Ever notice that various churches or denominations will call for a fast at certain times of the year? Maybe you’ve wondered if fasting is even viable in today’s world. The disciples didn’t have to fast, so why should we?
Because Jesus didn’t say if you fast, He said when.
“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. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 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” (Matthew 6:16-18 NIV).
Then John’s disciples came and asked [Jesus], “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast (Matthew 9:14-15 NIV).
Jesus said that His disciples would fast. If you are a born-again believer in Jesus Christ, then you are His disciple. A disciple is a follower or student of a teacher. We read and study the Bible, pray, and fast to become more like Jesus.
What is a fast?
I know that intermittent fasting is a popular form of weight loss. Intermittent fasting is any meal timing schedule that cycles between voluntary fasting and non-fasting over a given period. Methods of intermittent fasting include alternate-day fasting, periodic fasting, and daily time-restricted feeding.
However, biblical fasting is not a diet, it is refraining from food for a spiritual purpose. In the Old Testament, it is related to the Hebrew word, tsom, which refers to a practice of self-denial. In the New Testament, it is connected to the Greed word, nesteia, which refers to afflicting one’s soul or body.
From the beginning, fasting was a normal part of a relationship with God. Fasting is mentioned over 70 times in the Bible and has always been considered a standard practice for Christians. We don’t fast to manipulate God to “move” on our behalf. We fast to hear God more clearly.
Fasting doesn’t move God. It moves you.
Biblical fasting is choosing not to eat, which is an act of self-denial; nevertheless, our motive is to free ourselves to seek God with all our heart and soul. “‘Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning’” (Joel 2:12 NKJV).
Fasting is an expression of wholeheartedly seeking God. This is the secret to the power of fasting. Derek Prince said: “Fasting is a tremendous lesson in establishing who is the master and who is the servant. Remember, your body is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.”
When you eliminate food, your spirit becomes uncluttered. You become “tuned in” to the things of God. When we fast with the right motives, it puts us in a place of humility, and we know that God gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).
Types of fasts in the Bible
- Normal Fast. This fast goes without food for a definite period, in which you ingest liquids only (often only water and/or juice).
- Absolute Fast. This fast consumes no food or no water at all. Our bodies can only do this for three days without supernatural intervention. (Moses fasted for 40 days and nights without food or water. See Deuteronomy 9:9)
- Partial Fast. This fast omits certain foods or is on a schedule that includes limited eating. An example would be skipping one meal a day, eating only vegetables, or eating only raw foods. (Elijah did this type of fast at least twice. Daniel chose to only eat vegetables. John the Baptist ate locusts and honey.)
- Rational Fast. This fast only eats certain families of foods or omits certain families of food. This fast is normally for designated periods. For example, many Catholics during Lent will not eat meat on Fridays; another example would be choosing not to eat sweets for a week.
Is fasting for today?
In short, the answer is a resounding yes! Are you believing God for:
- A lost loved one to be saved?
- Financial crisis to turn around?
- Deliverance from addiction or stronghold?
- Intimacy with the Father?
Then fasting is your secret source of power. We often overlook fasting or try to find other avenues through which we can bring about the tangible manifestation of our breakthrough. Why? Because fasting is about denying ourselves something we want. It’s about crucifying our flesh. It’s not always easy, and our perception is that it’s not very fun. But it can be!
As previously stated, fasting is not a diet. When you’re on a diet and choose to omit certain types of food, you go on with your day as if nothing else has changed. But when you’re on a biblical fast, the time that you would normally spend eating is a good time to spend with God. So the purpose of a biblical fast is to draw near to God because when we do, He draws near to us (James 4:8).
Are you still wondering how fasting can be fun? Fasting is like power-washing your soul and spirit. It helps to remove those distractions or strongholds that hinder our ability to hear God clearly. Fasting can be fun because we willingly put ourselves in a position to listen to what God wants to tell us.
Most of the time, we spend our prayer time telling God what we want, what we need, and what we desire for Him to do for us. But fasting is a form of surrender when we realign our hearts to God’s will, our minds to God’s ways, and our spirits to God’s Spirit. It’s a way for us to show our devotion to the One, true God.
Fasting is a way to put God first. That’s why many churches have a dedicated time of prayer and fasting in January. It’s a way for us to demonstrate to God that we want Him to be first in our lives. It’s a way for us to say again, “Yes, God, to Your will and to Your way. Yes, Lord, we will obey.”
When the breakthrough seems to be out of reach, choose to fast. Deny your flesh and give your spirit room to breathe. God is for you. When you fast, He will speak.
For more information on God’s Principle of First Fruits click here
-Paula White Cain