Fasting with Purpose
"But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 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 6:17-18
The Lord clearly expected His disciples to continue this spiritual practice of fasting, not to be outwardly religious or to seek to impress others, but to add to our prayer life a purity and fervency that seeks to go deeper with God and to gain more spiritual ground, while keeping the flesh under the control of your spirit. Fasting is not just a voluntary act of abstaining from food and sometimes drink for a period of time but a time of deep communion with God and a listening to His still small voice. Fasting should always be done with a purpose in mind.
Interestingly, if there was no fall of man, the idea of fasting and many of the Christian spiritual disciplines would not be necessary. Remember the LORD God told Adam, "Of all the trees in the garden, YOU MAY FREELY EAT" (Gen. 2:14). Therefore, it is because of our fallen nature and our propensity to be selfish and sinful that we ought to continue to fast for times of greater blessing, benefit, and breakthrough.
There were many significant times of fasting throughout the history of God's people. We see it practiced in the holy seasons during the Day of Atonement and in the times of exile and the rebuilding periods of the temple under Ezra and Nehemiah.
We saw the important role fasting played in the days of Esther when the Jewish people were being threatened to be annihilated. We saw fasting in times of great repentance during the days of Jonah to Nineveh and in the launch of missionary endeavors at Antioch when Paul and Barnabas first went out.
In all of these instances, we see that fasting was done with a specific purpose in mind. God called out His people when they were misaligned with Him and allowed them to reap what they had sown. If your problem is with someone else and have need of forgiveness...
REALIZE what it cost Christ to forgive you of your sin.
RELEASE the one who has sinned against you over to Christ.
RECONCILE on your part with others who may oppose you in Christ’s love.
At one time, the LORD spoke through the prophet Isaiah to get back to the kind of fast that would please Him: “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; When you see the naked, that you cover him, And not hide yourself from your own flesh?" (Isaiah 58:6-7)
We know that we live in a world where the spiritual battle is always raging around us. We need to stay sharp and focused and put on the full armor of God each and every day. Let us learn the value of these two powerful practices together: FASTING and PRAYING.
Remember how Jesus said in times of great spiritual struggle and even encountering the kingdom of darkness that “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29)
- Have you made a practice of fasting and prayer throughout your life? Why or why not?
- Now that you have a better understanding of fasting, set time aside and consider what areas of your life you would like to see greater clarity or breakthrough.
CONSIDER what you are fasting FROM and what you are fasting FOR:
Is it your heart? ...Your family?...Your church?...Your nation? ...The world? Are you fasting... …To seek clarity and confirmation for direction …To pull down spiritual strongholds …To experience freedom from sin …To enjoy intimacy with Christ …To help the poor and needy around you