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Fasting Day 17: Breaking Negative Emotional Habits

Fasting Day 17: Breaking Negative Emot

Do you have a habit of being negative – a habit of seeing the glass half empty? Are you plagued by frequent despair and despondency? Are you so focused on yourself and your problems that you can’t see what God is doing in and around you?

Don’t feel condemned; you are joined by one of the greatest prophets in the old testament – Elijah. Just as God used fasting to break Elijah’s negative emotional habits, God can break your negative emotional tendencies through fasting as well.

“Is this not the fast that I have chosen:…to break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6).

The Elijah fast is a fast to break negative emotional habits. As mentioned previously, this fast does not pertain to what foods are consumed on a fast but to Scriptural precepts and precedents. It shows us what God did through Elijah’s fast and what He can do through your fast.

Elijah was the prophet who stood boldly alone on Mount Carmel and challenged 450 prophets of Baal. Many Israelites had begun to worship the false god Baal, but Elijah challenged them: “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, then follow him” (I Kings 18:21).

Elijah defied the prophets of Baal and challenged them to have their god light the fire on the sacrificial altar. When they could not, Elijah had his altar soaked with water, then challenged God:

“Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your word” (v. 36).

God honored Elijah’s bold faith and fire fell from heaven, igniting the altar of the Lord. It was such a powerful display of power that the people rose up and killed the false prophets.

Queen Jezebel had sponsored Baal worship in Israel through her husband, King Ahab. This so enraged her that she swore to kill Elijah. Elijah was afraid and ran for his life (19:3).He fled to the wilderness and fell into extreme despondency. Elijah’s problem wasn’t Jezebel; it was his emotional state. He was an extrovert who was in great command in public, but when alone lapsed into terrible depression and despondency. Elijah’s problem was himself.

Elijah left his servant in Judah and went a day’s journey into the desert. He deliberately chose to go where there was no food. There Elijah asked God to take his life. Queen Jezebel’s threat had exposed Elijah’s lack of control over his own life.

Many Believers today have the same response to life’s circumstances. Our lack of control over our future causes us to feel abandoned, to withdraw and become worried and depressed.We are victims of negative emotional habits.

A habit is a behavior pattern acquired through frequent repetition. [1] The word “habit” comes from a root meaning “clothing that is usually worn”–like a nun’s habit. Habits may be displayed through simple outward acts and traits, or through multifaceted emotional responses and attitudes toward life.

God promises that fasting can break self-destructive habits. “Is not this the fast that I have chosen:…that you break every yoke?” (Is. 58:6). The Elijah fast invites God into the problem of our negative emotional habits. In Christ’s strength, victory is possible.

People who have negative mental and emotional habits like Elijah often struggle with self-image issues. They have either a low, negative or threatened self-image or they suffer from self-rejection. Due to his negative emotional habits, when problems threatened Elijah’s control over over his circumstances, or his self-image, Elijah had a tendency to withdraw from people and run from his problems. He would slide into despondency and depression. He would suffer from either emotional burn out or self-pity.

Does any of this sound familiar? If you cycle through bouts with pessimism and despondency, even if to a lesser degree than Elijah, take heed to what God did through Elijah’s fast. God can break your negative emotional habits through prayer and fasting and gaining wisdom on the matter.

In Fasting For a Spiritual Breakthrough, Elmer Towns shares a wealth of wisdom on this topic. I will highlight a few points here, but if this topic strikes a chord in your spirit, I highly recommend that you read the entire chapter on the Elijah fast.

1. Beware After Victory

God’s hand was on Elijah (18:46). He called fire from heaven and led the execution of the prophets of Baal. He frustrated the plans of the enemy and the evil rulers Ahab and Jezebel. Yet he ran away and prayed to die when Queen Jezebel threatened to kill him.

“’I have had enough, LORD,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors” (19:4).

Other men of God suffered similar defeats following times of victory. Noah preached against the drunkenness of a generation, yet his children were judged because of his own sin of drunkenness (Gen. 9:24,25). Abraham trusted God by faith, yet lied about Sarah (Gen. 12:12). Moses was meek and humble (nu. 12:3), yet God did not allow him to enter the Promised Land because he struck the rock for water. Peter insisted he would never deny Christ, however, within 24 hours he denied him with cursing (John 13:37,38).

We need to be careful when we have great success for God. Such success makes us a primes target for special satanic attacks. “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall” (I Cor. 10:12).

2. Even Though We Are Doing God’s Work, We Can Still Get Depressed

God used Elijah mightily. He stood alone for God when others compromised and worshiped Baal. Elijah boasted, “I alone am left” (v. 10). But Elijah was wrong. God told him that there were 7,000 in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal. Elijah’s problem was that he was so self-centered.

“He was so focused on himself that he could not see what God was doing in the lives of others. He couldn’t’ see the greater picture. God had to distance Elijah from the problem so Elijah could see the big picture. The Elijah Fast can enable you to see the big picture.” [2]

Like Elijah, we can be focused like a laser beam on the negative. We can be so shackled to a negative emotional habit and response that we can’t see what God is doing for us or what He’s done for others. Our habit can absolutely blind us to the power and work of God.

