Again tomorrow we are praying-and fasting-for God to change us where we need to be changed, work redemption in men, and bring about a fresh tide of God-honoring marriages.
Its been a while since we have talked about fasting, so I wanted to write about it this week, and encourage everyone not just to pray, but to fast, if you can. Whatever your experience with fasting, take the next step: skip lunch, skip food all day, try a juice-only fast. Or, if you can’t fast food, fast from facebook or tv, or whatever distracts you and holds your attention. Ask God to show you how to fast.
There is power and spiritual strength to tear down strongholds when we choose voluntary weakness as we pray. Fasting is not neutral. Its a weapon of warfare. I wanted to post a brief overview highlighting what Scripture teaches about the benefits, strengths reasons to fast. I’ve taken this from teaching from Mike Bickle, which you can find on ihop.org. Be encouraged to fast!
We fast to experience the power of God in personal ministry.
- When the disciples could not set a demonized boy free, Jesus told them that kind of demon does not go out except by prayer and fasting (Mt. 17:21). The power of John the Baptist’s preaching was connected to his fasted lifestyle (Mt. 11:18). The Early Church fasted twice a week (Wednesdays and Fridays) to experience more power. Fasting was a regular part of Paul’s life (2 Cor. 6:5; 11:27; Acts 9:9).
- Many who led the great revivals practiced regular fasting. Examples include John Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, David Brainerd, and Charles Finney.
- John Lake (1870-1935) sought God with much prayer and fasting. God released powerful miracles through him. In South Africa, within a five-year period, he witnessed 500,000 healings, led many thousands to Jesus and started hundreds of churches.
We fast to stop a crisis (individual or national).
- Fasting to seek God for mercy during a personal crisis is seen throughout Scripture. Hannah, the mother of Samuel, being distressed by her barrenness, prayed with fasting. God answered her by giving her a son who grew up to become a prophet (1 Sam. 1:7).
- On many occasions, God reversed Israel’s desperate situation after they turned to Him in corporate prayer and fasting. Joel prophesied that God would judge Israel using locusts, and then later by an invasion by the Babylonian army (Joel 1:2-18; 2:1-9). On both occasions, Joel called Israel to turn to God in prayer and fasting (Joel 1:13-14; 2:12-15).
- Jonah warned the wicked city of Nineveh that God was going to destroy them. When Nineveh repented with fasting, the Lord showed mercy and spared the city (Jon. 3:3-9).
We fast for protection.
- Before Ezra led a group of Jews from Babylon back to Israel to help rebuild their nation, he fasted and prayed to God for protection on the journey because it was so dangerous (Ezra 8:21-23). Travel was dangerous in the ancient world because bands of thieves often attacked groups to take money and supplies.
- Esther called the Jews in Persia to fast for three days after Haman set into motion a plan to kill all the Jews (Esth. 3:13; 4:7). Esther first needed protection because she was going to approach King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) without a royal summons (the penalty was death). Many cried out in prayer and fasting (Esth. 4:3, 16; 5:1-6). The Lord spared Esther’s life and then reversed the situation among the Jews concerning Haman’s evil plans (Esth 9:1).
We fast for direction.
- Throughout the NT, the church fasted for supernatural wisdom and direction.
- Paul and others fasted and prayed for direction for their ministry (Acts 13:1-2) and before selecting and commissioning elders of the new churches in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch. 2 “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” (Acts 13:2)
We fast to grow in intimacy with Jesus which we refer to as the Bridegroom fast (Mt. 9:14-15).
- Jesus spoke of the apostles fasting out of desire for Him as they mourned His absence after His death. We call this the “Bridegroom fast.” It is motivated by desiring Jesus rather than by a desire for more power in ministry or to be delivered from judgment or a personal crisis, etc. This was a new paradigm of fasting—a fast motivated by desire to encounter Jesus in a greater way. “14 Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, ‘Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?’ 15 And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the friends of the Bridegroom mourn as long as the Bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the Bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.’” (Mt. 9:14-15)