2 Chronicles 7:13-16 (NLT)
At times I might shut up the heavens so that no rain falls, or command grasshoppers to devour your crops, or send plagues among you. Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. My eyes will be open and my ears attentive to every prayer made in this place. For I have chosen this Temple and set it apart to be holy—a place where my name will be honored forever. I will always watch over it, for it is dear to my heart.
Why fast? Each year many congregations call for a time of “fasting” to kick off the New Year. But many people have no idea what fasting can do and struggle to not eat certain things which becomes a diet more than a distinction in faith. Fasting was required in the Old Testament. But after Jesus Christ died for the sins of mankind, it became almost obsolete. I have fasted many times over the last several years for many different reasons. God invites us to humble ourselves which is a yielding of our flesh. Let me tell you, my flesh has no interest in giving up certain meats, breads and sweets according to the Daniel Fast and gets down right mad when I completely fast. But fasting food alone without prayer, praise and worship is nothing more than a radical diet plan. God has indicated if that His People called by His Name will humble themselves, pray and seek His Face turning from sin, THEN I will hear from Heaven, forgive sins and heal their land. As the Lord spoke these words to Solomon, He was referencing the Temple that he had built to house the Presence of God. After Jesus Christ paid for our sin to purify God’s People, we became the Temple of the Living God. Now it is up to us to be set apart and holy. Our lives should honor God’s Name forever. Those who strive for such a life will be “dear to” the Heart of God and He will “always watch over it.”
Ezra 8:21-23 (NLT)
And there by the Ahava Canal, I gave orders for all of us to fast and humble ourselves before our God. We prayed that he would give us a safe journey and protect us, our children, and our goods as we traveled. For I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to accompany us and protect us from enemies along the way. After all, we had told the king, “Our God’s hand of protection is on all who worship him, but his fierce anger rages against those who abandon him.” So we fasted and earnestly prayed that our God would take care of us, and he heard our prayer.
In order to better understand the purpose of fasting, we must first determine what it is not! Fasting is not religious but based on a relationship. As in any intimate relationship, each party yields to the other or there would be no union. Just as in marriage, we give our mind and body to the other person. Only in this partnership, we must give our mind, body and spirit. Although many fasts will be called by many different denominations, God is only interested in the fasts that are based on intimacy of relationship not instruments of religion. Religion must sustain itself but our relationship to God – we cling to Him and He sustains us. Fasting moves our dependency from “man” to God. Ezra did not want to ask the King for protection as the exiles returned because he had told him that “God’s hand of protection is on all who worship him.” Now it was time to step out in faith, so the people fasted and prayed earnestly for God’s Help. God heard their prayer.
Luke 18:11-14 (NLT)
The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Fasting is not about you. It is about God and should be both private and personal. When a pastor calls for a church wide fast, it is like an altar call. Although he has invited everyone to participate, it is likely that not everyone will. If I go to the altar repeating the Lord’s Prayer but there is nothing going on in my heart then it is basically useless. If I ask the Lord to forgive my sin, but have no intention of turning away from sin then there is no point in repenting in the first place. Fasting is not about not eating certain things to gain favor in a group. It is about inviting the Presence of God to live in your temple and earnestly seeking the Lord’s Face. If you have no heart intention than you are merely lusting after the Lord and never really loving Him. Fasting never exalts man but humbles him in order to invite God’s Will, Way and Word into our life. It moves us aside and lets Jesus Christ rule and reign in our life. It is not a time to grumble and complain about how hungry we are but a time to teach our flesh to hunger after God. (Matthew 6:16-18)
Isaiah 58:3-5 (NLT)
“‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. “It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance,
bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the LORD?”
