Fasting = Getting Serious About Prayer!
Moses – Daniel – David – Elijah – Esther – Ezra – Nehemiah – Jesus – Paul… Literally a who’s who in the Bible – all of these people and many more in the Bible understood the importance and power – of prayer and fasting. When you decide to grow – or when you’re trying to go to the next level in your spiritual life – or your church life – fasting is absolutely vital. It is a spiritual discipline that’s not talked about – or practiced very much. We often talk about prayer – reading the Bible – tithing – and other important disciplines of the Christian faith… But we seldom – if ever – talk about or practice – fasting. Which is exactly what I want to do today.
I really believe that for most Christians – fasting is the missing ingredient that is keeping their spiritual lives from being as vibrant – exciting – and powerful as it could and should be. When you look through the Bible – almost every major person in the Bible that God blesses – practiced fasting. As you read through Scripture – you begin to see fasting everywhere – it’s mentioned all throughout the Bible. Think about it – at every stage of Jesus’ Ministry – He fasted!
Matthew 6:16-18 – “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Jesus simply assumes that we will fast – it’s as if there is an unconscious assumption that giving, praying, and fasting are all part of the Christian life.
So – what is fasting & how do we do it? 1st – here’s a definition we can use – * FASTING IS ABSTAINING FROM SOMETHING FOR SPIRITUAL PURPOSES. Now here’s what fasting is NOT… * FASTING IS NOT FOR PERSONAL GLORY FOR SELFISH REASONS. Again, go back and read Matthew 6:16-18 – it’s not about you – it’s not about other people admiring how super spiritual you are. It is a deeply personal thing between you and God. * FASTING IS NOT A SPIRITUAL WEIGHT LOSS PROGRAM. I’ve had people tell me that they fasted but that they didn’t get the answer or direction that they were seeking – and as I question them a little bit about their fast – many times they’ll say something like – “I thought I would lose more weight” – “I was hoping to lose a few inches…” Hmmmm!
Now, there are health issues involved – children shouldn’t do this. People with diabetes or other health issues – as the commercials say – should check with a Christian physician before beginning a fast. While fasting is not a weight-loss program – there are health benefits. (Daniel 1) – in the O.T. – Daniel and his friends were taken into captivity – and they fasted for 10 days – they only ate vegetables and drank water. The Bible says God blessed them physically & spiritually through that time. Some of us need to fast from two people – Ben and Jerry! That will help our physical well-being – but again that’s not our motivation.
Here are some reasons why WE NEED to fast… 1) WE FAST ON GOD SO THAT WE CAN FEAST ON GOD. My greatest desire is to be in constant communication with God – but to do that I need to be thinking about God all the time – & fasting helps with that. Say for instance you start with a 24 hour fast – when you wake up in the morning – guess what? You’re going to be hungry. And that hunger will remind you to pray – read the Bible – & focus on God. You say – “God, just like my body is craving food – I want my spirit to crave a closer relationship – and intimacy with You.” As you go through the day & experience hunger & a decrease in energy – you say “God, I’m totally dependent upon You – I’m relying on You – You’re the source of my strength – I want You to be 1st in my life.” What a great way to renew relationship with God! A lot of people think if they struggle with hunger – that they’re failing – NO! That’s the whole point! Think about Jesus fasting in the wilderness – it was hard – He was hungry – Angels had to minister to Him – and that’s the point. It’s that hunger that is turning your heart and thoughts toward God.
2) TO REVEAL NON-ESSENTIAL THINGS THAT CONTROL US AND TAKE PRECEDENCE IN OUR LIVES. So, what are some things that control us take precedence in our lives? How about TV? Internet? Videogames? Sports? The newspaper? Most people spend more time reading the paper – than they do the Bible. There’s lots of things that many of us could use to take a break from… Maybe it’s TV – Internet – or video games that is taking the place of real communication or quality time with God – our spouse – or our kids. There are a lot of good things out there – Internet can be good – but it can also lead to sin – too much time on it – viewing pornography. Food can be good – but maybe you’re struggling with eating too much. Fasting can help reveal those non-essentials – so that you can put that most essential relationship back in 1st place – your relationship with God! Now, you can’t fast from essential things – prayer – Bible study – tithing… For those of you who are married – you can’t tell your spouse that you’re going on a 40 day fast from talking – that just won’t work! The idea is to remove non-essentials – so you can focus on the essentials.
