Tomorrow is a day of fasting and prayer in our two weeks of prayer. I want to address the subject of fasting since we believe in the grace of God, and fasting can feel like we have to flagellate ourselves or earn God’s favor to get an answer to prayer–the opposite of grace. I practice fasting on a regular basis, and I will now offer a number of my thoughts to answer the question “why fast?”.
1. Jesus told us to fast: “When you fast do not look somber like the hypocrites do…” (Matthew 6:16). Jesus expected that his followers would seek God with fasting.
2. Jesus adds that such fasting to be seen by God rather than by people brings a reward: “your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:18). You are laying up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20) as well as receiving a reward in getting closer to God.
3. Fasting increases God’s grace in our lives! Fasting is a way of humbling yourself before God, and God gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34, quoted in James 4:6).
4. Fasting is a means for your self life to decrease and the Spirit of Jesus to increase. John the Baptist declared: “He must increase but I must decrease” (John 3:30). This is one of my prayers whenever I fast–more of Jesus and less of Dave in my life.
5. In the same vein, fasting is a way to crucify our sinful nature and wrong desires: “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:24)
6. Fasting enables you to feed on the word of God rather than food: “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3). When you skip a meal be sure to read God’s word in its place. God’s truth will take root in a deeper way in your mind and life.
7. Fasting gets results. King Jehoshaphat called the entire nation of Judah to fast and seek the Lord when three enemy nations came to conquer them. God answered their prayers with a prophecy that the Lord Himself would fight for them, and the next day the people went out to battle praising God and the three enemy armies fought and killed each other! (2 Chronicles 20). There are many other examples throughout history of God answering people who intensified their prayers with fasting.
8. Fasting is one way to seek first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33). Jesus said everything else in life gets added to you when you seek first the Kingdom.
9. Finally, as a friend of mine used to tell his children who asked why he fasted every week: “I am telling my stomach that it is not the Lord of my life!”
Hopefully these thoughts will help you to embrace fasting and see that it is not legalism or seeking to earn God’s favor.
We have prayer at 6:00pm this evening, during dinner time. I encourage you to start your fast by skipping dinner and praying with us via Zoom. This is how I start my day of fasting. I pray with other believers at our weekly Thursday prayer meeting, and then I take time to read God’s word and reflect upon it. It is also effective to fast from television and the internet during this time. Read that Christian book that you bought but have not opened yet!
I firmly believe any amount of fasting–a meal, a day or more than a day, from food or from entertainment–will be productive and build you up spiritually. Let’s seek the Lord and seek to grow in Him this new year!