Fasting is not a demonstration, but consecration. In the beginning when I was learning the importance of fasting, I would fast food specifically. Over the years, as I have fasted certain things have been eliminated from my life altogether. Before fasting, I must carefully consider what to fast and the purpose of it. If I simply stopped eating certain foods for the next 21 days, putting no effort into my relationship with God then my fast is a religious observance and not a focus on faith. Obedience to God was once a requirement to escape judgment, but when Jesus Christ died to provide the Grace needed for people who could not overcome sin all that changed. Now obedience is a privilege. We have many privileges as Children of God seldom understood or utilized. Holiness makes room for God by sectioning parts of our life and dedicating them solely to the Lord. As we begin to change our lifestyle to live in the Righteousness of God – fasting will change as our flesh begins to humble itself to the Lord. In fact, puredevotion.org came into existence because God asked for my time one year rather than food. A relationship with God turns seasonal fasting to a lifestyle of fasting and God’s Blessing comes with it as we transition our life from this world to God’s Kingdom by learning to live apart from sin with a heart seeking intentional Christianity by seeking after Jesus!
Isaiah 58:6-7 (NLT)
No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
The Lord is very clear in the purpose of fasting and its results. God wants to transform your life. As we yield our life to Jesus Christ by fasting and seeking His Face, our life is no longer our own. This is a good thing. Prevailing sin cannot exist in a heart after God. If you truly want a relationship with Jesus Christ, repentance will result in a turning from sin. Humility allows you to give your life to others as an act of worship. Set captives free. Lighten burdens. Release the oppressed. Remove chains and bondage. Share food with the hungry. (Note: It doesn’t say just give them some money or food.) Give shelter to the homeless. Clothe those who are in need. Help your relatives. It is evident in my own life that I have a long way to go to honor God in fasting. It is up to you to evaluate your life to determine if fasting is right for you. If you truly desire an eternal relationship with God – fasting is an essential part.
Isaiah 58:8-12 (NLT)
“Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the LORD will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the LORD will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply. “Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon. The LORD will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.”
Fasting opens the door to all the benefits of salvation. Self-denial is not popular. People much prefer religion to a relationship with God that might interrupt their American Dream. But for the few, the remnant who truly desire God’s Best and will settle for nothing less – fasting is power! Fasting is salvation. You cannot serve God and this world no matter how hard you try to put your life in the gray area created by doctrine and human philosophy. Sin is sin. Demons are demons. Right is right and wrong is wrong. There are two sides – good and evil. By denying ourselves, it will make it abundantly clear where we stand. Our heart and mind must come into agreement about who God is to be saved. You cannot say with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and not believe in your heart. Just as you cannot believe in your heart but not believe intellectually. We live with corrupted minds that refute the existence of God by doubt and fear with hearts trembling for His Love and Acceptance. (Titus 1:15-16) Fasting calls our body, mind and soul into agreement. (Isaiah 1:18-19) Salvation is only possible if faith becomes confident hope that is cultivated by belief.
Fasting is healing. The void created by sins that are forgiven cannot be healed if reopened. People are good at repenting then turning right back and doing the same thing again. Fasting is an opportunity to be healed as we invite the Lord into every aspect of our body, mind and spirit by denying our flesh. Healing is for more than physical illness. This is only the beginning. When God heals a broken heart, He then restores it so that it is safe from the same weapon again. Healing is available body, mind AND spirit. We stop at the flesh because so often we cannot get past our flesh.
Judges 20:26-28 (NLT)
Then all the Israelites went up to Bethel and wept in the presence of the LORD and fasted until evening. They also brought burnt offerings and peace offerings to the LORD. The Israelites went up seeking direction from the LORD. (In those days the Ark of the Covenant of God was in Bethel, and Phinehas son of Eleazar and grandson of Aaron was the priest.) The Israelites asked the LORD, “Should we fight against our relatives from Benjamin again, or should we stop?” The LORD said, “Go! Tomorrow I will hand them over to you.”
Fasting brings guidance. Too many times we use human wisdom which is faulty to determine our course of direction, but these plans are subject to change with a fickle mind and heart at the helm. God’s Plans for your life are firmly established. His Way is always the best and for your own good. (Jeremiah 29:11) The steps of the Lord are ordered. Through fasting and prayer, we can seek God’s Direction first rather than doing it over and over until we get it right. As His People, God is set on us having His Very Best and will allow us to continue to wander until we find it unless we ask for direction. His Spirit knows the way but our flesh keeps taking charge. Fasting exposes weakness that keeps us from depending on our flesh and allowing His Spirit to take control. Now we are getting somewhere.
