1997-02-26 - Fasting
The Spiritual Disciplines Series, Part 5
In my opinion fasting is a "lost" discipline. Few sermons are preached on fasting and I have found in teaching Bible studies that even the most seasoned Christians lack knowledge and understanding of fasting. Let's look at what Jesus said about fasting.
Matthew 6:16 "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. (NIV)
Jesus expects us to fast. He said "When you fast", not if you fast, when you feel like fasting, or if you are so inclined to fast. Notice too that Jesus did not say you MUST fast. Let's not become legalistic like the Pharisees and let's certainly not be like the hypocrites who fasted for the wrong reasons.
Acts 13:2-3 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (NIV)
What then is the right reason to fast? Fasting should always be for spiritual purposes. Clearly in the above verse the early church fasted, worshipped and prayed. That, my friends, is the key to fasting. It should be a voluntary, private, worshipful and prayerful time between you and our Heavenly Father.
My most successful fasts have been when I concentrated on one aspect, one desire, one yearning and one longing to be closer to God and to listen to His will for my life. For example, if I am reading the Bible and the Holy Spirit clearly illuminates a passage for me in a way that I can only describe as supernatural, I will fast and meditate on that passage during the entire fast. I have also found great success in concentrating on one prayer during a fast. The prayer is usually a prayer of thanksgiving for what Christ has done for me, and one desire that I pray God will grant to me. Again the key is to focus on Christ during the fast. Good fasts have always been life-changing for me.
What's a bad fast? When I fast for the wrong reason or the wrong attitude in my heart. I have had fasts in which I never experienced the presence of God. Looking back I always was fasting without focusing on Christ during the fast.
So, how do you fast? I always suggest to people to start slow, and of course if you have any medical problems, consult your doctor before fasting. On that note, fasting can be the withholding of anything you desire; it does not have be an absence of food. So anyone can fast.
I recommend people start out with a 24-hour fast. This simply means skipping two meals. Preferably breakfast and lunch. I do drink water during the fast; some folks drink fruit juice. There are no rules. During the day when the hunger pains occur, pray and focus on Christ and on your purpose for the fast. The pains always remind me of how helpless I am without God. He provides all my needs.
There are several books on fasting. I recommend finding a good book and learning more about how to fast in a safe and spiritual way.
Dear Father, thank You again for this time we have together. Thank You for providing all our needs. Father, we are truly nothing apart from You. Father, draw us closer to You. Help us to have the desire to know you more intimately. Most of all we praise You and thank You for Your Son Jesus Christ, Who gave up ALL for us. In His name, Amen.