A few days ago I found myself talking with some amazing followers of Jesus who were deeply hungry for more. Do you know that hunger? It’s a hunger that says, I can’t pray enough, I can’t read enough, I can’t experience enough… simply stated, that hunger can only be satisfied by deep encounters with the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit. Our conversation led us to ponder the benefits of fasting as a spiritual discipline. Unfortunately, fasting is not discussed or taught about too often in churches. I say unfortunately, because the spiritually hungry who discover the benefits of fasting will be greatly blessed in their quest for “the more” but they have been taught so very little on how to fast.
Most of my Christian life I have had a discipline of fasting. I have had a few 21-day fasts without food. I have had a few seven day fasts, man three day fasts, and 10’s and 10’s of one day fasts. Almost always when I conclude a fast I am so thankful for having surrendered my body for the short time. My fasts generally involve not eating food. I feel the Lord allows me to drink anything I want to drink during the time, but sometimes I feel impressed to only drink water. I would be lying to say they are easy. They are difficult at times. Once your body gets used to longer fasts, the shorter ones are usually easier but no fast from food is a cake walk.
So why fast? What’s the purpose? I want to share one key truth that I feel Jesus taught when He was asked about His disciples not fasting. In the Gospels we read how John’s disciples came and asked Jesus, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” (Matt 9:14) Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.” (Matt 9:15) In context it seems that probably most of the religious in Israel were fasting but Jesus’ disciples were not. Why? Jesus answered and simply said “because I am here with them.” (My paraphrase.) The Church is the Bride of Christ and He is the Bridegroom. Jesus said, why should they fast when “He is with them.”
So what’s the point? According to Jesus’ answer, fasting is for the sake of walking closer to the Bridegroom. If the Bridegroom (Jesus) were here in the flesh with us, we would not need to fast. He was walking in the flesh with His disciples so they could relax and enjoy Him. He did say that when He was removed they would need to fast at that point. This begs the answer, why? There are two realms – the physical and the spiritual. We walk in the physical, or natural realm. Because that is what we are used to, it is hard to recognize the spiritual realm. We must, however, recognize the spiritual realm if we want to know Jesus better because Jesus now walks with His children primarily in the spiritual realm. In fact, He sent His Spirit to indwell us. Galatians 4:6 says, “Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba Father.’” Fasting is a means to minimize the natural so as to allow the spiritual to be more greatly recognized.
This all seems “hocus pocus” type of stuff but it is not. Do you remember the story of Elisha’s servant when he was scared about the invading army surrounding Elisha’s house? Elisha was not scared at all because he recognized the spiritual reality over the natural reality. Elisha asked the Lord to help his servant by opening his eyes. At that very moment the servant saw the spiritual realm and realize that there were hills full of “horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2Kings 6:17) The truth is that there is a complete spiritual realm that we intersect with daily. Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and his worshippers must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) One of the primary ways Christians are able to go deeper in understanding the spiritual reality around them and to worship God on a deeper spiritual level is to pray, seek the face of the One who is the Truth (Jesus), and fast from the natural so the spiritual is emphasized in their spirits.
I have found that when I fast and seek a deeper walk with Jesus, I am greatly rewarded. I have sought answers to prayers through fasting, sought revelation about scripture, sought blessing upon my sermons and missions, and for the well being of my family and other people. So many times God has given me the truths and blessings I sought because through my fasting I was able to position my heart and prayers in accordance to His will. Why? I was more in tune with the Spirit of God.
Over the years fasting has become a key discipline in my walk with Jesus. In my opinion, I would not be where I am today had it not been for this discipline in my life. I wish more would seek an understanding and adopt this practice. Jesus did say that when He was gone His disciple would fast! Perhaps you are wanting to go deeper in Christ and grow more in your walk with Him. Perhaps your faith is mundane and you want a supercharge. Maybe you want to understand the Word of God with greater clarity. All these things are possible through a discipline of fasting. Maybe this blog has encouraged you to try fasting. If you feel you need a doctor’s approval, then definitely go get one before you begin. After you feel you are healthy enough to try fasting, here are some things to consider:
- Take some time to understand the reason you want to fast. Getting closer to Jesus is always the #1 reason to fast, but there may be some more reasons. Identify one or two. Don’t make up a laundry list, but just a couple that you feel could be fulfilled through your fast.
- Pray and ask God to let you know how to conduct the fast. Sometimes I fast for many days in a row, sometimes I feel God saying to break it up into increments, sometimes I feel God saying “not now.” Find out how God wants you to fast.
- If you have never fasted or have fasted very little. Start small. Don’t go for the 40-day fast right out of the gate because that would be a great shock to your body and because you are not used to fasting you might not realize how difficult it is. Start small and work your way up to larger fasts as you feel called.
- During your fast, drink water or other liquids. I would never recommend refraining from liquids because a person can rarely live more than three days without liquids. In fact, you should probably drink more liquids because your body needs the moisture that was normally in your food intake.
- Yes, fasting can be more than just fasting from food. I fast from food. As Jesus’ answer above reminds us, we are fasting from the natural to gain a greater understanding in the spiritual. Whatever you fast with, be sure it is: 1) a true sacrifice; and 2) something in the natural that perhaps hinders you hearing in the spiritual.
- Realize you will be tempted and challenged. Your senses will be heightened and your emotions likely strengthened. You will feel hunger pains and energy shifts. You must stay in prayer so that you don’t treat everyone else like junk while you try to get closer Jesus…. I don’t think that would honor Him.
- Finally, don’t go around sharing what you are doing. Jesus warned about this in Matthew 6:16 that in telling everyone about our fast, we only receive the reward of their praises not the reward from our Heavenly Father. When I fast, I let my wife know (she and I are one flesh according to the Bible so God honors my talking with her), but I don’t let anyone else know. My kids often suspect it when they see me sipping chicken broth for supper, but we don’t talk about it. Otherwise when I am out and about with others I drink and not eat. They always ask, “Are you eating?” My answer is usually, “No, I don’t want to eat anything right now, but I’ll have drink” or I will say, “I am fine, thanks.” Yes, my body wants something but I don’t because I am fasting for the Lord so I am telling the truth and making sure God gets the glory, not me.
I hope this helps some of you who have thought about fasting. My times fasting with the Lord have been amazing! I wouldn’t trade them for anything! They have not always been easy but they are rewarding. If you would like some basic information on fasting I recommend two books. Mehesh Chavda wrote a powerful book on fasting from a spirit-filled perspective called, The Hidden Power of Prayer and Fasting. This is a great book that explains much about fasting. His insights are incredible. Also, a very simple primer for fasting and breakthrough is Elmer Towns’ book Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough. Towns was the dean of Liberty Baptist Seminary and his perspectives are also greatly rewarding.
May God bless your desires to get closer to Him!