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We don’t hear a lot about the practice of fasting in most churches in America these days. But fasting is a VERY important practice from scripture that I think deserves our careful consideration.
WHAT IS FASTING?
Fasting is the practice of abstaining from eating certain foods or all food and/or beverages for a certain amount of time in order to focus solely on God, worship, prayer, repentance or petition (asking for God’s hand to move in a situation). It is a way for us to show deeper devotion to God.
Today, sometimes people also “fast” from electronics for certain time periods in order to better focus on God, Bible study and prayer.
The Bible also describes abstaining from sexual relations in marriage for a time by joint decision to focus on prayer.
In the Old Testament, there were certain days of fasting where the whole nation would participate. They would usually combine fasting with mourning their own sin and the sin of the nation and repenting individually and corporately to God. Or they would fast when they were being attacked by their enemies and their king or leader would instruct all the people to fast and pray for God’s deliverance. Sometimes the king would proclaim a fast when there was a severe famine or the people were being punished by God for their rebellion and idolatry against Him.
In the New Testament, fasting is mentioned many times. Jesus fasted for the 40 days that he was in the wilderness being tempted by Satan. Jesus’s disciples were criticized for NOT fasting – but Jesus said that when He was gone, they would fast – but there was no need for them to fast when the “Bridegroom” was with them.
Jesus also had this to say about fasting:
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. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so 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. Matthew 6:16-18
This is to be a secret practice – between us and God. It is an intimacy builder. It is a way we can draw nearer to God. And it is a practice Jesus expects of His followers. Note that He said, “When you fast.” There is much value in fasting – what a beautiful way to increase our knowledge of God and our dependence on Him.
If you have hypoglycemia, diabetes or are pregnant – you may need to check with your doctor before fasting.
There are many ways to fast. I have a degree of hypoglycemia – my blood sugar drops very low if I don’t eat at all. So when I fast, I like to drink fruit/vegetable juices that day, and I abstain from eating food. Sometimes I only fast for a meal or two.
I believe the key is the attitude of our heart.
WHEN TO FAST
- When there is a very important decision to be made and you want God’s guidance (i.e.: is THIS the person God wants you to date/marry)
- When you are repenting of major sin (i.e.: you just realized you have been unforgiving, prideful and disrespectful for years and you want to genuinely repent)
- To grow closer to God
- To seek God’s will
- To pray for the repentance of our nation/world
- To pray for someone’s salvation
- To pray for a miracle of healing
I have seen God do amazing things during those precious times. Usually, I am extremely private about it – and it is just between God and me. But I think that this wonderful discipline and practice has been largely abandoned in the body of Christ today – and I believe we need the power of fasting and true repentance when we desire to turn from our evil ways and live for Christ – or when we seek healing for our land or for the church. There are so many times we are forfeiting the power of God by not fasting individually or corporately. It grieves my heart that we are not doing this together as a body.
In the Bible, there were times of corporate fasting in the Old and New Testaments. I believe there is MUCH power in fasting with a humble, contrite spirit and when we desire to completely repent of sin and seek God’s face above all else. I would personally love to see church leaders calling for corporate fasting on certain days or for certain meals so that we can all unite together as one body in prayer and fasting. I can just imagine the Spirit of God moving mightily if we were willing to do this.
I pray that You might illuminate our hearts to the concept of fasting. Help us to see what a precious practice it is to You. Show us how You might desire us all to incorporate this into our lives to show our devotion and love for You. Break every stronghold of Satan in our souls and in Your church. Free us from our sin. You have crucified our old sinful nature. Let us be dead to sin and alive to Christ. Fill us completely with Your Spirit. Empower us to be the godly people You desire us to be. We can do NOTHING apart from You, Lord. We need You desperately! Thank You for Your Word! Thank You for Your design for our faith, for our marriages, families and churches. Let us bring great glory and honor to You in the way we think, pray, worship, speak and act. Make us a great blessing to those around us.
In the Name and power of Christ,