3. Remember that God Knows the Heart

God knew all along what was in Elijah’s heart. Elijah’s emotional tendencies didn’t keep God from using Him, however they did require that God address them. It is interesting to note that the one thing we think will fix the problem – success – only exacerbated it for Elijah. When we cycle through negative emotions we feel we are justified because in our mind “nothing is going right.” We think if only the tide would turn in our favor and we could experience a little success, then our negative emotions would improve. If we have negative emotional habits, no amount of victory and success will change them. The problem is not the circumstance, but the heart. Allow God to address your heart during the fast.

4. Don’t Expect Victory to Break Bad Habits

After Elijah’s victory and success over 450 prophets of Baal, he ran and sat under a weeping willow tree. Elijah was weeping under the willow, mourning and complaining, “Now they are trying to kill me, too” (v. 10). Getting a “break” in life didn’t improve Elijah’s despondency.

5. Fast to Hear God’s Word

After Elijah prayed to die, he lay down and fell asleep. Then an angel touched him and told him to get up and eat. Bread and water were by his head. “He ate and drank and then lay down again” (v. 6). The angel came back again, touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you” (v. 7). Elijah got up and ate and drank. “Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God” (v. 8).

Mt Sinai in Horeb is where God appeared in fire to Moses, and where He gave Moses the ten commandments. Elijah sought a fresh touch from God, so he returned to the place where God revealed Himself to Moses. It was there that “the word to the LORD came to [Elijah]” (v. 9). God had a word for him, but Elijah had to obey and travel to Sinai to get the word.

If we desire that God break negative emotional habits from our lives through fasting, we must travel to a place of visitation. We must travel to a place and time for prayer and Bible study. We cannot merely do without food and expect a miracle. This is only a diet. You may want to revisit a place where God has spoken to you in the past, a place where you felt His anointing. Or you may simply visit your place of daily prayer. It doesn’t matter where, just make a point to meet with God while you are fasting – and meet Him with an open Bible.

It takes new facts to break negative emotional habits. These new facts come from the Truth of God’s Word. Otherwise, we become a prisoner of our own thoughts; we believe in our limitations. New facts are introduced into our thinking by careful study of God’s Word. Study Scriptures about faith, hope, the power and indwelling of God. The strength and truth from Scripture is what gives the ability to break negative emotional habits.

“The wrong desires that come into your life aren’t anything new and different. Many others have faced exactly the same problems before you. And no temptation is irresistible. You can trust God to keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can’t stand up against it, for he has promised this and will do what he says. He will show you how to escape temptation’s power so that you can bear up patiently against it” (I Cor. 10:13, TLB).

6. Let the Word Reveal Your Weakness

Reading the word of God causes us to question where we are spiritually. The light of the Word exposes our fleshly, sinful ways. When Adam sinned, God asked him “Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). God knew where Adam was. He only asked the question to cause Adam to reflect on where he was. Not until we realize and question our habitual patterns of thought can the bondage be broken.

When Elijah got to Mount Sinai, the Word of the Lord came to him. “What are you doing here, “Elijah?” God asked (I Kings 19:9). God used the question as a mirror to make Elijah view himself from outside his inner compulsions. God does the same with us. During the Elijah fast, use the Word as a mirror to expose your weaknesses.

7. Confess and Agree with God About Your Weakness

When the Word came to Elijah on Mt Sinai, God began to pierce Elijah’s soul. Elijah was embarrassed and attempted to justify himself. “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant” (v. 10).

This seemed like a great self-defense, but in reality, it was Elijah’s admission of failure. Self-justification keeps us from confessing our needs. Elijah disguised his need with the claim to be defending God. He didn’t see that God could defend Himself. Do not attempt to defend your weakness; instead confess and agree with God about it.

8. Listen for the Still, Small Voice

“And behold the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out” (vv. 11-13, KJV).

Elijah’s answer was in the still, small voice. The power was not in the wind, the earthquake or the fire; it was in the Word of God.

We go to the altar and beg, “God take this negative habit from me!” Pleading for an external force to miraculously whisk it away, we put the ball in God’s court. Elmer Towns writes,

“People want to put the ball in God’s court, when all along God wants to give them the ball to empower them to be more responsible. Habits are broken not by external forces, but from within. They must be broken the way they are formed, one act at a time—by submitting to discipline—by repeatedly choosing not to behave according to habit. Just as the habit of overeating was established one meal at a time, conquering that habit will require submitting to disciplined eating one meal at a time.” [3]

A habit is “frequent repetition.” We must frequently repeat discipline over our negative emotions, just as overeating is defeated one meal at a time. An athlete is well acquainted with the fact that muscles are trained and built by repetition. They must exercise discipline to go the gym or the track repeatedly in order to train muscles and acquire new habits and skills.

