Fasting Day Twelve Posts from the Archives:
- Don’t Judge the Results Based on What You Feel …
- Why Is It So Hard for Christians to Pray? …
- The Origin of Fasting: Reversing Cause and Effect …
- Is Fasting a Requirement …
- The Reward of Waiting ..
- Entering God’s Rest …
- If I Fast Without My Husband, Will It Still Help? …
Have you not felt well physically during your fast? If so, be careful not to judge the results of your fast based on how you have been feeling.
Don’t Judge the Results of Your Fast Based on What You Feel Physically
Never judge the results of your fast based on false evidence—what you feel and experience physically while fasting. Otherwise, you might render a verdict prematurely and conclude your fast is ineffective, when in fact the opposite is true.
The first few days of the fast, you might have had a headache—especially if you normally drink caffeine daily and stopped for the fast. The headaches usually go away after three days, but if you still have one, keep persevering! It will get better!
If you’re not going to judge the results of your fast based on what you feel, it’s important to:
- Understand the Process of a Longer Fast
- Remember that Fasting is a Continual Prayer
There are many reasons why so many Christians find it hard to pray. But prayer is a necessity, not a luxury. If we give God quality time he will answer us. When we mix our prayers with faith, they will work. To neglect prayer is to neglect God and the salvation he gave us. To not take advantage of the access given to us through the blood of Jesus is to take it lightly and do despite to the grace of God. Now more than ever the church needs to be praying.
In this must-hear sermon, David Wilkerson gives four reasons why Christians don’t pray. Do any of them contribute to a lack of prayer in your life?
“…those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.”
~ Psalm 34:10
In Fasting for a Spiritual Breakthrough, Elmer Towns writes:
“Most scholars believe that the practice of fasting began with the loss of appetite during times of great distress and duress. Hannah, who would later become the mother of Samuel, was so distressed about her barrenness that ‘she wept and did not eat’ (1 Sam. 1:7).” 1
In despair and grief, a person cried to God for an answer. Over time, the cause and effect was intentionally reversed. Fasting came to be practiced as an external means of demonstrating and encouraging an internal feeling of grief for sin and for cultivating earnest prayer. The original cause (deep grief and stress) drove people to the effect (not eating). Later, when people desperately needed answers from God, they turned to the effect (not eating) so they could afflict their souls to the point they would pray to God with all their hearts (cause). 2, 3
If we truly want to draw near to God, we must allow fasting and prayer to bring about grief over personal sin. We must allow the effect (abstaining from food) to bring about the cause (grief, remorse, and sincere prayer).
In the Old Testament, once a year the Jewish believers were required to fast:
“In the seventh month, on the tenth day, you shall go without eating” (Lev. 16:29, CEV).
This fast was kept on the Day of Atonement. So it is called the Yom Kippur Fast. God commanded everyone to fast on this day to remember the solemn experience of their salvation.
On the day of Atonement, the high priest took the blood of an animal into the Holy of Holies to offer it in substitution for the sins of everyone:
“And he shall wash his body with water in a holy place, put on his garments, come out and offer his burnt offering and the burnt offering of the people, and make atonement for himself and for the people” (Lv. 16:24).
The Day of Atonement dealt with the sins of the people, so everyone fasted to identify with the High Priest, who sacrificed a lamb for the forgiveness of their sin.
Today, Christians are not required to fast. We’re not under law, but under grace. We no longer have to sacrifice the blood of a lamb for forgiveness. Jesus is the Lamb of God who died for all.
“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)
The Opportunity of Fasting
In the Old Testament Jewish believers fasted to demonstrate their obedience to God. However, in the New Testament, things are different. We are not required to fast, but we are allowed to fast for many reasons.
Jesus said to his disciples, “When you fast…” not, “if you fast…” (Mt. 6:16). Although fasting is not required, Jesus expected His disciples to capitalize on the opportunity of fasting because fasting is a discipline that builds character and faith. (See also Feeding Faith for a 3-part series on how fasting strengthens our faith.)
We have the opportunity of engaging in the discipline of fasting in order to feed:
- our faith
- our worship
- our character
- our prayer life
- our hunger for God
- our dependence on God
- our experience of His word
- our holy, separated, sanctified walk with God
We have the opportunity of fasting in order that we might starve (bring into subjection to the Spirit):
- our flesh
- our self-will
- our self-worship
- our self-governance
- our doubt and unbelief
- our rebellion and constant attempt to walk without God
Fasting is waiting upon God. God promises blessing to those who wait on Him. By waiting upon God through fasting and prayer, you will receive:
1. Renewed Strength.
Are you tired and weary? Have you been exhausted of all endurance?
“Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, 31But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:30-31, NKJ, emphasis added)
2. Realized Promise.
Has God spoken specific promises to you about your future? Has He given you a dream or vision of what He wants to bring about?
“Those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land” (Psalm 37:9, NIV, emphasis added).
The word for “hope” is the same word used for “wait” in Isaiah 40:31. When we wait on God through fasting, we put our hope in him.
When King Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast for all Judah, he prayed “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chron. 20:12). In a similar way, fasting is saying, “I wait on you, Lord. My only hope is in you.” God’s promise to those who wait on Him through fasting and prayer is, “You will inherit the land. You will inherit what I’ve promised you. It will be yours.”
Perhaps you want your family – even generations after you – to have a deep walk of faith, to ‘possess spiritual ground,’ as it were. Do you want the Word of God to remain in the mouth of your children and your children’s children? Target this matter in prayer as you fast. Waiting on God through fasting results in “inheriting” (i.e. possessing) spiritual ground.
3. A Ready Ear
God promises a listening ear to those who wait on Him through fasting and prayer.
“I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry” (Psalm 40:1, NIV, emphasis added).
