We recently had a wonderful breakthrough in something we had been praying about for many years – in fact, for over 30 years in general, and very specifically for the last 7 years. Before Easter our pastor called our church to a time of corporate prayer and fasting. My husband and I both felt led to participate. We told each other, and as a couple supported each other with 3 specific goals in mind: 1) to support our pastor and church body, 2) to be obedient to Christ, and 3) to pray specifically for the salvation of someone very close to us whom we had been interceding for the last several years. At the end of our time of fasting, God acted on our behalf and this dear one accepted Christ! It was a glory day for us! A day that sprung out of faith in scriptural truth and obedience to that scripture. Specifically these scriptures:
“But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:17-18 ESV
“Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.”
Isaiah 64:4 NIV
So what is fasting? According to dictionary.com fasting is “to abstain from all food” or “to eat only sparingly or of certain kinds of food, especially as a religious observance.” The fasting we are talking about here is not abstaining from food before a medical procedure or to lose weight. No, we’re going with the second definition here, abstaining “as a religious observance.”
Now why in the world would we do that?
Here are a few reasons.
- Jesus fasted. Matthew 4:2 says about Jesus, “After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” As Jesus began his 3 years of ministry on earth, He started it off with a time of intense fasting and focusing on His heavenly Father. If Jesus set this example for us, we should follow this example.
- Scripture assumes that a Christ-follower will fast. Notice in Matthew 6:17 above the underlined phrase. It says “when you fast.” Fasting is a given. There is no waffling in scripture about “if you think you want to do this… .” It is expected of those who walk with God.
- Scripture offers examples of people of God fasting and praying and receiving answers to their prayers.
In the Old Testament when Ezra was on his mission to rebuild the temple, he made this statement, “I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, ‘The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.’ So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.” (Ezra 8:22-23 NIV) And in the New Testament we see the sweet picture of Anna, waiting faithfully in the temple for years for THAT day when she finally got to see her Savior, the baby Jesus, whom Mary and Joseph brought to the temple to dedicate. “There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.” (Luke 2:36-38 NIV)
Fasting and praying yields an answer from the Lord.
- Fasting brings instruction from the Lord. When we are wandering or wondering in our Christian walk, not knowing what to do or which choice to make, fasting turns God’s ear to us and opens the way for Him to bring instruction or direction. Acts 13:2 reveals a vivid example of this. It states, “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.’ ” The Holy Spirit spoke to the body of Christ with specific instructions in response to their worship and fasting.
Ladies, we are a needy people. We need God to act on behalf of people we know – of us even. And we desperately need direction, instruction, and wisdom from the Lord. So I encourage you, whether you are setting out to fast out of simple obedience to God or from a place of emotional desperation, needing the Father to intervene immediately for someone you love, it’s time to do it. We need to quit treating fasting as a habit of God’s elite followers and begin to see what it really is. Fasting is a spiritual discipline we are expected to do in our Christian walk just as much as we are expected to pray, read the scriptures, love our fellow-man and spread the gospel.