Has it ever occurred to you that God may be calling you to fast – to seek his face with prayer and fasting?
Stirring you to feel the inviting, compelling leading of the Holy Spirit to turn to God in prayer? If so, it should be of no surprise to us, our heavenly Father longs for intimacy with us. But fasting?
It is one thing to take up the admonition of Paul in Ephesians, “therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day and having done all to stand firm” – but something else is being asked of us.
We put the armour of God on, and perhaps, ‘Having done all’ leads us into a wider set of challenges. It certainly would not be mischievous to suggest that Paul is including fasting. In person Paul certainly would not negate it. The armour of God is for our protection, deliverance, and safety but it is also given that we can advance against our 24/7 enemy. We were never meant to be simply withholding him but progressing.
Like Jesus, our role is to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in destroying the works of the evil one, and to see the kingdom of heaven forcefully advancing. The kingdom of God is advancing and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.
I am confident, that God is putting the subject of fasting back on the agenda of church activity, that he is removing the vowel from ‘prayer and feasting’.
I could say much about fasting that you already know. Moses, Elijah, Jesus , John the Baptist-all engaged in prolonged periods of prayer and fasting, seeking God.
But why fasting? The Bible knows nothing of fasting from television, (obviously) activities and events or from other things like hobbies and interests.
When the bible speaks about fasting, it speaks about going without food. Food is a blessing from God, and a necessity of life. I would not be surprised to discover that Heaven looks on with interest when they see the children of God briefly forgoing the blessing that God has bought so that they can seek God for his intervention. We have lost our way slightly with the idea of prayer and fasting. It is prayer with fasting. We do not fast to make some time so that we can pray, it is part of the process.
Jesus certainly did not forfeit the blessing of food in the wilderness to make some time so that he could pray, in fact it is as Jesus prayed and fasted that we see a very interesting dynamic happen at the hand of the enemy. Knowing exactly who Jesus was, the devil attempted to seduce him from his fast by tempting him to make the rocks become bread. He could’ve done it, such was the power of Jesus and the enemy knew it. It was as if the enemy said, “You are hungry Jesus, make the rock become bread and eat, and end this fast “.
The invitation of fasting does not go well and easily with our understanding of the message of grace. Our understanding is that God has freely provided everything for us, and is the source of all our blessing having achieved everything on our behalf. We are complete in him. To answer that we have to understand a few things.
One of my favourite prophets, Isaiah, brings great clarification in his prophecy on true and false fasting in chapter 58, raising the issue, “why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?
In verse four there is an interesting insight, “fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.” It implies there is a legitimacy in fasting, that your voice will be heard on high. That is, in heaven, by God. We know that we are loved by God, fully acceptable to him and that he hears us.
There is an intimacy that comes in the pursuit of God when we turn to prayer and fasting. It is as we pray that Jesus truly becomes the transforming, magnificent, all-encompassing, obsession of our fragile, sin-tainted, legalistic hearts. Fasting, focuses our attention on Christ in the most precious way but also embraces with it, faith that appropriately takes hold of God’s richest blessings. God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him, prayer accompanied with fasting is due diligence.
But surely, if I am diligent in prayer and my heart is going resolutely after God, do I really need to fast as well?
The disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and said how is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not? a Good question. Look at the answer Jesus gives for yourself in Matthew chapter 6. Interestingly, Jesus asserts something of interest for us, “when you fast”, not ‘if’ but when.
The early Church fasted and prayed. Paul fasted and prayed, sometimes for a number of days. It was of value to him. John and Charles Wesley gave themselves to prayer too. We do need to carefully consider the vast resource and spiritual value of things like prayer and fasting that seem of seemingly little consequence in our technology driven, fast-paced world.
Daniel prayed 21 days with fasting, seeking God. God came to him. As previously mentioned, Moses, Elijah, Jesus all fasted 40 days. After that time of fasting and prayer came incredible interventions that transformed and changed people’s lives. God responded to prayer and fasting. In power.
So what then of fasting? Fasting is not a pleasant experience. I asked David Parker what his experiences were of fasting and whether he felt they were a benefit to those moving in the prophetic ministry. He said that nothing about fasting went fast, and his experience of fasting was that he felt weak, cold and hungry.
Be realistic, as you pray and as you fast, expect it to be your experience too – but don’t give yourself the comfort of not pressing in on this. (Jer 33:33) The rewards of fasting, are out of this world!
There is nothing in scripture to suggest that the days of fasting are over. I personally believe that God is putting fasting back on the agenda of church life. There is something special about prayer and fasting. God will respond favourably to those who come to him in prayer this way.
The day of miracles has not passed. God is still a God who intervenes, who brings breakthrough, who heals, restores, builds and encourages. He is the ever faithful God. He loves it when we come to him in faith, especially when we take great steps in faith through prayer and fasting.
The other benefits of a few days of prayer and fasting may prove to be ‘weighty’ and encouraging!
- Interesting that John the Baptist’ disciples tie themselves in their commitment to God by including the Pharisees in this equation! Not all the Pharisees were bad. (back)