Fasting Can Change Your Life

Fasting Can Change Your Life

In summary, fasting is withdrawing from food and/or drink for a specified period of time. The first century church fasted as a discipline to enhance their communication with God and to strengthen their battle against the forces of darkness. Fasting must be led by the Holy Spirit; otherwise, it is just religious dieting.

Mark 2:18-20 Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, "How is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?" Jesus answered, "How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.

Jesus was asked why his disciples did not observe the traditional weekly fast. Jesus explained that while the Bridegroom is present, the occasion calls for feasting instead of fasting. However, Jesus knew there would come a time when He would not be physically present with us. Then we would need to fast.

The Good News is that the Bridegroom is returning to take His Bride—the Church—home with Him. There we will enjoy the Wedding Feast of the Lamb of God. Once again, there will be no need to fast. Until then, we need to understand and use the three basic types of fasting.

A normal fast is no food, only liquids like water, juice, etc…it lasts for 1 day or more.

Judges 20:26 Then the Israelites, all the people, went up to Bethel, and there they sat weeping before the LORD. They fasted that day until evening and presented burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to the LORD.

A partial fast is good to do if you have diabetes, hypoglycemia, or some other condition which prevents a normal fast. Daniel did a partial fast for several months, abstaining from the rich food from the king’s table, and eating only vegetables and water.

The absolute fast is where nothing enters your mouth at all. Moses and Jesus did absolute fasts, lasting 40 days. However, without divine intervention, it can only be done for a very short time.

So, why should we fast? There is power in the principles of prayer with fasting. Fasting is a way for us to discipline our bodies for the spiritual battles and temptations we need to prayerfully fight. As athletes train their bodies for physical contests, fasting trains our spirits for spiritual contests. For example, when we deny ourselves food, we strengthen our ability to deny ourselves other desires of the flesh, and the hunger reminds us to fervently pray.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Another reason to fast is to express sincere repentance from sin. Repentance is more than saying, “I’m sorry.” Repentance requires godly sorrow and a contrite heart. Fasting helps our soul to repent.

Jonah 3:1-10 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you." Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city--a visit required three days. On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish." When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened.

God planned on wiping out the Ninevites, but when they believed His Word and turned to Him with fervent prayers of repentance, accompanied with fasting, God changed His mind and had mercy on them. It is one thing to pray, “Lord I’m sorry for what I’ve done.” It is something else to deprive ourselves of food and plead with God to have mercy upon us for the sins we’ve committed against Him, especially the sins that constantly ensnare us. A decision to fast in such a situation demonstrates that we are truly serious about our repentance, and that we sincerely long for deliverance in that area.

We can also fast to receive God’s wisdom and direction.

Acts 13:1-3 In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 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.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

After fasting and praying, the church at Antioch sent Barnabas and Saul (also called Paul) on a mission trip to spread the Gospel. They stayed long enough in each city to establish a local church. To determine the leaders of the new churches, Paul and Barnabas also sought the Holy Spirit’s leading through prayer and fasting.

Acts 14:23 Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.

By doing this, the Apostles demonstrated that they needed the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to guide their decision making. They disciplined their minds and bodies with fasting in order to hear from God more clearly.

When we need wisdom, we should use the gift of fasting, which will focus our minds upon whatever situation we’re praying about. Every time we desire food, we’re reminded to pray.

Likewise, we can fast and pray to receive deliverance in times of crisis.

2 Chronicles 20:1-4 After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to make war on Jehoshaphat. Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, "A vast army is coming against you…Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him.

When the diagnosis is bad news, when our nation is at a crisis point like an election or because of calamity, when our family is facing a crisis, these are times for fasting and prayer. At these times, we need God’s intervention in our lives much more than we need food.

For example, in 1863 President Lincoln designated April 30th as a day of national humiliation, fasting, and prayer. Let me read a portion of his proclamation on that occasion:

"It is the duty of nations, as well as of men, who owe their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by a history that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord. The awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has grown, but we have forgotten God."

It is important to note, however, that fasting is not a “magic” way to make our prayers get answered, nor to somehow force God into answering our prayers a certain way. God cannot be coerced. We may still have to go through the difficult circumstance, such as the Civil War, but the more we are willing to fast and pray through the situation, the more we will experience the power and the presence of God to strengthen us in the trial.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:16-18 "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. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men 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.”

Therefore, we must guard against: 1. Attempting to manipulate God with our fasting; 2. Attempting to impress others with our fasting so they know how “pious” we are; 3. Becoming legalistic about fasting; 4. Becoming prideful about fasting.

On most occasions, only our spouse needs to know we are fasting. The exception to this rule is when the whole church is fasting together. When we fast as a church, we must guard against focusing on food.

Otherwise, something like this email could occur: “I don't wish to wine, but starting on sundae it seems that a number of people (probably those not so well bread) have bean sending cereal messages around to their "friends" to remind them of their empty tummies. This process should be discontinued because it goes against the grain, so lettuce stop at once. I have as good a sense of hummus as the next person, yet a pear of my friends have extended my tolerance to its limits with their mouth-watering emails. In pasta years, I have found fasting most pheasant, but now I quail each time I seafood. To those whose poultry efforts have failed to make my tummy rumble, I have only one thing to say. May you meat with your just desserts!”

As always, we need to have the Holy Spirit lead us and give us the right attitude while fasting. After all, walking in sin while we fast is counter-productive.

For example, the people complained to God in Isaiah 58:3-10 'Why have we fasted,' they say, 'and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?'

[God answers] "Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.

“Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter--when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

"If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.

From this Scripture, we not only see what attitude we need during a fast, we also discover what God wants to accomplish through our prayer and fasting.

1. Freedom from addictions and mental and emotional problems--v. 6 “untie the cords of the yoke” (things you’d like to lay down but have been unable to). Maybe you have an addiction to pornography, sugar, drugs, alcohol, cussing, or an evil thought life; then try fasting with your prayers! God wants to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke.

2. Revival and soul winning--v. 6 “set the oppressed free

3. Healing. When there’s no hope from a human perspective, put it in God’s hands with prayer and fasting. It may be His will to show that--v. 8 “your healing will quickly appear.

4. A more righteous life and influential testimony--v. 8 “then your righteousness will go before you.”

5. A revelation of the glory of the Lord to protect us from the evil one--v. 8b “the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.”

Do you have an unsaved loved one under satanic oppression, or possession? Jesus tells us to pray and fast for their deliverance.

Matthew 17:14-21 And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him." Then Jesus answered and said, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me." And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?" So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."

God has given us fasting for enhancing our communication with Him and fighting against the powers of darkness. How exactly it works remains a mystery. But for those who are willing to make it a regular part of their life, the Bible shows that God will unleash power into their lives and their prayers will become more effective when they fast. Fasting will cause us to quit hungering and thirsting for food and drink and give us a hunger and thirst for God and His righteousness.

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

However, if you don’t know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, no amount of fasting will help until you believe on Jesus and His atonement for your sin on the Cross and you repent of your sin and self-rule. You can do that today by publicly confessing with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and following Him in baptism. By doing so, your sins will be forgiven and you will be born again of the Holy Spirit, who will give you power over temptation and sin, and give you grace to follow Jesus every day.