I was inspired to write this blog as I prepared to start a week of fasting and prayer with my church family……During my times of fasting, I see just how much I depend upon God for my sustenance. I cannot survive without God for very long because He gives us all good things to enjoy
Sooooooo let’s get to it…….. Fasting and Prayer is an important spiritual tool that the Bible teaches us to do in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. There is renewed power through prayer and fasting because we are reminded that ultimately we are dependent on God.
Prayer and fasting humbles us. This self-denial of our exaggerated physical appetite, for a period of time, allows us to wait in faith and to trust God’s mercy. It is also a sign of our desire and hunger to seek God and in seeking Him, we place less importance in our daily routines of finding food and momentary physical pleasures. The fasting and prayer period can also be a heightened time for hearing God’s voice and what he wishes to tell us. During this intense period, we can cut out the noise and interference of life and be in a position to stop and listen to what God wishes to tell us, through his word.
Through prayer and fasting, we develop a passion for God that supersedes everything else. When this happens, spiritual power and energy begin to flow into us, allowing us to live above our circumstances and low self-expectations.
5 Fasting verses
1. Fasting for God’s Intervention: Second Samuel 12:15-17 “And the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and he became sick. David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. And the elders of his house stood beside him, to raise him from the ground, but he would not, nor did he eat food with them.”
Here we see one reason to fast; David was petitioning or asking for God’s intervention on behalf of his sick child. We can fast when someone we love is sick, we can fast for revival for our church and for ourselves, we can fast for spiritual growth, we can fast to seek God’s will in an important decisions such as marriage. We can fast for someone’s salvation, we can fast for overcoming an addiction (like in Isaiah 56:3-7), we can fast during times of great loss or grief over a loved one dying, we can fast for any number of reasons that are personal.
2. Fasting to over come Addictions Isaiah 58:3-7 “Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord? “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?”
I know this may not be what you think of fasting as being for but notice that Isaiah writes that it can be used “to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?” Clearly, an addiction to pornography, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, the Internet or just to fill in the void are strongholds that are not easily broken. The fast can be to undo the straps of a yoke and certainly, an addiction is a yoke that binds a heavy burden on a person. Fasts can loose these bonds of wickedness (sins) and break every yoke (addictions).
Have you ever noticed how upset and moody you get when you’re really hungry? I notice that I do. Tempers can flare and anger erupts so easily when someone is hungry. I have been there. God is telling us, through Isaiah, that this is not “the fast that [He] chose” because we “fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist.” This hitting with a wicked fist can be someone putting their fist through the wall or even hitting someone; quarrelling can be arguing and displaying anger during conversations and these behaviours are exacerbated when we are hungry, like during times of fasting. This type of fasting is certainly not acceptable to God.
3. Fasting for Humility Psalm 35:13-14 “I wore sackcloth; I afflicted myself with fasting; I prayed with head bowed on my chest. I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother; as one who laments his mother, I bowed down in mourning.”
David said it was actually good that he afflicted himself. Almost every time you read the word “afflicted” in the Bible, it speaks of fasting. The word David used for “afflict” is the Hebrew word “anah” and it means to “afflict, oppress, humble, and be bowed down” and this is exactly what fasting does…it humbles you. Maybe you have heard the saying that the word of God comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable. This is so true but fewer things will humble us before our God than to fast.
4. Fasting to be Seen Luke 18:1-12 “The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.”
Here is an open, public display of someone wanting to appear righteous in front of others (self-righteous) and to boast that they fast “twice a week” and give tithes and are not like adulterers, tax collectors, or extortioners. He is right…he is not like them…he is worse! God resists the proud (James 4:6). This Pharisee fasted for all the wrong reasons. He did it to be seen by men, he did it to proclaim that he is righteous when he is actually self-righteous and in his arrogance, he boasts that he is not like sinners. He doesn’t get it. That is legalism. For him to fast for these reasons is to be legalistic. He has already received his reward by being seen. This means that there will be no reward from God. His efforts are in vain. If fact, it would have been better for him to not fast at all because he was doing it for all the wrong reason.
5. Fasting In Secret Matthew 6:16-18 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Jesus tells us to fast in secret and not for show. If we fast to be seen of men, then we already have our reward. Is that all the reward you really want; to be seen by others!? Why not fast and tell no one and allow God to reward you openly someday.
There is also an important word that most people miss. Jesus said “when you fast” not “if you fast” so He seems to be saying that fasting should be done at least occasionally. It is not about being legalistic and feeling commanded to fast but when we fast for spiritual reasons, we show God that we are serious in desiring Him more than food. To have a hunger for God is like a person’s desire for food when they are hungry.
Some people complete a media fast. This includes cutting off all access to the Internet, television, email, cell phones and even radio for a day or a few days.
If we were to consider what could be called a media fast. This would include cutting off access not only the internet but Smartphone devices, television and even the radio for a period of time. If I focus for a short time on someone ceasing to watch their favourite television boxset for a period of time. This would literally mean not watching a single episode during the fast. It’s kind of like for this you could not bend the fast to suit your needs. In other words, watching an episode of a TV show and then reading the Bible during this period.
In 2 Kings 17:41 “So while these new residents worshipped the Lord, they also worshipped their idols. And to this day their descendants did the same”.
If I relate this scripture to our generation there is a danger that people wrongly worship entertainers and celebrates at the same time as worshipping God. It is therefore important during a media fast, God is prioritised during this period.
This kind of fasting is very hard to do but it is exceedingly rewarding because all of a sudden, you have more time to read your Bible, play with your children, talk with your spouse, take a walk and contemplate just how good God is. Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights in order to resist temptation so fasting for resisting sin is one powerful tool in our spiritual arsenal. If you have not ever fasted, you are missing an opportunity to grow spiritually. If you have never been born again, you will be afflicted someday in ways that are beyond description. I plead with you today to turn to Jesus and confess your wrong doings to God, and trust in Him Who died for you.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:9