Yet as we look into the pages of Scripture, we see multiple examples of those who abstained from food in order to seek God. Moses fasted for 40 days atop Mount Sinai before the giving of the Law and again during another 40 days in repentance for Israel’s sin. Esther called for a 3-day fast on her behalf in order to preserve her people in a spiritual emergency. In repentance, David fasted after the death of his son. Daniel and his three friends fasted for 10 days in order not to defile themselves by eating the Babylonian king’s food. Later after reading Jeremiah’s prophecy regarding the destruction of Jerusalem, Daniel fasted for 21 days, repented for personal and national sin, and contended for the future of his nation.
Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights prior to beginning His ministry. The prophetess Anna, who worshipped God daily in the temple with fasting and prayer, was able to see Jesus when his parents presented him in the temple. This is to say nothing of Ezra, Nehemiah, Cornelius and Paul – each of whom fasted as a means to focus on God.
Reasons for fasting may vary: (1) deepening intimacy with the Lord; (2) personal and/or corporate repentance, cleansing, and consecration; (3) divine guidance, empowerment, revelation, or deliverance; (4) intercession resulting from a specific burden, circumstance, or godly cause; (5) spiritual warfare and breakthrough for self or others; (6) God’s purposes for individuals and groups; and (7) local, national, and global concerns.
Whatever the reason, God sees the motivation of the heart and acts in accordance with it. Seeking God’s face, not only God’s hand, is the key. One author’s comments resonated with me: “Sometimes you are so hungry, the only way to be fed is to fast.” Although fasting typically involves intentionally abstaining from food and/or liquids, it can also involve anything that thwarts communion with God.
When accompanied by prayer, fasting can be powerful experience with life-changing outcomes, as confirmed in the book, Fasting Can Change Your Life – filled with testimonies of ministry leaders whose lives and ministries were changed because of fasting and prayer. I remember when Bill Bright cried out to God for revival in America through calling ministry leaders to fast and pray in corporate gatherings. Few national voices have followed his lead.
In Arthur Wallis’s accessible book, God’s Chosen Fast: A Spiritual and Practical Guide to Fasting, he covers types of fasts: (1) the normal fast (i.e., abstaining from all foods but not water), (2) the absolute fast (i.e., abstaining from all foods and liquids including water), and (3) the partial fast (i.e., restricting a meal or two or types of food as in a 21-day Daniel fast). Regardless of the type of fast, each person must be led by the Spirit and make preparations for it – including consultation with a medical professional, if needed.
Since my local church is undertaking a 21-day Daniel fast, I am all the more intrigued as to the impact of fasting when combined with prayer.
What is your personal experience with fasting? Might you share how you and/or your situation may have changed as a result of fasting?