Fasting is a laudable practice, and we have reason to lament it, that
it is generally neglected among Christians. ~ Matthew Henry
I wonder whether we have ever fasted? I wonder whether it has ever occurred
to us that we ought to be considering the question of fasting? The
fact is, is it not, that this whole subject seems to have dropped right out of
our lives, and right out of our whole Christian thinking. ~ D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
It was not Christ’s intention to reject or scorn fasting …
it was His intention to restore proper fasting. ~ Martin Luther
Nowadays, many Christians find fasting and praying quite foreign. But it is not foreign to the Old or New Testament. It wasn’t foreign to the early Christian church and neither in the time of the Reformation and the centuries that followed.
Moses, Elijah, Ezekiel and Daniel fasted and prayed. Jesus fasted for forty days. Paul and the early Christians fasted. The early church fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays. Martin Luther was criticised because he fasted too much. John Calvin fasted and prayed until the greater part of Geneva turned to God. John Knox fasted and prayed, and the wicked Mary, Queen of Scotland (Bloody Mary) said she feared no armed force as she feared the prayers of John Knox. Jonathan Edwards, who was God’s instrument in the revival in New England, fasted and prayed. John Wesley fasted twice a week. Charles Finney, one of the greatest spiritual leaders in history, was a man who fasted and prayed. The evangelist D. L. Moody was a man who was not unfamiliar with fasting and praying.
What does it mean?
- Fasting means to put God first. There are times that we need to seek God’s face in fasting and praying. Fasting is an attitude of the heart where we interrupt the normal course of our lives to pray for a definite matter or cause.
- To fast also means perseverance in prayer. It means to take God seriously; to pray until you have an answer, no matter if the answer is yes or no, or to wait a while longer.
- Fasting is an effective way of getting all the cares and obstacles out of the way, to pray with purpose and with undivided attention.
- Fasting is a sign of sorrow, but it also has an element of determination.
- In the Old Testament people often fasted as a sign of humbling themselves (Lev.23:27). At its deepest level fasting means that we tear our hearts before God, confess our sins and turn to the Lord anew (Joel 2:12-13).
- But the Lord also intended fasting to contain an element of joy and happiness at times (Zech.8:19).
- In Isaiah 58:6-7 we are told what to do when we fast and pray. If we do that, we are also given the blessings in Isaiah 58:8-14.
- We can also fast to bring God a thanks-offering (Ps. 50:14, 23).
The Lord Jesus lays down only one condition for fasting: sincerity. He doesn’t forbid fasting anywhere, neither does He give the impression anywhere that He thinks it is not necessary to fast and pray anymore. On the contrary: In Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus gives specific directives for fasting. Fasting and praying is a more intense form of prayer. Perhaps you have been praying for a specific matter for years without any visible answer. There is an alternative – fast and pray. Fasting and praying always leads to greater personal holiness and God delights in prayer from a pure heart. Fasting and praying also express your seriousness about the matter before God. Different situations often expect that intercessors should fast and pray. There is plenty of evidence in history that fasting and prayer have led to much spiritual fruit in the course of events in a country, but also in various other situations.
Effects of fasting and prayer, and the fruits thereof according to Scripture
- We get help in times of need (Josh. 7:6; Judg. 20:26; Ezra 8:21-23). In the past, fasting and praying brought great deliverance, especially in times of crises and on specific occasions.
- We find out what is wrong. In this case, we sometimes have to fast and pray like Joshua and the elders after their defeat at Ai (Josh. 7:6).
- It can help us to gain victory over sin.
- We can get heavenly wisdom and revelations through fasting and prayer (Jer. 33:3; Dan. 9:2-3, 21-22; 10:2-3).
- Often others are blessed when we fast and pray for them (for example the unsaved or people experiencing a crisis).
- In history, revival was often given in answer to fasting and prayer.
- In Esther 4 a nation was saved because of fasting and prayer.
- God spared the city of Nineveh when the people fasted, prayed and repented (Jonah 2-3).
- Read Isaiah 58:8-14 to see the blessings that follow sincere praying and fasting.
- Fasting makes us humble (Ps. 69:11).
- Fasting chastises the body and helps us to take control of our bodies (1 Cor. 6:13-20; 9:27).
The early church fasted twice a week. They didn’t eat breakfast or lunch
and continued the fast till late afternoon.
Basic forms of fasting
- An ordinary fast: To take no solid food for a period and drink only water.
- A complete fast: To take no water or any form of food for a certain period.
- A partial fast: Not taking certain foods for a period (for example sweets) and/or cutting down on drinking and eating. During partial fasting, someone can, for example, decide to eat only bread and to drink water.
The don’ts of fasting
- Don’t fast to earn God’s blessings.
- Don’t fast as a substitute for obedience.
- Don’t fast to impress others.
- Don’t allow fasting to become a physical action
- Don’t allow fasting to become a new law in your life.
- Don’t arrange fasting times so that they inconvenience your family, like during holidays and festive times (except where the Lord guides you very clearly to do so).
- Remember you don’t fast just for the sake of fasting, but to pray and seek God’s face.
Many people are afraid to fast, but if there is no medical reason why you shouldn’t fast there is no danger in fasting…
* This is only an extract of the full article.