Do you want more help from God to overcome sin? Would you like to have joyful victory in your heart, and power in your prayers? Would you like to do something that will tune your heart to the voice of the Holy Spirit, help you obey Jesus quickly, and hand Satan defeat after defeat? Then consider the ancient practice of ‘fasting.’ Many great Christians of the past and of today have included this habit in their godly lifestyle.
Moses fasted prior to receiving the Ten Commandments. The nation of
fasted and prayed and broke a long period of oppression by their enemies. Daniel fasted and received great revelation about the future. Jesus, through fasting, resisted and overcame the devil in the wilderness. Paul turned from destroying the church to planting churches, and his life was marked by fasting and praying.
What is it about fasting that brings about this change and this power? Leviticus 16: 29 and 31 equate fasting with ‘afflicting the soul’ (KJV) or with ‘denying oneself’ (NIV). In Psalm 35:13, fasting is also equated with ‘humbling oneself.’ It is one of the ways that God ordained for turning to Him with all of your heart. (Joel 1:14)
Through these verses, we learn that fasting is one form of self-denial; it is the temporary denial of our physical appetite for food. Jesus said that self-denial is the great link to becoming a victorious Christian. (Mk. 8:34) Therefore, fasting, as one expression of it, is a powerful instrument.
It is a powerful tool of repentance. We repent by turning from sin, worldliness, spiritual laziness, and indifference to Jesus, to the fruit of the Spirit, to sensitive discernment, and to the athletic pursuit of God. In this self-denial, we surrender to Jesus more deeply so He can work His will in us more completely.
You may need a deeper work of God in your heart. Perhaps, you need insight into the will of God in some decision you have to make. Sometimes, you feel helpless to help someone or feel helpless in the face of some satanic attack against your soul. In such cases, a deeper repentance, humbling, and brokenness is required to give you the faith to obtain the particular blessing that you need. Fasting and praying is one way to help us to get to that faith and blessing.
Personal fasting should be done in secret. Jesus told us not to draw attention to ourselves.
Fasting is not only a time of grieving over our sins or over worldliness, but it is also a time of turning to Jesus. Therefore, fasting should include within it a lot of rejoicing! We are turning to Jesus who lifts our burdens and transforms our hearts. We enter His courts with praise even as we deny our self-life.
Of course, some people have health limitations that prevent them from a total fast of a meal or for a day or a number of days. For them, fasting like that could damage their bodies. In such cases, they should fast selectively as Daniel did. (Da. 10:3) He denied himself certain foods, not all food. Such people should be sure to eliminate enough kinds of foods that self-denial occurs.
Finally, we are not fasting to look good. We are not fasting to impress people with our spirituality, nor to manipulate God to do something for us. We are fasting for God to change something, either in us or in someone we are praying for. Fasting is not good if we do not have the attitude, willingness, and desire to change. And then God will change our lives and help us to conform more to His will. According to Isaiah 58, a true fast results in people getting help, either in their own hearts or other people’s lives.
To break the yokes of bondage and to loosen the chains of injustice, fasting produces change, and brings us to the final glorious result, freedom in Christ Jesus!