A key to our calling in the Great Commission is developing an environment, through communion prayer and fasting, where God can present himself among an unreached people group with great authority.
Throughout the Bible, as well as church and mission history, we observe men and women with lives of prayer that few attain. Many coupled their prayer lives with fasting.
In the Old Testament, fasting was often a sign of turning from sin. In the New Testament, it unleashed spiritual power, bringing victory and maturing God’s people spiritually.
Fasting has been called the atomic power of the prayer life. It’s a spiritual tool that is being reawakened and joined with committed and faithful prayer. We do not rely on fasting itself but on God’s ability to use this means of grace to produce heightened sensitivity within us.
Fasting plays a role in pulling down spiritual walls among the most unreached ethnic groups and raising laborers of high spiritual quality among them. Many hindrances will not be overcome except through lifestyles combining prayer with fasting (Matthew 17:21).
Fasting enlarges our hearts as we behold Jesus. Our hearts grow in desire for him and become more sensitive to his leading. Our capacity to receive spiritual insight increases, and we gain spiritual understanding from the Spirit. It solidifies our identity as sons and daughters of God, and the distractions of the world grow dimmer.
Our minds become illumined with the spirit of wisdom and revelation (Ephesians 1:17) and sharpened with understanding and insight into the Word. Fasting therefore helps develop decision-making ability according to God’s will.
A lifestyle of fasting involves periodic longer fasts (from solid food) as well as regular daylong fasts or abstaining from periodic meals.
My wife, Kelly and I try to do a three-day fast every three months while observing weekly fasts on Tuesdays, affectionately called SVM2uesdays. Throughout the year, we’re sensitive to the Spirit as he leads us to additional longer fasts.
If we evaluated fasting based on one or two occasions, we might conclude it isn’t effective. However, after cultivating a lifestyle of fasting for more than a decade, we attest to the amazing power of fasting to bring change.
Much guidance from the Lord has been the product of our hearts being prepared through fasting. It’s possible we would not be serving as we are apart from fasting’s spiritual benefits.
REASONS FASTING IS EFFECTIVE
Why does God care about a lifestyle characterized by prayer and fasting? He loves when we’re motivated by His love to practice discipline.
When we master our appetites (emotional, physical, relational), His heart is moved. Fasting has nothing to do with earning God’s love, nothing we do qualifies us to be accepted by him.
Yet God is pleased when we humble ourselves, choosing to lay our appetites aside to be further changed into His likeness. We don’t fast to get from God, we fast to become more aligned with Him.
Fasting helps rid us of the clutter of life. Fasting prepares us to fellowship with God in a greater capacity. When we fast, He enables us to hear Him more clearly, to sense the movements of His heart more dramatically.
We understand Scripture better, and we more easily empty ourselves of the self life and enter into God’s presence. Sometimes these happen during the fast itself and sometimes down the road.
As a result, we want to make fasting a lifestyle choice, not merely a one-time event. Fasting is a voluntary, loving response of obedience. It is never to become an empty ritual done from religious obligation, as it was for the Pharisees in Jesus’ day.