
- Isaiah 58 (misuse, instruction)
- Jeremiah 14:12 (denial)
- Daniel 9:3 (repentance)
- Zechariah 7:3-6 (misuse)
- Joel 1:14 (end times sorrow), 2:12-15 (repentance)
- Jonah 3:5 (repentance)
- Matthew 4:2 (Jesus), 6:16-18 (instruction), 9:14-17 (instruction), 17:14-21 (demonic deliverance)
- Luke 2:37 (worshiping), 18:12 (misuse)
- Acts 13:2-3 (worshiping, sending), 14: 27:9 (time of year-weather),
- 1 Corinthians 7:5 (prayer in marriage)
- 2 Corinthians 6:5 (mark of ministry)
- Repentance of sins
- Deliverance of demons
- Answer to prayer
- Wisdom or confirmation on a decision
- Humbling and worship
- Self glorification among men
- To feel self-righteous or prideful
- To manipulate God to your will
- Not fasting for God
- Fasting while living in sin or practicing injustice