Fasting – Holy Spirit Calling

August 23, 2016

 fasting

Fasting is a topic that is not usually addressed from the pulpit, which leave many uninformed about the subject. Fasting is a common practice in the Jewish and Christian circles. When Jesus was talking with His disciples He taught them about fasting. It was expected that His disciples would fast (Matthew 6:16-18), and so should we.

You are probable wondering why should I fast?  You question yourself I already talk with G_d on a daily bases, there are many reasons that I have over the years come to understand better.  Here are some reasons that draws me to fast.

Because Christ Expects it of Christians

Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:16-18 are not words of a command. He does not tell us that we have to fast. However, He expects that we will. He said, “when you fast…” He was making an assumption that a Christian would fast. Moreover, when He said these words He followed it with a bit of explanation that a fast should be personal and private. Your focus should be on your relationship with God and not on letting the world know you are fasting.

In Matthew 9 Jesus is talking with the Pharisees and tells them that the disciples, while not fasting at that time, would fast once the bridegroom (Jesus) was no longer with them. Jesus expected His disciples to participate in fasting.

For Guidance

And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed. (Acts 14:23)

We see in the above verse that Paul fasted about some decisions he made in leading the churches he started. The Israelites sought the Lord through fasting when they had been defeated in battle by the tribe of Benjamin. They were asking for guidance on what they should do and how to proceed  (Judges 20:26-28).

For Intensity in Prayer

David fasted and prayed for the child that he fathered with Bathsheba. David knew he had sinned, but his fast was not to restore fellowship with God. Apparently restoration was already taken care of. His prayer in 2 Samuel 12 was for the life of the child. Though God did not grant his request, David was satisfied and content after his season of prayer and fasting. He had moved past the point of blaming God to a place of trusting God for the outcome.

Ezra prayed for God’s protection over his countrymen as they journeyed back to Jerusalem. He could have entreated the king for soldiers and cavalrymen, but he had already proclaimed that God would care for them. Now he was asking God to show Himself strong on behalf of the Israelites and to help raise a good testimony before the enemy (Ezra 8:21-23).

As a Sign of Mourning

Nehemiah heard about the destruction of Jerusalem and was moved to fast and weep for his beloved city. This fasting was because of grief over the sin of his people before the Lord. He knew that God was punishing Israel for their sins. Nehemiah mourned and confessed before the Lord. Sin had caused a pain that prayer alone could not express. Fasting was a natural result of his grief:

And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven, And said, I beseech thee, O Lord God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned. (Nehemiah 1:4-6)

To Show Humility in the Presence of God

The man after God’s own heart, King David, said that he fasted for the purpose of humbling himself before God (Psalm 35:13). He certainly seems to be the person who could have walked into the throne room of God and made his request boldly as we are invited to do in Hebrews 4:16. There is a difference between boldness and arrogance. David knew how to humble himself in prayer through fasting.

For Worship

fast, worship
Along with humility before God, fasting can be a way to worship God. David said in Psalm 51 that God is more interested in a humble and contrite heart than He is in fasting and sacrifices. This is not saying that we don’t need to fast; rather, it is saying that fasting without the right attitude does not touch the heart of God.

“… fasting without the right attitude does not touch the heart of God.”

 

 

For Spiritual Strength

While Jesus faced the temptation of Satan, He fasted for 40 days. There is a principle of spiritual strength that is demonstrated in fasting in the life of Christ (Luke 4:1-11). Mark 9:29 shows that the disciples needed a power from God that comes only through fasting. Matthew 17:20 and 21 say that fasting and prayer coupled with faith in God can work spiritual miracles.

Why Do You Fast?

Fasting for biblical purposes should draw us closer to God. It should help us break away from the desire to satisfy our own lusts and materialism.

What is the reason you are seeking to fast? Would it be to worship God? To have the spiritual strength needed to go through a trial? Are you seeking God’s guidance in a decision? Or maybe you are fasting for an equally legitimate and God-honoring reason that I have not mentioned. Share with us in the comments below your reason for fasting.

Here are some tips before starting your fast.

Plan Your Fast

The Bible has examples of one-day, three-day, seven-day and forty-day fasts (Judges 20:26, Esther 4:16, 1 Samuel 31:13 and Matthew 4 respectively). You should enter your fast with prayer and a specific plan for how long you will fast.

There are various types of fasts as well. Some people fast with only water for short periods, while others maintain multi-week fasts with juice and broth maintaining a strict liquid diet. Both are valid. You simply need to decide what is right for your body and your purposes.

