By Ryan Shaw
What is the Purpose of Fasting?
What takes place when we fast? As we fast what is it that God wants us seeking His face for? What is the dynamic relationship between abstaining from food and spiritual purification? All of these and many more questions loom when we consider fasting.
The first and foremost idea to grasp initially about fasting is that it is a great mystery. Though we have much Scripture to teach us, it still alludes our minds of how such a discipline works. This is okay. We are not meant to always fully grasp everything Scripturally before we begin to practice it by faith.
Reasons to Fast
Though there are undoubtedly more reasons a short list of reasons to fast include:
- for the development of personal holiness (Psalm 69:10; Ezekiel 16:49; Nehemiah 9:1-2),
- to be heard from God on high (Esther 4:16; Ezra 8:23; Isaiah 58:9; Jeremiah 29:13-14; Joel 2:12),
- to change God’s mind (Jonah 3:5,10; Jeremiah 18:7-8; 1 Kings 21: 27-29; Joel 2:12-14),
- to free the captives (Isaiah 58:6; Acts 10:38),
- to see people delivered from demonic oppression and possession (Luke 10:17; Isaiah 49:24,25; Mark 16:17),
- for increased revelation and spiritual understanding (Daniel 9: 2,3,21,22; Acts 2:17; 2 Cor. 11:27 – 12:2-4),
- to discipline the appetites of the body (1 Corinthians 9:27; Deuteronomy 32:15-16; Romans 13:14),
- to keep our physical bodies submitted to our spiritual lives (Exodus 16:3; Numbers 11:4-5; Psalm 78:29-31)
- and even for health and physical healing.
Yet, the very first desire in fasting is to be fixed upon God Himself. When we fast we want to always fast unto God and never first to get something from Him (Zechariah 7:5; Acts 13:2). We are in a love relationship with the God of the universe and want to worship and draw nearer to Him through the discipline of fasting.
If this is not in place, Scripture assures us that our fasting is in vain.
It has been noted by many that through the discipline of fasting Jesus is able to open our hearts and increase our spiritual capacities in a multitude of areas like no other discipline or aspect of God’s enabling can.
Several things take place in this process.
- We receive a greater measure of spiritual revelation and clarity. When we fast we are emptying ourselves of all natural stimulants. This happens both physically yet also spiritually. In doing so the clutter and swirl of life that often keeps us from being able to grasp the heart of God and what He is saying to us is swept away. Our spirits are sensitized and tenderized to be able to clearly discern what the Holy Spirit is communicating to us. We gain greater insight into the Word and new concepts and applications often jump off the pages that we had never seen before.
- Areas of sin and temptation that once held us captive ease their grip when we pray with fasting. I do not know how this happens, yet it clearly does. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life tend to weaken as we cooperate with fasting. When our desires fall in line with God’s there is great freedom within. Fasting enables us to break the power of the wrong desires and more speedily turn 180 degrees to embrace the correct ones.
- Fasting releases joy. Though often difficult many view fasting as something to never participate in because it is such a horrible discipline. Yet, the testimony of those whom have adopted a fasted lifestyle tell us that it produces a supernatural joy as we draw near to the heart of God without the natural distractions which our stomachs often bring about.
- There are times when we need specific spiritual direction regarding making decisions. Fasting seems to enable us to receive a greater measure of God’s emotions and ways helping us to not be moved by the ways of the worldly systems that are swirling about us. Even as true believers, we are constantly tempted to base our decision making on the values and principles of the world instead of on the values and principles of Jesus’ upside down kingdom. Fasting helps to align us more and more with His ways and His kingdom, helping us to make decisions that please Him in partnership with Him.
God is calling us today to be a people who contend for the greater measure of spiritual glory and power which He intends to bring forth on the earth. We know that God has set up His kingdom in divine relationship with His Bride, the Body of Jesus Christ.
His primary vehicle for bringing forth His Kingdom on the earth is through the lives of ordinary believers like you and me. We must take this calling and responsibility very seriously if we are to partner with Him to accomplish all He has ordained in our generation.
Much of this revolves around our spiritual disciplines including the discipline of prayer coupled with fasting. Wherever you are in the world you are invited to participate with SVM2uesdays and integrate into your weekly schedule a day committed to abstaining from food for a 24 hour period in order to draw nearer to the Lord and contend spiritually for the mighty development of the Student Mission Movement in this hour of mission history.