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Fasting Day 3: The Primary Purpose of Fasting

What is the primary purpose of fasting?

The primary purpose of fasting is self-humbling. Fasting is a scriptural means chosen by God for us to humble ourselves before Him. Throughout the Bible God required His people to humble themselves before Him.

“Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4).

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:6).

“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12)

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10).

Notice that in all of these scriptures, humbling ourselves is a responsibility placed on us. It is not a responsibility that we can give to God. If we pray, “God humble me,” our prayer is not scriptural. God’s reply in scripture is always humble yourself.

Fasting is revealed in the Bible to be a practical, tangible way that we can humble ourselves.  Fasting was the way David humbled himself before God:

“I humbled myself with fasting…” Psalm 35:13

Two Biblical Examples:

Ezra

The book of Ezra tells the story of Jews returning back to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon.  Zerubabbel led the first group of people back to begin work on the Temple. Then Ezra, a priest, prepared to lead a second group of people back to Jerusalem.

For Ezra and those returning with him, the long journey ahead was plagued by gangs and thieves. Ezra and the Jews had their wives and children with them, as well as silver, gold, the sacred articles of the temple, their household goods and treasures too. The Israelites were not leaving Babylonian captivity as beleaguered prisoners. They were not mere escapees. They had settled down in Babylon, built houses and businesses. Many had grown wealthy. Some did not want to live in primitive conditions in order to rebuild their nation. They wanted to enjoy the luxury of Babylon. The Jews who did not want to return were required to send gold and silver for rebuilding the Temple. Ezra was transporting their money and possessions.

“In all there were: 25 tons of silver; 100 silver articles weighing 150 pounds; 7500 pounds of gold” (v. 26, CEV).

The Jews were the perfect target for the thieves and thugs. They were loaded…and defenseless. They desperately needed protection for the long journey. Ezra had two alternatives: 1) He could ask the King of Persia for soldiers and horsemen. Or…2) he could trust God.

After the bold confession Ezra had made to the King of Persia, he couldn’t dare ask for their help. (Aren’t you thankful for those times when your mouth speaks in faith from what you know is true, forcing you to then own up to it and live like it’s true!?) Listen to what Ezra said:

21There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. 22I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king. “The good hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.” 23So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.

Ezra 8:21-23 NIV

The two alternatives Ezra had are the same ones presented to you and me today: one carnal, one spiritual. Ezra could have resorted to the carnal and requested the aid of the King’s soldiers. This was not sinful, but it also was not walking in faith. Plus, it would’ve thrown Ezra upon the mercy of flesh and blood—mere men—versus the mercy and protection of the God of Israel. Only one offered him complete protection and provision…and it was not man.

Ezra chose to look to God and ask for His help and protection. This was something Ezra and the Israelites knew how to do. They understood it well. They fasted and humbled themselves before God. They asked Him for help and He heard them, and gave them a safe journey.

Jehoshaphat

Jehoshaphat had just brought the kingdom in order when they heard that an army was on its way. This army was larger than anything Judah could defeat. Jehoshaphat momentarily feared, then chose to resort to the spiritual, not the carnal. He proclaimed a fast:

2Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom…It is already in Hazazon Tamar.” 3Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed they came from every town in Judah to seek him. (2 Chronicles 20:2-4.)

Jehoshaphat prayed and asked God for His help. He closed his prayer saying,

12O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:12).

Notice the key words: …we have no power…we do not know what to do…” They didn’t know what to do, so they turned to God for His supernatural help. They renounced the natural in order to invoke the supernatural. And supernatural is what they got!

“Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jahaziel son of Zechariah…as he stood in the assembly” (v 14).

God spoke through Jahaziel and said,

15Do not be afraid…the battle is not yours, but God’s…17You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you” (v. 15, 17).

As they gave God praise in advance, God supernaturally defeated their enemies.  When they had no power to effect change and didn’t know what to do, they chose the spiritual over the carnal, humbled themselves through fasting and prayer…invoked the supernatural and received victory. [1]

Question: Is there a matter before you right now in which you have no power…and you don’t know what to do?

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1. This post is based on content from chapter one of Derek Prince’s book Fasting: The Key to Releasing God’s Power in your Life

FROM THE FASTING ARCHIVES:

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, Shades of Grace will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

4 Responses to “Fasting Day 3: The Primary Purpose of Fasting”

  1. jemmimah mondi says:

    wow explicitly explained. this article is utterly beneficial. just got the right answers to help me grow into a mature bride before the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

  2. laura says:

    Hey, this is an interesting article, but I noticed a lot of the material is almost identical to Derek Prince's books. It would probably be a good idea to cite it somewhere more noticable, especially because these books would be really interesting to anyone that liked the article. **post script, i see now that in other articles you have cited his materials, but I still think it would be a good idea to do it in each individual article, especially since it is extremely similar.

    • Thanks, Laura, for bringing this to my attention!! This article is from the first year I hosted Pursuit 21 online and wrote articles each day of the fast regarding fasting and prayer. At that time, I wasn't yet linking to books so frequently on Amazon, as I have done in the years since. That first year, I was merely writing for a group of local ladies who were participating in the fast. I never dreamed Pursuit 21 would soon grow to include men and women from over 30 countries joining us in fasting and prayer. I was less mindful of linking to books in those days than I was of churning out content for these local women (with whom I shared in weekly, in-person prayer meetings the books and sources used.) In the years since, I have increasingly, carefully listed sources and linked to relevant content for the benefit of the readers. This post was written in my "freshman" newbie year, you could say. But with hundred of posts here now, time doesn't permit me to update older posts as frequently as I would like, even for things as necessary as grammatical and typo errors. But thank you again for bringing this to my attention. I greatly appreciate it. I will update this post as soon as possible and include a link to Derek Prince's book.

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