Spiritual Discipline 101: Fasting
Fasting is not a spiritual discipline reserved only for “deep” saints who have walked with God for a very long time. It is a discipline that should be practiced and embraced as much as other disciplines like reading the Bible or praying, by all believers, regardless of how long you’ve been a Christian.
Simply put, fasting is the abstaining of something, typically food, for the purpose of spiritual growth or an external gain. Food is a natural need and desire. However, when we deny our belly the fleshly satisfaction of eating, it has spiritual ramifications that lead to earthly benefits.
Fasting, like all of the other spiritual disciplines, should be practiced regularly in the life of every believer because of Jesus’ commandment and model for us. He told his disciples in Matthew 6:16-18 ESV):
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Did you catch the first four words of that passage – and when you fast – when; not if… Fasting is one of the ways we can commune with God. Our longing to be more like Jesus is influenced by our love and appreciation for Him. The lifestyle He demonstrated while living on earth affirms how fasting should also be incorporated into our own lifestyles. Fostering intimacy in our relationship with God is our privilege and responsibility to carry out. We do this through living out all the spiritual disciplines revealed in scripture, including (not shying away from or overlooking) the spiritual discipline of fasting.
Reasons for Fasting
1. When Desiring Closer Fellowship with God
Fasting starts with a desire to foster an intimate relationship with God.We are reminded in Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV), Fasting also requires a willingness to walk humbly and honestly with God so that He may lead us according to His ways for us.Although it will involve sacrifice, the blessings of fasting far outweigh the inconveniences we temporarily experience.
2. When Seeking Direction from God
Whenever we are faced with major decisions or unexpected crossroads in life, we should turn to God for direction through fasting.If there is something you are unsure of and need greater clarity concerning, fasting allows the opportunity for us to hear the voice of God without distractions.I am reminded of Esther and how she fasted on behalf of the Jewish people, seeking God’s direction as to what might be done to spare their lives.She even declared a corporate fast so that they might collectively entreat the throne room of God with prayer and fasting (see Esther 4: 15-16).Before making choices that could potentially have severe and irreversible consequences, it is wise to seek God through fasting first.
3. When Needing Deliverance from Sin Behavior
We praise God that our salvation has been purchased with the precious, incorruptible blood of Jesus.Although we are saved, it does not mean we will never sin.Sometimes, we will even find ourselves struggling with sin behaviors, addictions, or strongholds that must be overcome.One of the ways we can receive deliverance is through fasting.
In the Old Testament, the prophet and priest Samuel, assembled the nation of Israel to fast and confess their sin before God.As a result, they were then able to achieve victory over their enemy, the Philistine nation (see 1 Samuel 7: 5-11).
In the New Testament, Jesus’ disciples questioned why they were not able to cast out a demon that had possessed a young boy.Jesus explained to them, they needed the power that comes as a result of prayer and fasting in order to take authority over the spirit ( Matthew 17:21).
If we ever attempt to deny the fact that we live in world that has unseen powers at work, and that we can physically overcome in our own strength those supernatural powers that form against us, then we are deceiving ourselves.Despite our best efforts, some things are bigger than us because of the spiritual warfare attached to it.In order to experience breakthrough, we will need to draw near to God through fasting and cry out to him for our deliverance.
4. When Petitioning God for Healing