The Spiritual Discipline of Fasting
To allow Pastor Rick time to enjoy the Christmas season, we are re-publishing some of his most popular blog posts of 2013. (Originally published on July 29, 2013)
This past Sunday I announced in our church that we are calling our church body to a two-week period devoted to prayer and fasting. Since I don't have a lot of opportunity over the next two weeks to teach on fasting, I wanted to take this week to write about this ancient, biblical spiritual discipline to help us understand more about why and how to fast. Whether or not you are a part of our church body, I hope this teaching helps you in your own spiritual growth in becoming more aligned with the heart of our heavenly Father.
What is fasting? Fasting is a spiritual discipline where you voluntarily reduce or eliminate your intake of food for a specific time and purpose. It can also include a broader concept of voluntarily abstaining from various activities in order to spend that allotted time in devotion and prayer. One way to describe it is that we fast from the things of earth in order to feast on the things of the Spirit.
Why fast? Fasting is not just about abstaining from eating or watching television or giving up Facebook for a period of time. Fasting is about abstaining from something IN ORDER to do something else, namely spend time with God through His Word and Spirit. If you fast one meal a day, take the time that you normally would spend eating and use that time to be in God's Word and prayer. Fasting demonstrates our dependency upon God. Every time you feel hungry, it's a reminder of our need to be hungry for God. When a church unites together for a period of fasting, it can become a tool we can use when there is opposition to God’s will. Satan would like nothing better than to cause division, discouragement, defeat, depression, and doubt among us. United prayer and fasting has always been used by God to deal a decisive blow to the enemy!
What does the Bible say about fasting? In your own devotional time this week, I encourage you to look up and study the following passages: Matthew 6:16-18; Acts 13:2-3; Joel 1:14; Joel 2:12; Ezra 8:23; Isaiah 58:6; 2 Chronicles 20:2-3; Daniel 9:3; Nehemiah 1:4; Luke 4:2.
A word of caution: Remember that fasting is not “earning” an answer to prayer. God cannot be blackmailed by human effort. God wants to answer our prayers, and He answers out of grace. Fasting simply prepares us for God’s answer.
For those of us at Eat 91st Street Christian Church, we are fasting these two weeks for the following three purposes:
1. Seeking God's direction and guidance for our elders, staff and church body;
2. Seeking God's power to move through our church body to engage our culture and community with the love and truth of Jesus Christ;
3. Praying that God will unite us through His power to be His vessels in a world that often does not understand Him.
May the Lord grant us His presence as we "humble ourselves and pray and seek His face, turn from our wicked ways" (2 Chronicles 7:14).