During the months of January and August, we set aside a time of prayer and fasting as a church to lean into Jesus, seek God and ask the Holy Spirit to meet us and work through us in powerful ways.
The goal of fasting is to draw near to God. Biblical fasting always has to do with eliminating distractions for a spiritual purpose; it hits the reset button of our soul and renews us from the inside out. It also reminds us of what sustains our lives – JESUS. He is the bread of life, our living water!
By going without food for a period of time we are doing more than starving ourselves, we are:
*Being obedient (Matthew 6:16, 9:14-15)
*Imitating Jesus (Luke 4)
*Cultivating humility (Psalm 35:13)
*Orienting our hearts around what God wants.
The difficulty with this reorientation process is that our human nature and our culture cultivate a life that revolves around our wants and desires. I Peter 4:1-2 (Message) indicates that it is through suffering that we are able to strangle our selfishness.
Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.
So, in a society where we have so much, suffering isn’t always apparent. Fasting is a way to embrace suffering in our lives. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE the idea of fasting but I HATE the practice of fasting. The main reasons are that I don’t like being hungry and I love food!
It doesn’t take long for my stomach to growl, my mind to kick into justifications-for-breaking-my-fast mode, and opportunities to eat arise. But let’s not let these powerful temptations overshadow the value of going without what we want. When we can say no to food this translates to the ability to say no to other desires. Not all our wants are good for us, so it is important that we are able to say no. This isn’t just a self-discipline “no”, this is a grace-filled, God-inspired “no”. In Titus, the apostle Paul talks about how God is at work in this process.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. (Titus 2:11-12)
So when we fast, something bigger is going on. We are physically demonstrating a spiritual reality. We are saying, “Our greatest hunger in life is God.”
Remember, your personal fast should present a level of challenge, but it is very important to know your own body, know your options and most importantly, seek God in prayer and follow what the Holy Spirit leads you to do. There are several types of Fasts. How you choose to fast is between you and the Lord.
Whatever fast and length of time you choose, if you aren’t able to complete it, don’t be discouraged and give up, instead pick up from where you left off. Our hope is to embrace the spirit of fasting and not be discouraged by the letter of the law.
The following scriptures provide a picture of what the people of God have been doing for centuries to disconnect from distractions and seek God in their lives.
Prayer: Psalm 145:18-19 // Isaiah 55:6 // Matthew 6:5-15 // Luke 11:5-13 // Philippians 4:6 // I John 5:14
Fasting: Isaiah 58:1-12 // Matthew 6:16-18; 9:14-15 // Luke 4:1-13; 18:9-14 // Acts 13:2-3
Corporate Fasting: I Samuel 7:5-6 // Ezra 8:21-23 // Joel 2:15-16 // Acts 27:33-37
Though we have chosen to set aside a focused time of prayer as a church family a couple times a year, you may also opt to fast at other times during the year as a part of your own spiritual formation. It is very typical to fast a single meal, or a whole day, or three days. The timing of your fast is not as important as the strength of your focus on Him as you fast. The following resources are helpful to understand the basics as well as develop a lifestyle of prayer and fasting.