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Have you ever felt strongly that something was supposed to happen? You were so sure you had heard from God? You waited, you prayed, you waited some more, and nothing. Then the questions started: Did I miss God? Was that just me? Why isn’t anything happening?
In Mark Chapter 9, a father brought his son to nine of Jesus’ disciples. The boy was demonized and epileptic, and even though the disciples had healed people before, they couldn’t heal him. When the disciples brought the boy to Jesus and he was healed, they asked Jesus this question, “Why couldn’t we do it?” Jesus answers in verse 29, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting.”
The Benefits of Fasting
There are things that God desires to happen in our lives and ministry that won’t happen unless we fast. Fasting breaks strongholds, liberates people, and moves us into a realm of realizing God’s power in our lives.
The more time you’re spending with God, the more you’re going to see the hand of God on your life in an extraordinary way. Like the disciples, there are things that God wills for us to do that we will not have the power to bring about unless we have spent time with Him.
What is Biblical Fasting?
Fasting is abstaining from food (or other things) in order to give ourselves to prayer and fellowship with the Lord.
The Bible mentions three kinds of fasts:
- Absolute Fast: No food or water.
- Normal Fast: Abstaining from food.
- Partial Fast: Daniel’s fast – abstaining from meat, sweets, bread or you can only eat bread.
Jesus makes the assumption that we will fast.
Should All Christians Fast?
Matthew 6:16a, “and when you fast…” (ESV)
Matthew 9:15, “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” (ESV)
Jesus makes the assumption that His followers will fast. Notice, that it’s “when” not “if.” Fasting is an essential of the Christian life, and Jesus understands that the absence of fasting will make us spiritually feeble.
Why is Fasting Such a Struggle?
But, we like to eat! If fasting is so important, why is it so hard?
The Esau Syndrome
We can literally eat ourselves out of God’s will.
Hebrews 12:16, “Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite.” (MSG)
Esau comes in and says, “I am willing to sacrifice spiritual (and physical) blessing on the altar of my immediate appetite.” There are some blessings from God you and I will never receive unless we dethrone what commentator Matthew Henry called, “King Stomach.”
The Physical and Spiritual Battle
As we fast, there will be physical challenges along the way. Some may experience a caffeine headache, some may not feel well. For most there is more than just a little detoxing happening in our bodies. But the battle is more than physiological; as we fast a spiritual battle is being waged. Things are happening in the spiritual realm that we neither perceive nor understand outside of God revealing those things to us.
The Power of Prayer
It’s important to remember that fasting is more than just missing a meal. Powerful seasons of fasting are experienced when we plan to spend additional time in God’s presence as we fast. As well, purpose now that every hunger pang, every feeling of fatigue, and every caffeine headache will be a reminder to call on God in that moment and to cry out for those things you are seeking Him to do in your life. David Mathis says, “[Fasting] is a desperate measure, for desperate times, among those who know themselves desperate for God.”
But don’t just focus on the battle or the pain – Scriptures promises there is fullness of joy in God’s presence and there are pleasures at His right hand. Delight yourself in seeking Him and you’ll know the joy of seeing Him work in your life.
Read The Call to Fast Part 2 on the benefits of fasting and how God’s power can be unleashed in your life through prayer and fasting.