Fasting and the Spiritual Life

By: Diane Chandler
Thursday, August 8th, 2013

fastingbreaksthechainThroughout Christian history, fasting has been a spiritual discipline with a focus on seeking God.  Including medieval figures, others like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, and Charles Finney engaged in the practice of fasting.  Rarely today in our Western consumer-driven culture, however, do we hear much about the practice and benefits of fasting.

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.

fastingcanchangeyourlifeWhen 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?

Diane Chandler
This entry was posted by on Thursday, August 8th, 2013 at 12:56 pm and is filed under Church History, Church Ministry, Holistic Formation, Spiritual Formation, Spiritual Health, Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

4 Responses to “Fasting and the Spiritual Life”

  1. Ginger says:

    Great article. The part that hit home with me when you said Sometimes you are so hungry, the only way to be fed is to fast. so true. That is the best way to be fed is by Him, and being in His presence.

    • Thanks, Ginger, for offering your comment. Yes, that sentiment is indeed true. When hungry (and desperate), this is the time we usually turn to God in fasting and prayer. And seeking God in this way also shuts the door to competitors for our s attention so as to focus more on the living God. Fasting with prayer is a privilege.

  2. Wanjiku says:

    Thanks for the post Dr. Chandler. You nailed it, Fasting does change someone’s life. The greatest miracle is the miracle of man finally being at the feet of the maker voluntarily opting to make the maker an object of their affection. Think of just how important food is to us, we get to eat a minimum of there times a day. We may deny it – but it (food/beloved pleasure) does take up a great deal of energy and time. My experience is that Fasting takes my focus away from myself and I have received the miracle of peace to start with and answer to prayer. Corporate fasting as a church is not only as cleansing but grows miracles so tangibly. True authentic revival will come from us getting together in this practice. Awesome.

    • Thank you for your comments, which are greatly appreciated. Acknowledging that God made not only humankind but also the universe puts spiritual disciplines in a fresh perspective. We have the opportunity to commune with the Maker of the entire universe. Fasting and prayer does not guarantee that God will come but it sets the stage for an encounter with God’s presence. And as you mentioned, miracles are likely to occur. Seeing the earnest crying out of sons and daughters, God is moved on their behalf.

      I am doubtful that God moves in revival apart from fasting and prayer. In Norman Grubb’s book (Rees Howells: Intercessor), Grubb describes the prayers of Rees Howells and those at the Bible College of Wales regarding the ending of World War 2.

      We know that fasting, like any other spiritual discipline, can become self-righteous and legalistic. The Pharisees, who were masters of performance, teach of that. But when the heart remains humble, pure, and surrendered before God, God acts in ways that only God can. And this is both natural and supernatural.

      Appreciate your insights~