We don’t hear much about fasting today except in the context of people attempting to cleanse their bodies of impurities or to lose weight. But, aside from those good physical reasons to abstain from eating, there are at least seven reasons why we ought to fast.
O. Hallesby listed four circumstances which should prompt us to fast in his excellent book on Prayer.First, when we are experiencing special temptations it is wise to fast. Before Jesus began His ministry He was led by the Spirit to fast for 40 days and 40 nights. Afterwards, when Satan came and tempted Him three times, He was well prepared with Scripture to rebuke His adversary (Mat. 4:1-10). If you are facing an oppressive temptation or trial, go into battle with prayer and fasting! King Darius, while Daniel was in the lion’s den, was so troubled that he went to his palace and spent the night fasting. “No diversions were brought to him, and he could not sleep” (Dan. 6:18).
Second, fasting is important before making a decisive choice and if we think our prayers are hindered it is an important countermeasure. Before making any kind of major decision, set aside a day or more to fast to seek God’s leading. Sometimes I will take a half day to read Scripture, pray, take notes, and worship my Father as I seek to know His will.
Third, we fast as part of planning and executing “exceedingly difficult tasks.” In Mark 9:17-29, Jesus answered His disciples’ question as to why they botched healing a boy who was physically unable to speak and often harmed by an evil spirit. They neglected to pray and fast!
Fourth, Hallesby recommends fasting before the need for great and mighty acts. King Jehoshaphat, facing an overwhelming attack from three armies, called his nation to fast and seek God’s help. God responded by giving them total victory (2 Chronicles 20:1-26).
Scripture gives us three more compelling reasons to fast. Fifth, we fast to seek God’s favor or implore Him to change His mind. King David did this (to no avail) for his infant son in 2 Samuel 12:16. Daniel through prayer and fasting sought God’s favor to restore Jerusalem and the sorry state of his people as they lived in captivity in Babylon (Dan. 9:1-19).
Sixth, we fast as a natural form of worship and to know God more deeply. As we abstain from food our minds become sharper. In Luke 2:37, we read about the prophetess Anna, who habitually fasted and prayed to God night and day in the temple. The Antioch church was engaged in fasting when the Holy Spirit responded by instructing them to set apart Barnabas and Saul for ministry (Acts 13:2). Later in Acts 14:23, when elders were appointed, Paul and his team prayed with fasting as part of the act of committing them to the Lord.
Finally, God calls us to fast as a part of repentance:
Even now—this is the LORD’s declaration—turn to Me with all your heart, with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Tear your hearts, not just your clothes, and return to the LORD your God. For He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, rich in faithful love, and He relents from sending disaster.—Joel 2:12,13
Fasting is a conscious form of humbling ourselves before God as David modeled in Psalm 35:13 and Nehemiah in Neh. 1:4. Our hearts hone in on what is important. God sees our humility and brokenness. He may well respond with healing, forgiveness and restoration.
Our country is threatened, calamities stare us in the face, iniquity abounds, and the love of many waxes cold. O let us again resort to fasting and humiliation.—Bishop Francis Asbury
©2016 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)