When was the last sermon you heard about fasting? When was the last time you heard someone say they fasted from food?
Fasting was a common practice in Jesus’ day. God commanded fast for one day out of the year, on Yom Kippur-The Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:19-31).
We have several accounts of fasting in the Old Testament and the New. But fasting is rarely preached or practiced by most Christians.
Here is what Jesus said about fasting in the Sermon on the Mount.
“Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” Matthew 6:16-18
Jesus said when you fast. People fasted at times other than Yom Kippur. Still, many who fasted did so as hypocrites (acting the part for attention). Some even walked around with ashes on their heads to be noticed for their great spirituality. Jesus said, “they have their reward.” Their reward was the applause of men.
But what is the reason for anointing your head and washing your face? It was common practice when you went out in public and especially when sitting down to a meal to put oil in your hair and wash your face.
Derek Prince defined fasting as choosing to abstain from food for spiritual purposes. Arthur Pink says that fasting is the denying of self, the bringing of our body and its lusts in subjection to the will and Word of God.
The basic purpose for fasting is to humble ourselves before God. Here are a couple of instances where humility played a part.
Psalm 35:13 But as for me (David), when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled myself with fasting; and my prayer would return to my own heart.
Ezra 8:21-23 Then, I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions. 22 For I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.” 23 So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer.
Jesus is the perfect picture of humility. He surrendered His heavenly position and power to come to earth and live among us. (Philippians 2) And His entire purpose was to fulfill God’s will, to speak God’s words, and be dependent on His Father to provide all He needed. Jesus began His ministry with a forty-day food fast.
Now some may say that He fasted from food and water, but the scripture doesn’t say that. Matthew 4:2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. It doesn’t mention being thirsty.
Another one of the main reasons people fasted in the Bible was because they were grieved over their sin. We see that in Jonah 3 when Jonah preached to the Ninevites. God did not command them to fast, but when they faced their sin and the threat of annihilation because of it, they fasted.
So, the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. 6 Then word came to the king of Nineveh; and he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes. 7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published throughout Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying,
Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. 9 Who can tell if God will turn and relent, and turn away from His fierce anger, so that we may not perish?
10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. Jonah 3:5-10
The scripture we’ve heard trumpeted over and over in our day is 2 Chronicles 7:14. If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Is it not time that we here in America and other nations, do this as well? Our bodies, our carnal nature that says, “I want, I think, or I feel,” must come under the control of Holy Spirit. Fasting and prayer is one way for that to take place. But we need Holy Spirit to do it. We cannot do it on our own. We must depend on the power of Holy Spirit to do this.
While fasting from food is rarely preached today, there are other suggested ‘fasts.’ Let’s fast from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Video games, etc. It may do us good to stop engaging in these practices for a time, but these are not true fasts. Also, we must combine fasting with submission to God in prayer. Otherwise, we are going through the motions to complete a form of devotion.
Joel 2:12-14a says, “Now, therefore,” says the Lord, “Turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” 13 So rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and He relents from doing harm. 14 Who knows if He will turn and relent, and leave a blessing behind Him—
I recently received a word about this from another prominent intercessor. After a 40 day fast, God spoke sobering words to her. Here is a sampling and what is the biggest sin we as a nation have committed.
“Know this: Know that LIFE is a key issue at stake in this battle. For too many years, you have ignored the slaughter of My little ones in the womb. You brushed off their suffering, and were content to believe the lies; reporting that these creations were merely collections of human tissue in the womb, and not yet living beings. WRONG! From the moment that two parent cells join, I trigger life to bloom by Divine spark. These little collections of human tissue are MY CREATION … MY little ones! Through abortion, you have given permission for the spirit of Death to enter into your societies; so, death is what you have reaped throughout your world. Your complacency, in regard to these little lives in the womb, has literally fed the beasts, who now seek to control your world and to depopulate it. The blood of My little ones has literally comprised the substance of both the food, and profits, of these evil monsters. So now you want Me to break this yoke of Death that is being thrust upon your world, and injected into your bodies? So, now human life is precious to you, because it is your own lives being threatened? Are rights and liberties now a concern for you, after so many years of unconcern for the rights and liberties of life for the unborn?
There was much more, but the message is clear. God is waiting for us to fast and pray, travail and cry out, in repentance for slaughtering His creation. We keep crying out for Him to do something to end all of the chaos we are experiencing. He is waiting for the Body of Christ in particular to humble ourselves and repent for allowing all this to go on. We fight against animal cruelty, but fight for the killing of innocent babies. God help us. Fasting, prayer, and repentance are needed.
Please pray about all this and ask God what your response needs to be.
God bless you.
Other Suggested Reading:
Fasting for Spiritual Break Through – A Guide to Nine Biblical Fasts by Elmer L. Towns
Fasting – Rediscovering the Ancient Pathways by Michael Dow
The Jesus Fast – The Call to Awaken the Nations by Lou Engle and Dean Briggs
The Transforming Power of Fasting and Prayer: Personal Accounts of Spiritual Renewal by Bill Bright