(Originally published on 2/14/16. Revised 6/3/20)
As our church is entering into a new phase with lots of goals to accomplish for the Kingdom of God, perhaps I can convince you through Scripture that fasting is a worthwhile spiritual discipline to investigate.
Also, I’d like us as a church to engage in this practice on the first Thursday of every month.
What is a fast? It’s abstaining from food for a limited period of time to seek God. It’s a denial of self for the purposes of intense spiritual activity.
In the OT, regular fasters were Moses, David, Elijah, Daniel and Hannah. In the NT, Jesus fasted, and, of course, his Apostles and Anna.
Jesus did not say “If you fast,” but, “When you fast…” (Matthew 16:16), the implication being that this is something we should do.
Fasting is not a hunger strike, nor a manipulative device nor a form of dieting. Fasting should be about God, one that is set apart for him to honor and glorify him, designed to accomplish his will.
But why should we fast today? What spiritual benefits can we get from this ancient discipline? I want to give you 3 reasons why you may want to consider fasting as a regular part of your spiritual life:
Reason #1 For Why We Should Fast: Personal Holiness
If you want a closer walk with God, humbling yourself before him with fasting is a sure-fire way to get closer.
Someone once said, “Pride and a too-full stomach are old bedfellows.”
Remember Sodom? You think that their main sin was homosexuality; but the Bible says it was this: “Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease,” (Ezekiel 16:49 ESV)
Pride is the Mother of all sins, and every human heart is full of it. All of us are loaded down in one way or another with the sin of pride.
And food? Americans have a ton of it, in fact, when we are bummed out, we go to comfort food more often than not, rather than to God.
2/3 of American adults and nearly 1/3 of children are overweight or obese. 72% of older men and 67% of older women are now overweight or obese.
And prosperous ease? Does that describe us?
God saw that pride and full stomachs would lead to Israel’s downfall when they entered the Promised Land. Moses reminded them, “2 Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. 3 He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you…” (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)
After they were disciplined, there would be new temptations they would face in the new land, so Moses warned them: “Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God… Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, 13 and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God….” (Deuteronomy 8:11-14)
And that’s exactly what happened. Hosea 13:6—”When I fed them, they were satisfied; when they were satisfied, they became proud; then they forgot me.”
Is that we are today as a nation?
Is that where you are today personally with God?
Yes, we can give him lip service: “I love you Lord!” And we go to church. But are we just worshiping him with our mouths while our hearts are far from Him?
Fasting can serve as prescription against the prideful heart. It disciplines the body and humbles the soul.
James 4:10—”Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
Ezra 8:21—”There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God….”
The best example is Jesus in the wilderness. He was totally committed to the will of God, even if it meant 6 weeks of fasting.
John Wesley (1703 – 1791) said fasting will “remove the food of lust and sensuality, to withdraw the incentives of foolish and hurtful desires, of vile and vain affections.”
If you have been brought low by some personal defeat; if you feel the call to go deeper with God, or perhaps there’s a new challenge in life you are facing and don’t know what to do, then ask God if this is a time for you to go on a fast.
Psalm 69:10 (ESV)—”I wept and humbled my soul with fasting,”
Reason #2 For Why We Should Fast: To be Heard from God
Fasting can make the prayers of an earnest person in trouble fly up to God on eagles’ wings.
It can drive back the powers of dark forces that inhibit our answers and loosen the power of Satan over our lives. It can give power to your pleadings.
There’s a great account in 2 Chronicles 20 where the Israelites living in Judah were surrounded by three huge armies and they knew not what to do.
2 Chronicles 20:3-4—”Alarmed, [King] Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.”
V. 13: “All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD.”
And how did God answer these people with their prayers and fasting?
2 Chronicles 15,17—”This is what the LORD says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you…. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the LORD will be with you.’”
And what was the result? The people went to meet their enemies with songs of praise and God caused those vast armies to turn against themselves and “they helped to destroy one another.” (V.23)
Jonathan Edwards (1703 – 1758): “Under special difficulties…in great need…or [if you have a need for] any particular mercy, for yourself or others, set apart a day for secret prayer and fasting by yourself alone; and let the day be spent, not only in petitions for the mercies you desire, but in searching your heart, and in looking over your past life, and confessing your sins before God,”
What situation is in your life where you need God to move…and now?
You’ve waited and waited and prayed and prayed, but nothing. Have you considered fasting?
When you fast you are giving heaven notice that that you are serious, and you will not let go without the blessing…and refuse to take “no” for an answer.
The Apostle Paul, after he turned to Jesus, was blinded by God’s light, and fasted for 3 days and nights without food or water until God answered him. (Acts 9)
Andrew Murray (1828–1917) writes, “Fasting helps to express, to deepen, and to confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, to sacrifice ourselves to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God.”
Reason #3 For Why We Should Fast: To Set Captives Free
Where we live, and just about any other place in America, people are held in bondage to the devil. Drug abuse, alcoholism, rampant sexual immorality, homosexuality—are all the normal ways of living.
These people are held captive and slaves to sin. How do we break through?
Perhaps there’s a friend or a family member suffering from some type of mental disorder or disease or condition? What may be the solution?
Prayer obviously. But is it possible there may be something else needed?
Matthew 17:14-20—When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. “Lord, have mercy on my son,” he said. “He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him.”
“You unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed at that moment.
Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
Matthew Henry (1662–1714) “Fasting and prayer are proper means for the bringing down of Satan’s power against us, and the fetching in of divine power to our assistance
There are 3 reasons why we should fast:
1. For personal holiness
2. To be heard from God
3. To set captives free
Now that you know why you should fast, here are some practical tips should you decide to do it:
There are 4 types of Biblical fasts:
1. normal (fast from all food, Matthew 4:2)
2. partial (dietary limitation, Daniel 1:12)
3. absolute (no food or liquids, Ezra 10:6)
4. supernatural (Deuteronomy 9:9)
There were varying lengths of time for Biblical fasts: 1 day, 3 days, 7 days, 14 days, 21 days, 40 days, (Judges 20:26; Acts 9:9; 1 Samuel 31:13; Acts 27:33, Daniel 10:3-13, Mathew 4:1-11)
But first, you ask the Lord how long you should fast.
And do it secretly.
Matthew 6:16-18—“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others 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.”
The bottom line of all this teaching on fasting? You can do it or not do it. You are not more or less spiritual if you do or don’t.
A. W. Pink (1886 –1952) : “Private fasting must issue from an urge within and not because it is imposed from without. Private fasting should be spontaneous, the result of our being under a great stress of spirit, and the simple act itself be entirely lost sight of in the engrossing fervor which prompted it.”
DISCLAIMER: No claims of absolute originality are made for this material. As one man said, “I milk a lot of cows, but I churn my own butter.” Please use these sermons as the Lord leads….(“Attribution: God’s Chosen Fast,” by Arthur Wallis)
***********************************************************************WHAT TO PRAY ON OUR DAY OF FASTING