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Fasting Day 3: How Fasting Works

How Fasting Works

 

Fasting helps a Christian to receive direction and power from the Holy Spirit. In Shaping History Through Fasting and Prayer, Derek Prince gives two ways in which fasting accomplishes this.

1. Fasting is a form of mourning.

In a sense, fasting is a form of mourning. Emotionally, none of us enjoys or welcomes mourning, just as physically, our bodies don’t enjoy or welcome fasting. But there are times when both fasting and mourning are helpful.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).

In Isaiah 61:3, the Lord promised special blessings to those who “mourn in Zion.” He promised them “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”

“Mourning in Zion is neither the self-centered remorse nor the hopeless grief of the unbeliever. Rather, it is a response to the prompting of the Holy Spirit through which the believer shares in a small measure God’s own grief over the sin and folly of humanity. When we consider our own failures and shortcomings as Christians, and when we look beyond ourselves at the misery and wickedness of the world, there is indeed cause for this kind of mourning.” [i]

Godly sorrow of the believer is different from the hopeless sorrow of the unbeliever:

“For godly grief and the pain God is permitted to direct, produce a repentance that leads and contributes to salvation and deliverance from evil, and it never brings regret; but worldly grief (the hopeless sorrow that is characteristic of the pagan world) is deadly [breeding and ending in death]” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

The “oil of joy” and the “garment of praise” follow godly mourning.

Under the old covenant, God ordained for Israel one special day in each year in which they were to afflict their souls. It was the Day of Atonement. Regarding this day, God instructed Israel:

“It is a sabbath of [solemn] rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves [by fasting with penitence and humiliation]; it is a statute forever” (Leviticus 16:31).

Since the time of Moses, the Jews have interpreted this as a command to fast. In Acts 17:9, this annual Day of Atonement is referred to as “the fast.”

Centuries later, known by its Hebrew name Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement is still observed by Orthodox Jews as a day of fasting.

David spoke of fasting in this way:

“I humbled my soul with fasting” (Psalm 35:13).

The word translated “humble” is the same word that is translated “afflict” in Leviticus 16, the chapter on the Day of Atonement.

In psalm 69:10, David said:

“I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting.”

Considering these various expressions, we can say that fasting, as practiced in this manner, is a form of mourning and a means to humble oneself.

2. Fasting is a means for a believer to bring his body into subjection.

“But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” ( 1 Corinthians 9:27).

Derek Prince states:

“Our bodies, with their physical organs and appetites, make wonderful servants but terrible masters. Thus, it is necessary to keep them always in subjection. I once heard this well expressed by a fellow minister who said, ‘my stomach does not tell me when to eat, but I tell my stomach when.’ Each time a Christian practices fasting for this purpose, he is serving notice on his body: ‘You are the servant, not the master.’” [ii]

The Spirit of God and the carnal natural of man are in direct opposition to each other:

“For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other” (Galatians 5:17).

In his book, Derek Prince describes the relationship between fasting and the opposition of our natural man to the Spirit of God.

“Fasting deals with the two great barriers to the Holy Spirit that are erected by man’s carnal nature. These are the stubborn self-will of the soul and the insistent, self-gratifying appetites of the body. Rightly practiced, fasting brings both soul and body into subjection to the Holy Spirit.” [iii]

Fasting changes man, not God.

It is imperative that we realize that fasting changes us, not God. We don’t fast to twist God’s arm. Through fasting and prayer, we are the ones who are changed.

Fasting is a way to prepare ourselves, like a farmer prepares the soil for new crop, plowing up the ground to get ready for a new season. Fasting is not twisting God’s arm. It is not making God do something He doesn’t want to do. It is positioning yourself and preparing your heart for what God wants to do in you.

The Holy Spirit, as God, is omnipotent. Fasting breaks the barriers in our carnal nature that stand in opposition to the Holy Spirit’s omnipotence – to the working of His mighty power in our lives. With these barriers eradicated, the Holy Spirit can work unhindered through our prayers.

And our prayers have unlimited potential:

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20)

The “power” that works in and through our prayers is the Holy Spirit. By removing the barriers of our natural man, fasting makes a way for the Holy Spirit’s power to work the “immeasurably more” of God’s promises.

A Moment of Worship: I Surrender

Hillsong Cornerstone

I Surrender: Written & Led by Matt Crocker
From the album: Cornerstone by Hillsong Live
Download from iTunes or Amazon

 

Focus Questions: As you have been fasting, have you felt godly sorrow over your sins? Have you perhaps felt more aware of your sins and the ways your natural man opposes the Spirit of God? Ask the Holy Spirit to break the barriers in your natural man that stand in opposition to the His power working through you.

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