As my illness first progressed and caused severe arm pain, I had to learn a new, better approach to playing the piano. It was the only way to replace habits of playing that began when I was four years of age. A senior in college, I had to learn to play without any tension in my arms or fingers. Every movement had to be the result of relaxed motion not tense force. I learned by playing with slow, deliberate, exaggerated movements in order to properly train my arms and fingers. I began by playing a simple scale on the piano, throwing each finger onto the next key, letting my finger naturally “land” on the key, completely relaxed, with no tension or force in the finger itself. Every movement came from the arm. Not only was it a healthier, better way to play in order to prevent injury, but it produced a more solid, robust sound.

I went virtually eight years without playing the piano and the habit was so well established that when I began to play regularly again, the method of playing still remained. Mind you, I still practice this slow, deliberate movement in order to prevent a relapse of poor, unhealthy technique. Small, deliberate, disciplined effort is required to keep the habit developed.

Fasting and prayer builds the discipline that is required to overcome the flesh. Through fasting you submit your flesh, your appetites, your natural man – including your natural, negative thoughts – to the authority of your spirit man. This discipline translates to other areas of your life…if you let it.

The Elijah fast involves looking into the Word of God and listening to what He is saying to you. God might want to use His power to break your habit externally. Or He might want to build up our inner strength through Christ so that in Him you can break your habit.

“I have strength for all things in Christ Who empower me [ I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency]” (Ph 4:13, AMP).

9. Look for the Positive Through God’s Eyes

Often, we enter a season of fasting focused on the negative, trapping ourselves in the problem. Elijah’s depression and pessimistic tendency trapped him in the problem as well. He continually reminded God, “I am the only one left.” This statement was a manipulative way of bragging to God that he was faithful.

All the while Elijah was boasting in his faithfulness, he should have been seeking to view the problem from God’s perspective.

God came to Elijah with good news—with positive facts. “I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him” (v. 18).

When we focus on our problems, we exercise faith in our problems. We are admitting that our problems are bigger than we are and even bigger than God.” [4]

As we focus on God’s power, we develop more faith in His power than in our problems. Yesterday, I was not feeling well. A busy schedule that had kept me from decent sleep for a few days finally caught up with me. It was a day of forced rest and recuperation. I was so sleepy and groggy that I could hardly focus on succinct prayers or the Word. I was greatly disappointed because I had “scheduled” Saturday as a day of prayer. It was the only day of the week in which I could set aside the entire day to seek the Lord for the upcoming Night of Miracle Prayer and listen for specific direction from the Holy Spirit. I had prayed in smaller intervals, and prayed with others as well, but I so desired this day to be a day of hearing God’s voice.

Because I felt so exhausted, I was tempted to just turn on the TV and veg. I had no energy to actively participate in a conversation with God. My prayers were often the same phrase repeated over and over. Praying could have seemed pointless. But as I have taught, fasting without prayer is a diet. So I lay in bed praying and absorbing what I could from the Word. This went on for a few hours with a bit of inspiration here and there…then suddenly clear as a bell God spoke:

“Are you focusing on the size of your problem or the size and greatness of your God?”

I didn’t realize that I had entered the fast so oriented to a few specific obstacles. These specific problems and challenges are listed on my reasons for fasting. God clearly addressed these issues and led me to the next step in my fast—to the next phase of prayer in these final fasting days.

I share this to say, it’s easy to become problem oriented. It’s easy to focus on the problem so much that is grows larger than God. My focus grew out of a desire to be wise and responsible in certain areas of life. I had good, honorable intentions. But I had to hear the Holy Spirit’s still small voice. And honestly, if I hadn’t been reduced to God’s agenda yesterday, I’d have probably zoomed right past this revelation. I had to get to the place where I could hear the still, small voice. Once God spoke, I repented, and today I was free to receive even more instruction regarding these reasons for fasting. But first I had to let my problem orientation go and look instead to the greatness of my God.

10. Take Positive Actions as God Instructs

Habits are broken by initiating positive actions rather than focusing on stopping negative ones. God did not tell Elijah, “Stop being depressed.” He gave Elijah specific things to do. “Go…anoint Hazael as king over Syria” (v. 15). Next He told him, “You shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel” (v. 16). Then He instructed Him to anoint Elisha to succeed him as prophet.

Even as you are fasting over specific issues, recognize God’s power and listen for specific steps you can take. Specific steps might begin with new direction in prayer. Once we see the scale of God’s size compared to the size of our problem, our direction in prayer changes.

It was only after 40 days of fasting that God began to break negative emotional habits in Elijah. Fasting prepared him to hear from God, to recognize the still small voice. I encourage you to go to your “Mt Sinai,” wherever that may be, and listen for God’s still small voice. He will be faithful to speak, to reveal Himself to you, and to help you break your negative emotional feelings and habits.

“Is this not the fast that I have chosen:…to break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:6).

Question: What negative emotional feelings and habits do you need God to address during your fast?

 


1. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/habit
2. Elmer Towns, Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1996), 85
3. Ibid., 90
4. Ibid, 91


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3 Responses to “Fasting Day 17: Breaking Negative Emotional Habits”

  1. ILI says:

    Hello. Can I ask why this is called 'Fasting Day 17'? The Elijah,fast is 40 days, but I'm curious about the title of this page. Blessings ILI

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