2 Chronicles 20:3-6 (NLT)
Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the LORD for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting. So people from all the towns of Judah came to Jerusalem to seek the LORD’s help. Jehoshaphat stood before the community of Judah and Jerusalem in front of the new courtyard at the Temple of the LORD. He prayed, “O LORD, God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven. You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against you!”
Fasting breaks the bondage and oppression of fear and doubt in our life. When we can no longer rely on our own power and strength, we seek the Lord. Jesus overcame the world. (John 16:33) There is no enemy or foe that can overtake Jesus. However, fear is very believable sometimes and coupled with adrenaline and doubt – believers are in trouble. God wants to break fear off of you. He didn’t give it to you and does not intend for you to have it. The Lord must become bigger than your problem. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. Faith buried in doubt and disbelief dies. You can do nothing outside of Jesus Christ. Fasting surrenders weakness for His Power. What are you scared of today?
Daniel 9:2-3, 9:20-23 (NLT)
During the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, learned from reading the word of the LORD, as revealed to Jeremiah the prophet, that Jerusalem must lie desolate for seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting. I also wore rough burlap and sprinkled myself with ashes.
I went on praying and confessing my sin and the sin of my people, pleading with the LORD my God for Jerusalem, his holy mountain. As I was praying, Gabriel, whom I had seen in the earlier vision, came swiftly to me at the time of the evening sacrifice. He explained to me, “Daniel, I have come here to give you insight and understanding. The moment you began praying, a command was given. And now I am here to tell you what it was, for you are very precious to God. Listen carefully so that you can understand the meaning of your vision.
I make no claim to know the time or hour of Jesus’ return, but I do know and recognize the signs of the times. It is a very desolate time with wars and rumors of war, famine and disease and prophecy after prophecy fulfilled. It is time for the church to fast not as congregations but as the Remnant of God preparing for His Son’s Return. (Joel 1:14-15) Jesus is coming back. I believe it is sooner than later. What I have found to be true that when we become truly desperate for God in our natural life, fasting pays off. Fasting allows us time to know God and understand His Way and His Will through His Word. When I am unsure or unsettled, I fast and pray. For those who know what fasting is and participate willingly and agreeably with God there is no fear. As the angel Gabriel told Daniel, “The moment you began praying a command was given.” God listens to those who fast and pray making room for God’s Will and His Way in their life. His Word will comfort your heart during these trying times. He will steady you eliminating unbelief and doubt that hinder you. You will prosper in the midst of economic downfall and shaky governments because you have become rooted and grounded in a relationship with your Lord and Savior that is purposeful, intimate, committed and powerful. Fasting begins this process. It is reinforces the confident hope we need to make it to Eternity.
Matthew 4: 1-11 (NLT)
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus told him, “No! The Scriptures say, ‘People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city, Jerusalem, to the highest point of the Temple, and said, “If you are the Son of God, jump off! For the Scriptures say, ‘He will order his angels to protect you. And they will hold you up with their hands so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.’” Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the LORD your God.’” Next the devil took him to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “I will give it all to you,” he said, “if you will kneel down and worship me.” “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the LORD your God and serve only him.’” Then the devil went away, and angels came and took care of Jesus.
Pregnant couples often read, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” to know and understand what is to come with pregnancy and parenthood. Jesus gave us some insight as well as to what to expect when fasting. Expect to be hungry for food at first then something to fill the void left by what has been lifted from your life. Be very careful to feed it with God’s Word that is the Bread of Life. Expect to be tested. Everything you know or think you know about God will be twisted and turned by the enemy to convince you to change positions. Do not give in but press in to prayer and worship as God shows you what to do and where to go. God’s Word reinforces His Will and Way. Use it. Expect to be empowered and revived. Do not focus on your weakness or discomfort but the potential of all God’s Promises coming to pass in your life as flesh is moved and sin discarded for righteousness, holiness and obedience which is our privilege in Jesus Christ. Why fast? Why wouldn’t you?
Joel 2:12-14 (NLT)
That is why the LORD says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish. Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve, sending you a blessing instead of this curse. Perhaps you will be able to offer grain and wine to the LORD your God as before.