Part of planning your fast should be to educate yourself on different types of fasts and reasons to fast. It is also important to know how to break your fast properly. This becomes more critical the longer your fast lasts.

Consider Your Schedule

While a fast, by nature, is inconvenient, it should be an inconvenience to you—not to those around you. You should not obligate your family to skip Christmas dinner because of your fast. This takes away the personal nature of fasting.

Tell Only the People You Must

Your spouse will need to know you are fasting. Beyond that, you would be better off not telling many people that you are fasting. Most won’t understand. Fasting can also become a source of pride and boasting as you spread the news to more and more people.

Telling your pastor can be a help both to you and to him. It will be an encouragement for him to pray more specifically for you during this time. And you will know that someone is praying for your spiritual and physical well being.

Wean Yourself Off Caffeine

Several days before your fast begins, you should start weaning yourself off caffeine. Some people experience unbearable headaches 2 to 3 days after ceasing to drink caffeinated products. During your fast you will already be acutely aware of your stomach.

Avoid Media

Disconnecting from TV, radio, newspapers and the Internet can help you stay focused on your purpose for fasting.  Avoiding media will give you more time to focus on the Lord and His Word.

Disconnect from people

Fasting is not necessarily a vacation, though dedicating time off and away from people during your fast can help you get the most benefit out of this precious time. Leave your email and cellphone behind. If possible, find someone who can cover your responsibilities at work and ministry. Many people fast and still carry on their normal daily activities. But if you can get away, it will give you more time in quietness and stillness with the lord.

Beware of Your Emotions

Some people experience vast mood swings during a fast. One moment they are totally focused on God and the next they are wallowing in pity. Knowing that this is likely to happen will help you react properly. Learning to refocus on God and His goodness during this tough emotional time will help when your fast is over and you experience similar emotions.

Rest

If you disconnect from the media and other people you will have extra time allowing you to get a full night’s sleep. During your fast you will be forced to slow down since you won’t be needing long meal breaks. A fast will reveal to you that you have too many activities and busyness in your day-to-day routine.

Stay Physically Active

You should take time to rest but this does not mean you should do nothing. Enjoy a walk in God’s creation. Outside of His Word, His creation is one of the best ways that God has revealed Himself to us.

Be Still and Focus on God

Fasting  is a time to study God’s Word, meditate and pray. To help with this, plan a specific Bible passage or topic you want to study during your fast. Look for verses you want to memorize and meditate upon. Fasting by Jesus and the disciples was always accompanied by prayer. Spend time talking to God and allowing Him to reveal Himself to you in His Word.

Examples of Fasting in the Bible

Old Testament Fasting

  • Moses fasted 40 days on behalf of Israel’s sin: Deuteronomy 9:9, 18, 25-29; 10:10.
  • David fasted and mourned the death of Saul: 2 Samuel 1:12, the death of Abner: 2 Samuel 3:35, the death of his child: 2 Samuel 12:16.
  • Elijah fasted 40 days after fleeing from Jezebel: 1 Kings 19:7-18.
  • Ahab fasted and humbled himself before God: 1 Kings 21:27-29.
  • Darius fasted in concern for Daniel: Daniel 6:18-24.
  • Daniel fasted on behalf of Judah’s sin while reading Jeremiah’s prophecy: Daniel 9:1-19.
  • Daniel fasted regarding a mysterious vision from God: Daniel 10:3-13.
  • Esther fasted on behalf of her people: Esther 4:13-16.
  • Ezra fasted and wept for the sins of the returning remnant: Ezra 10:6-17.
  • Nehemiah fasted and mourned over the broken walls of Jerusalem: Nehemiah 1:4-2:10.
  • The people of Ninevah fasted after hearing the message of Jonah: Jonah 3.

New Testament Fasting

  • Anna fasted for the redemption of Jerusalem through the coming Messiah: Luke 2:37.
  • Jesus fasted 40 days before his temptation and the beginning of his ministry: Matthew 4:1-11.
  • The disciples of John the Baptist fasted: Matthew 9:14-15.
  • The elders in Antioch fasted before sending off Paul and Barnabas: Acts 13:1-5.
  • Cornelius fasted and sought God’s plan of salvation: Acts 10:30.
  • Paul fasted three days after his Damascus Road encounter: Acts 9:9.
  • Paul fasted 14 days while at sea on a sinking ship: Acts 27:33-34.

 

I have enjoyed each Fasting experience, the communion between Him and myself has only strengthen my Love and Faith for Him. I pray if you have never fasted before that you will come away with the most exciting time to be with the Lord.

Have you been on a fast before? Share your fasting tips or experiences in the comments!

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