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Early in my Christian life, I decided I wanted to go on a fast. I went up to my parent’s cabin on Mt. Hood in Oregon and set out to fast.
It wasn’t a pure fast. I brought orange juice with me.
But it was my first attempt at seeking God to hear His voice through a fast. I lasted 36 hours. I wanted to go much longer.
When I got home, I told my youth pastor what I did. He seemed impressed. He told me he had never gone on a fast.
Only later did I realize that most Christians do not participate in the discipline of fasting.
In my opinion, they are losing out on a great way to grow closer to the Lord.
So hopefully by the time you are done reading this article, you will understand clearly why it is important for Spirit-filled Christians to fast as a part of their spiritual life.
Christians Are Called To Fast
16 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. 17 But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. 18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
Notice that Jesus said in this passage “when” you fast and not “if” you fast.
Later Jesus defended the fact that at the present time, His disciples were not fasting. He said that after He had left this earth, then His disciples would once again fast. (Matthew 9:15)
Jesus fasted 40 days and nights in the wilderness. He did this before entering into His public ministry.
Men and women of God have used fasting as a way to prepare themselves for ministry for years.
It is one of the ways they have tapped into God himself.
The Nature Of Fasting
The Hebrew word for fast literally means to cover the mouth.
Many people call abstaining from other things like TV or video games a fast, but the word truly means to abstain from food.
Our bodies are designed to obtain their sustenance from food. I believe that God designed us this way so that we would have a clear picture of what true nourishment is.
Jesus said to the devil when He was tempted in the wilderness, that man could not live on bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4)
Just as food strengthens and nourishes our body, so the Word of God nourishes our spiritual man.
When you fast, you deny your physical body what it needs for nourishment so that you can focus and nourish your spiritual man.
You deny your physical cravings so you can establish and satisfy your spiritual cravings.
You allow your spiritual hunger to become sharper and more focused.
You feed your spiritual man with the same vigor as you normally do with your physical body. Spiritual hunger takes priority over physical hunger.
A fast is not a hunger strike trying to influence or manipulate God to see or do things your way. God is not impressed. He has already done everything necessary that He ever has to do.
It doesn’t even show Him if you are serious or not. He already knows that. He knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts and everything is laid bare before Him. (Hebrews 4:13)
Fasting is not a last-ditch attempt to get through to God but is instead a way we can sharpen our spiritual senses so God can get through to us.
Fasting To Hear God
2 Chronicles 20:1-4
1 After this, the armies of the Moabites, Ammonites, and some of the Meunites declared war on Jehoshaphat. 2 Messengers came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army from Edom is marching against you from beyond the Dead Sea. 3 They are already at Hazazon-tamar.” (This was another name for En-gedi.) Jehoshaphat was terrified by this news and begged the Lord for guidance. He also ordered everyone in Judah to begin fasting. 4 So people from all the towns of Judah came to Jerusalem to seek the Lord ’s help.
Here we have an example of calling a fast to hear the voice of the Lord.
The earthly report and perspective were grim. According to the reports and according to an earthly viewpoint, they were going to get slaughtered.
However, even in his fear, Jehoshaphat knew that there was another viewpoint that needed to be heard. Thus he called a fast so that they could hear from God.
After they fasted, the Spirit of the Lord came upon one of the men there. This is what God said.
2 Chronicles 2:15
He said, “Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! Listen, King Jehoshaphat! This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.
What circumstance are you facing?
What great obstacle threatens your life?
My friends, there is more than one perspective. Your friends, co-workers, doctors, teachers, or employers may have given you an earthly perspective, but what is the heavenly perspective?
Maybe it is time to seek the Lord and ask Him for His perspective.
Jehoshaphat created an atmosphere where they could hear from the Lord. He did this with a fast. He put all of his spiritual senses and abilities on high alert. He had to hear from God. That is what a fast does.
What To Expect When You Fast
Well, obviously one of the first things that you can expect is to feel hungry. You will more than likely crave food both physically and psychologically. Your body has been trained to expect food at a certain time and to receive a certain amount.
Let your feelings of hunger be a positive thing rather than a negative thing.
When you experience these cravings turn them into a prayer. In your own way and in your own words, tell the Lord that just as your body craves physical food, you crave more of His presence in your life. Your food is to do His will. (John 4:34)
When you turn your hunger into a positive thing it turns your heart towards Him.
12 I have not departed from his commands,
but have treasured his words more than daily food.
Use your cravings and hunger as a sacrifice to the Lord.
It is costing you something to go without food, so lay those cravings and hunger down on the altar and present them to the Lord. Give Him the gift of your hunger, not out of some sense of unworthiness or trying to earn something, but as an act of worship to Him.
You can also expect to start to experience an increase in your desire for the things of God.
As you deny your physical body, your spiritual man will gain strength and with that gain in strength, you will notice that you start to crave more of the things of God. (Read Scriptures on strength here.)
Fasting is more than just abstaining from food. It is also feeding your spiritual man.
So during the times, you are fasting, spend that time reading the Word, praying, worshipping, etc.
If you are skipping a meal a day, then spend that time with the Lord, If you are fasting for a period of time, then make sure you regularly spend time with Him.
Let God set the agenda and time of your fast. Don’t set yourself up for failure by imposing on yourself a 40 day fast when you have never fasted a day.
God may start by calling you to skip a meal, then two meals, then go 24 hours, then go a few days.
The longest I have gone is 10 days with a fast of only drinking beef broth since I was trying to hold down a full-time job at the same time.
I hope that this has given you the skinny on fasting.
I pray that you will be drawn to incorporate fasting into your spiritual disciplines and routine.
I pray that you will find more power and more intimacy as you learn to deny your physical desires and replace them with spiritual desires.
I know He will satisfy your hungry and thirsty soul.
For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.
Books On Prayer
Deepening Your Prayer Life: Approach God with Boldness
Dangerous Prayers: Because Following Jesus Was Never Meant to Be Safe
Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer
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