3) TO INCREASE THE EFEECTIVENESS OF PRAYER & TO BETTER HEAR THE VOICE OF GOD. I talked a bunch about this yesterday @ Eagle Pointe – if you missed that message be sure to get on our message resource page & watch or listen to that.
There are a bunch of reasons to fast – first & foremost is that Jesus says to do it! I challenged our entire church to join me in a fast starting this Tuesday. I’ve asked everyone to join me in praying that we would put into practice everything we’re learning in our “Church: the Next Generation” series, that we do our part, & that we would be able to get in on all of the amazing things God has in store for us. So, here are some practical ideas to help you as you consider taking up this spiritual discipline of fasting…
Most of the time I will do a Normal fast (no food – which I’ll talk about in a minute) it will be for 1 – 3 weeks – and here’s what happens with me… Typically days 1, 2, and 3 are very hard – and it’s all psychosomatic! It’s all mental – my mind is just programmed to eat – several times a day. Physically our bodies can easily go three days with no food – okay? Also, on days 2 and 3 – I get a headache —– I’m also drinking a lot of water and juice during that time. But then a very funny thing happens on day 4 – at 1st I thought I was lightheaded – things just really seemed different. But then I realized – no I’m not lightheaded – I was just thinking very clearly. My mind was functioning much faster and much more clearly than usual. Now, I’m not a physician – and I don’t play one on TV – but I really think there’s something to be said for flushing all of the garbage and toxins – from all of the processed food we eat – out of our bodies.
And as a result – typically on day 4 the words in the Bible are just coming to life – when I pray it feels like God is right here listening – things that I had been struggling to figure out just start making sense – and I start hearing and understanding what God has been trying to tell me. For those of you with a satellite dish – you know how when a bad electrical storm blows in – your TV signal gets all messed up? For me – fasting is what clears up the sky & allows me to start seeing in HD. Let me also throw in this warning – the tendency when we’re not eating meals is to try to fill that time with something else as a distraction. You work through that meal – make phone calls – go to the gym – NO! What you do is – you set that time aside and you replace that meal with time with God – reading the Bible – prayer – just getting quiet and listening. Listen – *** Satan would love to steal your fast – he would love to keep you so busy so that the very reason you’re fasting fails!
Now, let me quickly give you 3 TYPES OF FASTS: A) ABSOLUTE FAST – this is where you drink nothing but absolute vodka! I’M KIDDING – It’s actually no food and no water for a certain period of time. Now, obviously you’re not going to do that for 40 days unless you’re Jesus. I usually don’t do these – but if you do – be sure to limit your activities – be very careful & be absolutely sure that it’s God who is leading you to do this.
B) NORMAL FAST – this is no food – only water and juice. This is the type that I will usually do – and because I usually will not limit my activities – I keep going to the gym – I drink lots of water and juices to help with vitamins and hydration. If you are new to this I would definitely recommend you limit your activities.
C) PARTIAL FAST – this is where you give up a certain type of food – a certain activity – it’s just giving something up for a period of time. Maybe it’s Ben & Jerry’s – TV or as much TV – Internet – videogames – reading romance novels – whatever… Again, the idea is to give up something else for the purpose of devoting that particular time to God – using that time to focus on Him – to grow closer to Him – and to give Him 1st place in your life.
Again, I will typically do a normal fast – no food – just water and juice for 1 – 3 weeks – now if you’re just starting at this – I would recommend you pray about it and come up with a time period – 1 – 2 – 3 days – whatever… Now, I no longer set a time period for my fast on the front end… Basically, I feel God leading me to a fast & I start – then He will let me know when it is done… I fast until I get the answer – direction – whatever it is…
Well, I think that is a long enough blog! I hope you will join me in this fast, email me if you have any further questions, & please email me – let me know how your fast went – what you got out of it – what God showed you, etc…