Summary: Fasting is more than skipping a meal or a number of meals, that’s only dieting. Fasting is always for a purpose and with an answer to prayer in mind.
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Pastor James May
WHY DO WE FAST?
This week we have begun a fasting and prayer schedule for all who wish to volunteer to join us in fasting and prayer. I think that it will be of benefit for us to examine some passages concerning fasting and prayer in the Word of God to find out why we fast and under what conditions it should be done.
The first example I want to give to you is that of Jesus at the beginning of His earthly ministry. Immediately after He was baptized, by John the Baptist in the River Jordan, the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus like a dove out of the heavens and the voice of the Father was heard as he said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
What pleased the Father in Heaven was the obedience and spirit of His Son who was now set upon a course that would lead Him to the cross of crucifixion. Since we are desirous to be more like Jesus, it is in our best interest to follow His example in fulfilling all the ordinances of the Word of God. One of those ordinances is the ordinance of prayer and fasting.
Notice that in 3 of the 4 instances that we will examine today, prayer always accompanies fasting. Fasting, without spending time in prayer and meditation, even while you go about doing your daily work, is nothing more than dieting. Dieting doesn’t do anything for the spiritual man. Dieting may make the body into a lean, mean fighting machine, but the spirit will still be fat and lazy.
Fasting is meant as a spiritual tool to make us into more useful vessels of honor for the Kingdom of God.
One of the most obvious reasons for fasting is the humbling of the flesh and conquering of personal desires and lusts. You might be able to miss meals, or perhaps even go a whole day without eating if you just are busy and don’t have time to stop, but it has always been my experience that the moment I start to fast, my mind begins to think, Oh no, I can’t survive without food for the next 6 hours or for the next 24 hours. You may not get hungry if you miss breakfast or lunch or even dinner when you are busy, but let the body know that it “can’t have any of those meals” and you will start to hear your stomach growl like a tiger and your whole body will start screaming, “I’m hungry”, eat, eat, eat, I have to eat!”
You will begin to sense, in a very small way, the struggle of the spirit in the warfare against sin. You will begin to sense, in a small way, the power of the devil to tempt you to disobey God and eat anyway. You may even be tempted to fudge a little on your promise by sneaking a drink or taking a single bite of a cookie and still claim that you have fasted. If that happens, you just as well go on and eat a full course meal because it isn’t necessarily the amount of food or drink that you don’t take that makes the difference.
It’s the fact of putting down the flesh and holding true to your commitment to fast before the Lord and spend time in prayer before God, that really matters. In other words, IT’S MORE OF A MATTER OF OBEDIENCE AND FAITHFULNESS THAN THE ACTUAL GOING WITHOUT FOOD. Going without food or drink is only an outward sign of an inward commitment to refuse to surrender to the will of the flesh so that the will of the Holy Spirit may be manifest in my spirit and heart.
Matthew 4:1-2, "Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered."