For the past few weeks the subject of fasting has turned up in several of the most interesting places, from the forum that I frequent to my personal Bible studies, I have not been able to escape it! So, I guess that this is God's way of telling me that it's time to write!
When a person decides to fast they need to make sure that they are doing it for the right reasons. In the Bible we see several different reasons. This brings us to the question that I would like to answer with my post; WHY FAST?
Intercession is another way of saying "prayer", but it usually entails praying for others or for specific needs. In some senses of the word it also specifies repeated and constant prayer to God (in other words, more than just a prayer shot heavenward).
2 Samuel 12:16-17
David therefore inquired of God for the child; and David fasted and went and lay all night on the ground. The elders of his household stood beside him in order to raise him up from the ground, but he was unwilling and would not eat food with them.
In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.
2. For deliverance
We are surrounded by bondage and suffering, both spiritual and physical. God calls us as His people to pray and fast against these chains.
3. For the covering of the blood of Christ (protection)
2 Chronicles 20:2-4
Then some came and reported to Jehoshaphat, saying, "A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, out of Aram and behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar (that is Engedi)." Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. So Judah gathered together to seek help from the LORD; they even came from all the cities of Judah to seek the LORD.
And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not drive it out?"
And He said to them, "Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from
here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. ["But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."] ["This kind" refers to the demon that possessed the boy]
With all of the schemes that the enemy throws at us and the temptations that our flesh constantly presents, we are in desperate need of the protection and covering of our Lord, both physically and spirtually.
Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions.
4. In Lamentation
This world is full of sin and despair. We (as a people) have forsaken the laws that God set forth in the beginning and we (as a people) are reaping the results. There are many things for which to lament. In the Old Testament, the prophets would fast in lamentation, but now that God has sent down His Holy Spirit among His people. We need to be sensitive if God calls us to fast in sorrow. I believe that this is a "gift" or fruit of the Holy Spirit. When God touches your life and tells you to "grieve" or lament, God puts the sorrow in your heart, and He actually mourns through you. It is kind of hard to fully grasp unless you have felt it, but it is real.
1 Samuel 15:35
Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death; for Samuel grieved over Saul. And the LORD regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.
2 Samuel 1:12
They mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and his son Jonathan and for the people of the LORD and the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. Then all the sons of Israel and all the people went up and came to Bethel and wept; thus they remained there before the LORD and fasted that day until evening. And they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the LORD.
5. For Strength
Sometimes (a lot of times) we can get run down and tired and we need to get back into God's presence in order to receive restoration. For example, when Jesus went into the desert (Matt. 4) to be tempted, He fasted for 40 days before being tempted. I believe that this was to receive strength from God to be able to stand in the face of what He knew was to come. Satan always tries to get us when we are down. The only way to make sure that he can never make us fall is to always walk in the presence of our Lord. I know that no one is perfect and we will stumble, but through fasting and prayer we can learn to keep our eyes focused on God.
6. Seeking direction
This is one of the aspects of fasting that is emphasised the most in the Body of Christ. All of us need direction and need to be shown what to do next. Fasting is the best way we have to help us get our eyes off ourselves and onto God. To stop listening to all of the voices that our flesh hears and start listening to that still small voice that is Christ.
While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."
Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
When they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
HOW SHOULD WE FAST?
Now that we have seen many of the different reasons for fasting, it is time to look to the Bible and see how it should be gone about. If you'll notice in the preceeding verses, every time that fasting is mentioned, it is shown as an additon to prayer or even a form of prayer. Fasting without prayer is like faith without works or fire without flame. Dead.
But how, exactly, should you fast? Is fasting only depriving oneself of food? Well, if we go to the Bible we see that fasting should be much more that just that.
4"Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist
You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high.
5"Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble
himself? Is it for bowing one's head like a reed
And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed?
Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the LORD?
6"Is this not the fast which I choose,
To loosen the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the bands of the yoke,
And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke?
7"Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
8"Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth;
And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
9"Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
You will cry, and He will say, 'Here I am '
If you remove the yoke from your midst,
The pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness,
10And if you give yourself to the hungry
And satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
Then your light will rise in darkness
And your gloom will become like midday.
11"And the LORD will continually guide you,
And satisfy your desire in scorched places,
And give strength to your bones;
And you will be like a watered garden,
And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
And again we see in the New Testament that Jesus shows us the way to fast.
"Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for
they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are
fasting Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.
"But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting
will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father
who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
Fasting is, in its purest form, a way to honor God and to get your mind off the things of this earth.
It doesn't have to be food. You can fast from books, television, video games and that's just to name a few! God wants only for your heart to be in the right place.
Once you start a fast, stick to it. I know from experience that if you don't truly set your mind to it, when the first temptation comes you'll fall. It can get very discouraging. Take heart! God gives second chances, and He is a God who loves and is patient with our inconsistencies. Set a goal and fight with all that you have to reach it! Rely on God and on His promises; He never fails!
Thank you for your time. I hope you are able to take a little something home with you! Blessings!