The majority of Christians will agree there seems to be a fair amount of misunderstanding today regarding fasting. Some people think of it as related to dieting and the body. While others think, its purpose is to impress God with the intensity of their desire. Still, others hope their self-denial will speed up the Lord’s answer. Unfortunately, when compared to the thoughts of God even our most complex way of logically thinking, becomes all but shallow and empty with the ability to provide only illogical explanations to Gods’ simple reasoning. Yes, even when it comes to the simple task of fasting.
Fasting is a spiritual work in which we temporarily eliminate distractions so that we can give our undivided attention to our heavenly Father. It is a time of spiritual preparation through exclusion of earthly interruptions. As we abstain, other things begin to lose their sense of importance; in their place is a heightened awareness of God’s presence and His priorities for our lives. His itinerary for our lives replaces our own individual agenda as we connect with Him in deeper intimacy and receive all that He has to tell us. It can be one of the most powerful experiences of the Christian life.
While it is arguably true, fasting may be carried out in several ways: going without food, eliminating activities, or forgoing sleep all in order to seek Him. Throughout history, prayer coupled with fasting has often been a great source of power for the believer. A husband and wife may even choose by mutual consent for a time, to set aside their sexual relationship devoting themselves totally to fasting and prayer. Fasting is a vehicle to strengthen our prayers. The intent is always to be in the Lord’s presence without disturbances so that His voice is the only voice clearly heard. Of course, the pure biblical fast or “Nesteia” in the Greek (fast) literally means not to eat, to abstain from food. Fasts were total sustaining from food and water for a time. Some may further argue a partial fast where only water is permissible.
Although not a commandment, fasting really is something every follower of Christ should consider including as a regular part of his or her life. Have you avoided fasting because it appears too hard or too confusing? Think instead of the joy you will experience from a deeper communion with your loving God, and step out in faith. Giving your unhampered attention to the Lord for a period is one of the wisest things we can do.
Only one time did God ever command a fast. There is only one compulsory fast from one end of scripture to the other, just one. Moreover, it was a general public national fast. Leviticus 16, God said, on the day of atonement, Yom Kippur, On that day all the people were to “humble [their] souls” (Lev. 16:29; cf. 23:27), a Hebrew expression that included forsaking food “tsome” a fast as an act of self-denial. That was a national fast, involving every man, woman, and child in Israel. However, it occurred only one time a year, and then only as an integral part of the Day of Atonement. One day a year when sacrifices of the nation are given for the sins of the people for the year past. On that day from sunrise to sunset, you will fast, Yom Kippur. That is the only fast ever given as compulsory by God in the entire scripture.
Although both the Old and New Testaments speak favorably of fasting and record many instances of fasting by believers, because God does not commanded it elsewhere, fasting is not like giving and praying, we can find many commands of giving and praying in both testaments. However, except for the yearly fast just mentioned, it is nowhere required, beyond that, fasting is a noncompulsory, voluntary act, not a spiritual duty that must be regularly observed.
Why then should we fast and why is fasting commended in the Scripture? Because it helps us discern the will of God. Moreover, it can assist with destroying strongholds! As we have learned, it is not just non-believers who have major strongholds in their lives. Many believers do also. While it is true Christians cannot be possessed by, demonic spirits we can be influenced by them. Yes, I’m talking about those satanic, demonic strongholds that get rooted in our lives.
Of course you may be thinking, “That may be true for some people, but not me. There aren’t any strongholds like that in my life.” Hmm, that could very well be true. However, have you thought about the stronghold of fear? Or the stronghold of lust? Or even the stronghold of anger?
Think about your own relationships. What one bad habit of yours causes the most damage in those relationships? If you can think of a behavior pattern or habit that has had a history of hurting the people you love, that one thing could very well be a stronghold that Satan is using to trip you up!
We need to replace the bad things in our lives with the good things. Certainly one of those good things is fasting. So why not pray about whether or not and when you could spend some time fasting? Sure, you might have to skip a meal or two. However, if it will help you deny yourself, defeat your enemies, discern the will of God, destroy strongholds, and ultimately improve your overall relationship with God.
When we fast, the immediate want our stomach desires will only provide temporary satisfaction to a lifelong hunger, our soul longs to be satisfied in Him, and by Him; this need is far greater than any craving we could ever imagine, our true yearning is for His presence, that His Kingdom come. I fear while most of us fast, and feast, many of us will go on starving to death.