Earlier this year I went to visit a doctor. One of first questions was, “How often do you fast?” I gave him a puzzled look since that is a church question and not a doctor one. He said, “I fast once a week and the health benefits are amazing.” While you do gain health benefits from fasting, I believe the spiritual benefits far outweigh the physical ones. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that seems to have been lost in today’s modern church. We’ve relegated it to a once a year thing instead of a regular discipline, and we’re missing the power that comes with it. God instituted it in the Old Testament, but Jesus validated it for New Testament Times as well.
In Daniel 6, there is a story that most of us are familiar with. Daniel was a person who practiced spiritual disciplines. I believe he was promoted because of them, but there were those who didn’t like his being promoted and they wanted to take him down. They convinced the king to put anyone who prayed to any being other than the king into a den of lions. When Daniel found out about, he didn’t stop practicing his spiritual disciplines. The men told the king and he had no choice but to throw Daniel in the den. The king liked Daniel and broke his own law. Daniel 6:17-18 says, “A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den. The king sealed the stone with his own royal seal and the seals of his nobles, so that no one could rescue Daniel. Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night fasting. He refused his usual entertainment and couldn’t sleep at all that night” (NLT). As you know, God honored Daniel’s prayers and the king’s fasting.
When prayer isn’t getting you the answers you need, it’s time to fast. If you’re medically unable to fast, ask a friend to fast for you. God shut the mouths of lions because of fasting in this book. In the New Testament, spiritual battles were won and people were healed because of it. I recommend a three day, water only fast to people. It’s difficult and challenging, but very effective. Fasting isn’t supposed to be easy. We constantly give in to our body’s cravings and fasting helps you to learn to deny those physical cravings. It also helps when it comes to denying your fleshly ones too. If it’s been a while since you’ve fasted and you need an answer from God, begin the spiritual discipline of regular fasting and watch God Move in your life.
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If spending quality time with God is the way to having a quality spiritual life, then fasting is the key to having a more powerful spiritual life. Giving up our time shows God we are making Him a priority. Giving up food shows Him that we are willing to sacrifice our physical comfort for spiritual gain. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that I’m afraid too few Christians engage in. Either we don’t see the purpose or we don’t see the value, so we don’t do it. When we skip fasting as a spiritual discipline, we miss out on a strength that’s needed to overcome certain things in our live.
In Mark 9, there is a story of a man who asked Jesus to heal his son who was possessed by an evil spirit. In verse 18 he said, “I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.” They had spent quality time with Jesus, but hadn’t been fasting and praying so they lacked the power to heal him. Jesus told them in verse 29, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer and fasting.” He inferred that there is more power in fasting.
When you are in need of more power to overcome a temptation, to find the right direction, or to get through a situation, I encourage you to fast and to pray. Your fast should be between you and God. Don’t make an outward show of it or tell people you are doing it so they will feel sorry for you. Jesus said that if you did that, you have your reward. I’d rather have the power of God than the approval of man. It’s our choice when we fast.
In Matthew 6:16, Jesus said, “When (not if) you fast, don’t make it obvious.” He knew that our human nature likes to receive sympathy from others. We like to play to the crowd and to get others to feel sorry for us. Fasting is not about that at all. It’s about showing God you have brought your body under discipline and are denying it what it needs in order to gain what your spirit needs. It shows Him we are willing to feed our spirit instead of our stomach.
The Bible talks of many different types of fasts and lengths of fasts. How long, what you fast, and why you fast are between you and God. I always feel like the more challenging the fast, the greater reward. If my fast costs me nothing, that’s about what I’ll get in return. The greater the need in my life, the greater the fast I do. Some are mentally challenging, but all are physically challenging. Before I fast, I usually seek God on what He wants me to fast and for how long. Once decided, I pray for the need every time I have a desire for what I’m fasting. I’ve learned that giving up what I want for what He wants changes me for the better every time.