DEFINITION: Fasting is the willing abstinence from or the reduction of food, drink, or both for a period of time.
FACTS ABOUT FASTING:
The purpose of fasting. Fasting does not change God. It changes you. God relates to you on the basis of your relationship to Him. When you change, then the way God deals with you is affected. Read the book of Jonah for an example of how this worked for the city of Ninevah.
There are two types of fasts. The total fast is when you do not eat or drink at all. An example of this is found in Acts 9:9. The partial fast is a restricted diet. An example of this is in Daniel 10:3.
Public and private fasting. Fasting is a personal matter between an individual and God. It is to be done in private and not boasted about (Matthew 6:16-18). Leaders, however, may also call a public fast and request the whole church to fast (Joel 2:15).
God’s chosen fast. Isaiah 58 describes God’s “chosen” or divinely approved fast. God’s chosen fast is one:
-Where you humble yourself before God: Verse 5
-To loose the bonds of wickedness: Verse 6
-Which undoes heavy burdens: Verse 6
-That frees the oppressed: Verse 6
-Done with unselfish motives and manifested charity: Verse 7
The results of fasting. When you fast, God begins to reveal Himself to you. The Father says, “Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; You shall cry, and He will say, `Here am I'” (Isaiah 58:9). Other results of fasting revealed in Isaiah 58 are:
-Illumination: Verses 8 and 10 declare that the dark periods of your life will become like noonday. When others think they have extinguished your spiritual light, it will rise again and break forth like the morning.
-Direction: Verse 11 promises that “the Lord will guide you continually.”
-Provision: Verse 11 declares God will “satisfy your soul in drought.” This can apply to both material and spiritually lean times. Verse 11 also describes unlimited spiritual resources. You will be like a “well watered garden,” and “a spring of water whose waters do not fail.”
-Rejuvenation: Verse 11 declares God will “strengthen your bones” and verse 8 proclaims that “your healing shall spring forth speedily.”
-Restoration: Verse 12 indicates that you and your spiritual seed “shall build the old waste places…raise up the foundations of many generations…And you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.”
Prayer with fasting was practiced in the early Church and Paul encourages us to “give ourselves” to it (Acts 14:23; 1 Corinthians 7:5).
DEALING WITH FASTING:
Consider making fasting part of your spiritual discipline. Perhaps a weekly, monthly, or annual fast–or as the Lord leads you.
Length of the fast. How long you fast depends upon what God impresses on your spirit. He may lead you to fast a brief or lengthy time. Remember the story of Esau and Jacob? Jacob was originally making a meal for himself but denied himself in order to obtain the birthright. How much better if Esau had fasted that meal!
How to begin. If you have never fasted, start by fasting one meal. Next you might try fasting from sundown one day to sundown the next night, which is the measure of the Old Testament day. Then you might increase your fasting to more lengthy periods of time. You should always drink water on long fasts. You can go without food for long periods, but water is needed to maintain bodily functions.
WHAT GOD’S WORD SAYS ABOUT FASTING:
Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. (2 Chronicles 20:3)
I have not departed from the commands of his lips; I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread. (Job 23:12)
Study Isaiah 58 which reveals God’s Chosen Fast.
So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer. (Ezra 8:23)
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 1:4)
So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. (Daniel 9:3)
The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth… When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened. (Jonah 3:5 and 10)
So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. (Joel 1:14)
“Even now,’ declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” (Joel 2:12-13)
Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord. (Joel 1:14)
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. (Matthew 4:1-2)
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. (Matthew 6:16-18)
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off. (Acts 13:2-3)
Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. (Acts 14:23)
Study these Biblical examples of fasting.
-Abraham’s servant fasted while seeking the right bride for Isaac (Genesis 24:33).
-Moses fasted for 40 days and nights while receiving the revelations of the law and the tabernacle (Exodus 34).
-Hannah fasted for a child (2 Samuel 1:7-8).
-Nehemiah fasted for the restoration of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 1:4).
-The Jews fasted for deliverance following Haman’s evil decree of death (Esther 4).
-The entire city of Ninevah fasted in response to Jonah’s call for repentance (Jonah 3:5-10).
-David fasted prior to assuming his God-given destiny as King of Israel (1 Samuel 31).
-Daniel fasted for 21 days and received the message from God that was the turning point for the Hebrews in captivity.
-Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast prior to battle (2 Chronicles 20:3).
-Ezra called a fast of repentance for the exiles by the river Ahava (Ezra 8-9).
-Jesus fasted prior to entering His ministry (Matthew 4).
-The Apostle Paul fasted after his conversion (Acts 9).
-It was during a time of fasting that Peter received his commission to share the Gospel with the Gentiles and Cornelius was prepared to receive the revelation (Acts 10).
-The disciples were fasting and praying when the Holy Spirit separated Paul and Barnabas for missionary service (Acts 13:2).
Reasons for fasting.
-In response to a message from God: Jonah 3:5
-During times of testing: Luke 4:1
-During the threat of national calamity or war: 2 Chronicles 20:3
-When revelation was needed from God: Daniel 9:3-4
-When making decisions: Acts 13:2-3
-When making special requests before authorities: Esther 4:16
-To prepare for confrontation with demonic activity: Mark 9:29
-To humble one’s self: Psalms 35:13; 69:10
-To repent of sin: Joel 2:12
-To feed the poor, both physically and spiritually:Isaiah 58:7
-To be heard of God: 2 Samuel 12:16,22; Jonah 3:5,10
-To loose bands of wickedness, lift heavy burdens, set the oppressed free, and break every bondage: Isaiah 58:6