As I write this, I’m fasting.
I wish I could say that I’m fasting to meet a great spiritual need (although sharing that with the world would be Pharisaical and defeat the whole purpose of fasting!), but honestly, I’m not. In recent months, my husband and I began incorporating intermittent fasting into our regular diet to help burn excess fat and achieve other health benefits.
Though fasting is a bit of a trend right now in the world of health and fitness, it’s certainly not a new idea. In the Old Testament, believers fasted during periods of grief, repentance, or great need. Abstaining from the pleasure of food (and sometimes drink) demonstrated the intensity and urgency of their feelings to God.
In the book of Esther, when the Persian king was tricked into decreeing that all the Jews in his kingdom be annihilated, Queen Esther’s first thought was to fast, and ask others to fast along with her, as they beseeched God to preserve her life when she went in to the king.
Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish. – Esther 4:16
As you know, her prayer was answered in spades. Esther saw not only the salvation of her people, but the defeat of her people’s greatest enemy, Haman.
When combined with prayer, fasting works!
Though fasting is not a command for us in this Age of Grace, Jesus recommended fasting. When the disciples asked him why they could not cast out certain demons, Jesus told them that they lacked faith; and they needed to increase their faith to a degree that could only be achieved by prayer and fasting.
For verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. – from Matthew 17:20, 21
As I consider all this, I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve been able to stick to a fast for the health of my body, but rarely for the health of my soul. I can count on one hand the times I have been so burdened about something that I’ve felt the need to combine fasting and prayer.
I need to change that.
A godly woman once told me that every time she felt a hunger pain during a spiritual fast, she prayed about the issue for which she was fasting. I’d like to begin fasting for both body and soul, and incorporate her idea.
Have you ever fasted, either for physical or spiritual benefits?
Have you seen God answer prayer though your efforts?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.