Fasting – It does a Body (and Soul & Spirit too) Good!
Fasting is something many people are unfamiliar with, and it can be a confusing topic even for Christians. However, fasting is scriptural and a great way to start the new year. Fasting is not something we do to change God’s mind, but it is a way to seek God’s will for our lives and for the lives of others.
Fasting without prayer and devotion is really only a diet!
What is Fasting?
Fasting is a time where you abstain from food or drink for a specified period. It can also include giving up a favorite past-time or hobby, as well as seeking a breakthrough from addictions such as smoking, drinking, unhealthy computer habits, or drug use. During a fast, it is a good idea to disconnect from social media and eliminate self-indulgent habits such as manicures and pedicures, going to the club, or playing video games. The time spent during a fast should be dedicated to God. You may carry on your normal work and home routines, but dedicate time usually spent on pleasurable activities to God and spend extra time in prayer.
A God-focused fast is designed to draw us closer to Him. When we deny ourselves food, caffeine, and other fleshly desires, we are ready for a strength-building, chain-breaking, oppression-lifting, and life-giving opportunity to honor God. It is a good habit to develop and one that every Christian should embrace.
God expects it. In Matthew 6:16, Jesus said “when you fast…”, not if you fast. Jesus fasted many times throughout his lifetime and is our greatest example. While Leviticus 23:32 instructs us to fast at least once a year, we see that Jesus and those who started the early church fasted more often. We know from 2 Corinthians 11:27 that Paul regularly fasted. Keep in mind that fasting is between you and God. Jesus specifically warned us not to boast of our fasting. We are not to think we are more spiritual or closer to God than others simply because we fast. Fasting should be done cheerfully, prayerfully, and with humble submission to listening to God’s will for our lives.
Fasting gives purpose and direction. If you are unsure of what to do next in your life, prayer and fasting can bring divine awareness of your next steps. As a church body, we can corporately fast as the early Acts church did when praying for Paul and Barnabas’s ministry. Before making any decision, King Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. In 2 Chronicles 20:3 we see that the king “set his face to seek the Lord.” Throughout the Bible, we see God working through people who seek Him first.
Fasting makes you more spiritually effective. When you fast, the time you spent eating or in other earthly pleasures can be used for prayer time. Simply read a scripture, play a praise song, or sit quietly in prayer. Take a deep breath and listen for God’s word. Daniel 9: 2 and 10:1 show us the spiritual power that can come from fasting. In Psalm 42, when David fasted, he recognized in his spirit that “deep calls unto deep.” This means that our spirits are better able to recognize God’s Spirit and the desires, goals, and spiritual direction He has for our lives so that we can be His representatives to the world.
Fasting prepares you to receive blessings and mercy. Joel 2:12-29 ensures that God will pour out His Spirit on those who fast. Fasting according to Isaiah 58 3-7 can “loose the bonds of wickedness, undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free and to break every yoke.” And Ezra 8:23 says that “we fasted and implored our God for this, and He listened to our entreaty”. Daniel 9:3 promises that when we turn to God in fasting, He will give us mercy.
How long & what should we fast?
The Bible records various fasts; anywhere from 1 day (dawn to dusk) to 40 days as in the case of Jesus and Moses. You may totally refrain from eating, or fast certain meals. You may also participate in a fast where you abstain from certain foods as Daniel did in his 21 day fast. He only consumed fruits, vegetables, and water while waiting to hear from God. See Daniel 10:2,3.
Psalm 69:10 says it beautifully. “When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting, it became my reproach.” God can do wonderful miracles in the lives of those who humble themselves!
If you have serious health issues or are pregnant or nursing, check with your physician before starting any fast.