“It is written: ‘Man
shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes fromthe mouth of God.’”
– Matthew 4:4
Skipped any meals lately? Some people skip meals to lose weight. Others fast as part of an internal detox. Still others do it just because they feel like they’re too busy to stop and eat.
But for Christians, there’s the practice of Biblical fasting—something a lot of us may be missing out on. You see, a biblical fast isn’t just about simply not eating. Biblical fasting involves replacing the food with something else—namely, prayer and a deeper study of God’s word. So, if we’re skipping meals, but we aren’t praying and reading God’s word more, that’s not biblical fasting. That’s dieting. You can pray without fasting, but you can’t fast biblically without praying.
If you do a Bible study on fasting, you’ll discover that it’s mentioned dozens of times in the Old Testaments and over 20 times in the New Testament. And God’s followers fast and pray for a variety of reasons. Here are three quick examples:
Example #1: Jesus fasted and prayed before he began his public ministry (Luke 4:2). Jesus set us a great example. Fasting and prayer focus us and empower us for what’s up ahead. When we are at a crossroads in our life and we’re about to begin something new and important, it’s a really good idea to spend some time fasting and praying. Before you begin a new job, it’s a good idea to fast and pray. Before you begin a new school year, it’s a good idea to fast and pray. Before your wedding day, before your child is born, before you have surgery—fast and pray.
Example #2: Jesus urged his disciples to pray and fast for spiritual breakthrough (Mark 9:29). In Mark 9 we read about a boy who was demon-possessed. The demon made him mute, thrash around on the ground and foam at the mouth. Nine of Jesus’ disciples had tried to drive the demon out but they had failed. So, Jesus stepped in and drove out the demon. Later that day Jesus’ disciples asked, “Why couldn’t we drive out the demon?” Jesus answered, “This kind can come out only by prayer.” And some Biblical manuscripts include the two extra words “and fasting.” So, Biblical fasting can intensify our prayers to bring about spiritual deliverance when nothing else works.
This is such an important benefit of fasting and prayer. There are times when Christians get caught up in an addiction. Willpower doesn’t work, self-help methods don’t work, and the tear-filled pleas of loved ones don’t work. Even normal prayers don’t work. Oftentimes, when nothing else works, a season of fasting and prayer will work. And underneath many other physical, psychological and relationship problems, there are root spiritual problems. Seasons of prayer and fasting can address these root spiritual problems like nothing else can.
Example #3: The Church at
As we’ve seen in these three examples, fasting and prayer can focus us and empower us for what’s up ahead. It can usher in spiritual breakthrough. And fasting and prayer can reveal God’s guidance and direction. But I believe it all boils down to this: Biblical fasting is a necessary part of a radical reorientation toward God.
58:6-9, God laid into the people of
God is saying that fasting has ALWAYS been about giving up something GOOD to gain something that is infinitely BETTER. Giving up food has never been the end goal. It’s just the starting line. As we give up some good food in order to reorient ourselves to God, who is much better and more fulfilling than the greatest meal we’ve ever eaten, He leads us to give up other good things for what is even better. As we fast from food, God also leads us to fast from injustice and oppression. He leads us to fast from hoarding our food while others around us go hungry. He leads us to fast from a closet full of clothes when the homeless around us need some of those clothes.
In short, as we fast and pray, God helps us take our eyes OFF ourselves and the temporary things of this world, so we can experience a radical reorientation to God. Food is good, but God is infinitely better. So, we fast and pray.
Dane Davis is the Pastor
of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our in-person worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at
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