Introduction to fasting
If I'm being honest, I used to think fasting was something that only the spiritually radical - mystic “super saints” did.
Then I read through the gospels and found Jesus implying that fasting would be a normal spiritual discipline for the New Testament believer (Matt. 6, Mark 2, Luke 5)
I felt like an unspiritual heathen, but I really didn't get it…
Did not eating, something the world called a hunger strike, somehow earn God's favor or approval? Did it prove our devotion to God, or motivate him to answer our cries?
Why do we, as modern believers, fast?
Here's what I'm learning:
The Bible, both Old and New Testament, gives us examples of God ordained fasts, times when fasting was an act of repentance, and instances where someone needed wisdom or insight and set themselves to seek the Lord for those things through fasting and prayer.
The common thread I find running through each is that God, who is passionate about his people, has used each instance as an opportunity to engage with humanity, on a deeper level of intimacy.
Fasting, in both the corporate and personal sense, is intended to be relational. It is an invitation, issued by the Lord, to come closer to Him in an intentional way.
This requires an exchange of sorts: instead of feasting on food we choose to let our spirit man “feast” on God’s Word and engage His presence with increased times of prayer.
In a modern context, especially in our first world experience, fasting is a means of sloughing off the dullness from our spirits, making our hearts tender to His nearness, and quieting all the noise that can deafen us to His voice.
As my body enters withdrawals and detoxification - I'm physically weaker, my brain is foggier, and I realize how much self control I do not walk in, as it seems inevitable that someone I work with will bring in something aromatic and delicious to share.
On the heart level, fasting highlights just how satisfied I am with things that have no connection with God's presence, kingdom or ways. Mark 4 suggests these desires for other things choke out the word in my heart, causing me to not bear the fruit Jesus desires.
In short order (usually by the middle of day one) I realize I'm a living example of the sermon on the mount - I am able to discern my poverty of spirit, and it leads me to godly repentance!
Some useful things I've learned when fasting:
I ask God for grace before and during each fast (supernatural strength and empowering) to stay the course! When there's grace on my heart I find I'm able to overcome the moments of physical hunger, spiritual dullness, and emotional weakness!
I fill my mind and heart with the truths of God's word concerning the effects of fasting. I listen to teachings and read books by trusted men of the faith on the subject. This is one of my favorites: https://mikebickle.org/books/pdfs/Book_-_The_Rewards_of_Fasting_-_Mike_Bickle.pdf
I try to double my time spent reading and meditating on God's word - reading large sections at a time, asking God to show himself to me (wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, according to Ephesians) through the word.
PHOP (118 Industrial Blvd) is reading the word aloud, Monday through Friday from 7-9a. This is open to all, and people are free to come late or leave early as their schedules dictate.
I try to double my times in prayer and worship - Pray for Pensacola has a calendar with prayer points for each day, but please don't stop there! You can use the apostolic prayers found in the Bible, Ephesians 3:14-19 for example, as a launch pad to engage in simple, heart deep conversations with the Lord.
I increase times of fellowship with like minded believers. Not every thought, urge or impression is the Lord's leading, even when we're fasting! I'm so thankful for the solid, trusted people God has placed in my life to keep me balanced and hold me accountable to the Word!
May the Lord complete the good work He has started in our city, for our benefit and His glory!