I was asked by a friend to fast a few weeks ago and honestly, it was one of the hardest, yet best, things I have ever done. Day one was quite terrible. I had a caffeine headache; I was tired; my stomach hurt; I was light headed. The temptation to quit almost manifested itself into sin, going back on my promise to God to fast for two days, but by His grace and power I made it through with much fruit. Day two was a breeze as I felt strengthened by the Holy Spirit to pray fervently and make much of God.
Fasting is not comfortable. In fact, it is SUPPOSED to be uncomfortable The pain that comes with abstaining from something we enjoy (food, coffee, friends, social media, etc.) has a purpose: it reminds us why we are fasting. It is like a constant nagging to help us remember that whatever we are fasting for is worth this pain; our petitions to God are so important to us that we are enduring pain to remember to pray about it. The pain is a good thing and is part of what makes fasting so fruitful.
So what should we fast for? Really for anything you want God to do. If you are serious about God answering a request, fast and pray. You could fast for discernment in a certain situation. Fasting for someone’s salvation is a wonderful thing to do. I have fasted for a friend to be faithful to Christ and abstain from sin. You can also fast after you fall into temptation, repenting and pleaing with God to give you the strength to fight the temptation better next time.
Another big reason to fast besides asking God for things is to intentionally spend more time with Him, praising, worshipping, or learning more about Him. If you fast from T.V., social media, or another time-consuming activity, you should dedicate that time to God–even reading the Bible during a skipped meal is beneficial! During that newly available time, you could do anything that would draw you closer to God: praying, reading the Bible, worshiping, fellowshipping with other believers, memorizing scripture, journaling, or something else that you feel helps your relationship with God. That is the real point of fasting.
You may be thinking that fasting is only for the “model” Christians because it seems like not many people do it, but it is actually an expected discipline. In Matthew 6:16, Jesus discusses fasting while preaching the famous “Sermon on the Mount.” He says to do it in private and not look for attention from others, but the first word of this exhortation is “When.” Jesus doesn’t say “If you fast. . .” but “WHEN you fast.” It is expected. This command is coupled with “WHEN you give. . .” and “WHEN you pray. . .” showing us that just as we routinely know to give and pray, we should fast as well.
There are many times in the Bible where people fast, and we can look to them as examples.
The Nineveh people in Jonah 3:7-9 fast as they repent of their trespasses against God. They pray that God would spare them from His wrath, and when He heard their fervent plea, He did indeed spare them.
Another example is in Ezra. Ezra is making a journey with a group of people, and he did not ask the king for a protective army. Before the group made it to their destination, Ezra called for all of the people to fast and ask God for protection. They made it there safely (Ezra 8:21-23).
Anna, the prophetess who was awaiting the birth of Jesus, worshipped God through fasting and prayer, night and day (Luke 2:37).
Queen Esther calls a fast for her protection and boldness as she went to make a plea to the king, and it ended in her favor (Esther 4:16).
The entirety of Isaiah 58 is about fasting rightly. Isaiah contrasts true and false fasting pretty clearly.
Our ultimate example is when Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights. He does so before He began His ministry, and it wasn’t easy for him. We can see how Satan tempted him to stop fasting. Satan tried to get Him to make His own bread to appease His hunger; Jesus responded with, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Satan tempted Jesus to throw himself down the mountain to be rescued by angels, putting God to the test, but Jesus says that we should not put our God to the test. Satan’s attempts a third and final time: “All these [kingdoms] I will give to you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus responds with power and authority: “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.” (Matthew 4:1-11)
What do we learn from Jesus’s example? First, He didn’t give in to temptation but fought it with Scripture. Likewise, we should fight all temptation we face with Scripture. Second, the Creator of the Universe, the perfect Son of God, fasted while He was on earth. If we are striving to be like Jesus (and we should be), we should look to His example and follow Him.
Fasting is a great spiritual discipline that we, as believers, should use to glorify the Lord. Fasting is personal, so no two people do it exactly the same. However, if we are fasting authentically it should bring us closer to God, give us more time with God, and cause us to worship God.
Author: Jacque Dunton