Think fast? Fast for Lent? Fast from social media? Fast from what? Fast for what? Most of us, Catholic or not, know about the practice of fasting for Lent. Essentially Lent’s fast has many intricacies, that I don’t know all the forms of but are practiced differently one to the next. What remains the same is it’s supposed to have the one participating join in remembering Jesus’ suffering in the wilderness while being tempted by Satan. People give up meat, give up sugar, give up alcohol, any number of things can you insert here. This isn’t the fast discussed here today, but I thought it important enough to touch the subject of Lent. Jesus didn’t eat or drink anything – which, is the most extreme fast a human could do. Most others mentioned in the Bible lasted 3 days or less. Why should we think fast?
My favorite short explanation for why we should fast is found in Isaiah 58:6 – “To make your voice heard on high.” KJV
I hear you, “I know my voice is heard on high when I pray.” Well, if it was only ever mentioned in the Old Testament I could see why one might say that. Back before Jesus, things were different in how we communicated with God. But what if this being heard on high led to a very swift response from the Most High? That’s what all the examples in the Bible point to about fasting.
The children and leaders fasted. God heard them. God answered them in response to their prayers AND fasting.
Seriously go read Isaiah 58.
~ v. 6 ~ “Is this not the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?” KJV
~ v. 8 ~ “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy reward.” KJV
The people of Ninevah believed God when their sins were shown to them, and they repented and fasted AND God relented from His wrath (Jonah Chapters 3 and 4). Ezra 8 – Ezra needs men to fight and was ashamed to ask of the king for soldiers. So, he called a fast to seek from God which ways to go for the men and their wives and children. God intervened and delivered them from their enemies. 2 Chronicles 20 – Jehoshaphat set himself to seek the LORD and as king commanded a fast, all to get help from the LORD. Daniel in chapters 1, 6 and 10 speak to his decision to not drink wine, eat meat nor delicacies for 3 weeks. God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of men. Esther (chapter 4) calls a fast to intreat God to save her people from orders sent to execute them. God delivers them.
In the New Testament, Cornelius the Gentile Centurion, feared Israel’s God and gave to the poor and fasted. He’s the one whom Peter received vision about and their encounter bathed the Gentiles around that conversation with the baptism of the Holy Spirit! Acts 10. As you move through the book of Acts more and more mentions of fasting appear. Acts 13:2-4 ~ they ministered to the Lord and fasted, they prayed and fasted. The Holy Spirit speaks to them because of their seeking and fasting.
Jesus speaks about fasting in Matthew 6:16 – “When ye fast.” and Matthew 6:17 – “When thou fastest.”
Jesus didn’t say, “if you feel like fasting…..” or “that was OT practice, do what you feel like doing because this practice is hard.”
Fasting doesn’t mean you aren’t seeking Jesus for guidance. Fasting as shown above really shows we are pleading and supplicating the best we can – mind, body and spirit.
Fasting is hard, and to be honest I haven’t tried one without water. The fasting practice as shown in Scripture isn’t referring to giving up something like screen time, or just one favorite enjoyment. Although, don’t not hear me on this – that is spiritual discipline and self-control and we DO need to practice self-control. Fasting requires giving up food and drinks – putting actual difficulty on your body.
It isn’t for mean purposes – it’s to weaken the body to better hear from the Lord when we pray. Stopping the body from having food for a certain period of time sends it into a different function mode and it makes your head clearer, if you will.
Fasting is bringing the body, mind and spirit at full capacity to present yourself and your case before God.
Fasting for healing, for getting right with God after sinning, for asking Him to change your circumstances or to move in your favor in a big way or just to give clarity and wisdom in what next step to take, all honor Him. Sometimes He may tell us His grace is sufficient. At least that’s a clear answer! All our examples show God responds.
There are many lengths of time that fasting can happen, and most of our examples show they fasted until they heard from God and then they worshipped – and ate of course! Typical fasts are sun up to sun down, or 2 or 3 days, very few could pull off 40 days as Jesus did!
Starting with a one day fast would probably be the healthiest to start with – it gets easier with practice. We just have to check our heart posture as we go into a fast. We aren’t trying to twist God’s arm, or think that if we fast we can get what we want.
A few personal examples – when Stephen and I were trying to decide on a house here in Georgia, I fasted because I just didn’t have a clear answer. It was only for a day but that whole day God lit up everything blue that was in or around my house. He told me without words that the blue house was the one. And here I am, writing in that blue house! We fasted over our daughter’s onset of hideous illness and we took her to the church and they anointed her with oil and the major issues resolved overnight. I tried the process again for total autism healing and I was told His grace was sufficient. Peace can come in the form of seeking and being answered, even if you don’t get your desired outcome. It’s worth asking with our all.
Fasting is part of the Christian walk, but clearly doesn’t have to be an all the time thing. If we stay connected to the Holy Spirit, we will get nudges when it’s a good time to.
Hebrews 11:6 – “But without faith it is impossible to please Him; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” KJV