The word “heard” in the original language means:
- to give undivided listening attention
- an understanding heart
- to be heard and answered
- to grant request
It is the same word used when the angel came in response to Daniel’s fasting and prayer to tell Daniel that his prayer had been heard and the answer sent.
“Then he continued, ‘Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them'” (Daniel 10:12, NIV, emphasis added).
God promises to listen and to answer when we fast and pray.
The definition of the word “wait” in all three of these instances is astounding, especially considering that when you add the discipline of fasting to the disciplines of giving and praying, you bind together a 3-fold cord that is not quickly broken (Mt. 6; Ecc. 4:12).
The word for “wait” in all three of these instances is the word “qavah.” In the original language it means…
Fasting is resting. Fasting gives our body rest from food and digestion. Our bodies aren’t at their peak when they are involved in digesting food. Our systems were designed to have periodic rest. When we give our body a break from food, it can focus energy on cleanup and removing toxins.
As we give our bodies a break from food and detach from our normal routines in order to spend time with God, we become more alert to His voice. We hear Him more clearly. Disconnecting from the world by fasting and connecting to God through prayer brings us to a place of spiritual rest. Fasting brings both physical and spiritual rest.
Make Every Effort to Enter That Rest
The Old Covenant Sabbath is carried over into the New Covenant in the rest we find in Christ. It is no longer a special day or an outward observance; it is a condition of the heart.
9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; 10 for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. 11 Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience (Hebrews 4:9-11).
The key to rest is faith. It is only when we have the God-given ability to believe that we can rest from our attempts to do something to influence God.
We can turn fasting, like many other things, into another form of our works – a way that we try to manipulate God. This is an expression of our unbelief. As stated many times in these fasting posts, we do not fast to try and change God. When we fast, we are the ones who are changed! And most often, the first thing to change is our unbelief!
Unbelief is a Matter of the Heart
It is the heart that receives from God. The heart is the organ God created in man for holding fellowship with Himself.
- If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9, emphasis added).
- “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes [in his heart] that what he says will happen, it will be done for him (Mark 11:23, emphasis added).
Faith and unbelief are acts of the heart. When the word “heart” is used in the Bible, it represents our mind, will and emotions. It symbolizes the seat of our appetites and desires.
I believe this is one reason why fasting and prayer are so closely tied to our ability to believe God. This is why unbelief is one of the first things to go when we fast and pray.
When we fast, we put our heart – our mind, will, emotions and appetites – under the complete authority of the Holy Spirit.
As I have often said, I cannot do much in a tangible way about all my other fleshly appetites and desires, but I can do something about my appetite for food. When I enter a fast and choose to abstain from food, putting that single appetite under the authority of the Spirit, the rest of my appetites follow suit. Rather than my spirit man living subject to the flesh, it is reversed. My flesh comes under the authority of the Spirit. Unbelief cannot thrive in such an environment.
Unbelief Versus Mental Assent
John Wesley once said that the devil has given to the church a substitute for faith that looks and sounds so much like faith that people cannot tell the difference. This substitute, he asserted, is “mental assent.” It is head knowledge only – not full-hearted faith.
Many people say that God’s is true, but it is just with their minds that they are agreeing. It is the heart that receives from God. The mind is involved, yes, but there must be a decision of the will and a complete surrender of the appetites to the lordship of Christ.
We mentally assent to the reality of the word, but we do not act on it. Mental assent admires the Word; confesses that the Word is true and very desirable, but it does not possess.
The following question was posed in a comment on The Ezra Fast. Someone else who is fasting may have the same question, so I thought I would share my answer here in the event it would be of help to others as well.
I am married to a Muslim man. We have a business of manufacturing steel and have two kids. The business is doing very bad. He is not a religious Muslim, but I want to know if I go on the Ezra fast alone, will it work for a financial breakthrough since my husband will not go on the fast with me?
God responds to fasting and prayer, whether we fast alone or with a friend or family member.
Consider Hannah who fasted alone (see 1 Samuel 1). God had closed her womb. Her rival provoked her year after year…till she wept and would not eat. Hannah’s husband did not fast with her. In fact, scripture says that he “would say to her, ‘Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat?’” 1 Samuel 1:9 says: “Once when they had finished eating and drinking in Shiloh, Hannah stood up…” In other words, this is saying that the rest of Hannah’s family was eating and drinking, but she was not. Hannah fasted alone.
“In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord.” Hannah poured out her soul to God…and He responded!! 1 Samuel 1:19-20 says, “Elkanah lay with Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son.” God definitely responds to fasting and prayer – even when we fast alone!
You never know what God will do in your husband’s life as a result of your fasting and prayer. Remember Cornelius? (See Acts 10 … I’ve also written a post about this.) Cornelius was a devout man, but He hadn’t heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As a result of his fasting and prayer, Peter shared the good news of Jesus with Cornelius and his family…and while Peter was speaking, “the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message” (10:44).
This isn’t an exact comparison, as you have heard the Gospel, but consider how one individual fasting alone resulted in the salvation of his family. Perhaps you’re already planning to include your husband’s salvation in your causes for fasting. But if not, please prayerfully consider doing so. God sometimes allows difficult situations in our lives to draw us to Him. There is a possibility that God could be allowing your present financial difficulties in order to do a spiritual work in your husband’s life.
God can use suffering to draw people toward salvation in Christ. “For God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation. We will never regret that kind of sorrow” (2 Cor. 7:10). C. S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
I understand needing a financial breakthrough – so I’m not at all saying that you should accept financial devastation and not seek a God-given breakthrough. Nor am I trying to tell you what your causes for fasting should be – only the Holy Spirit should dictate this. I simply encourage you to pray and seek God about including this in addition to praying for a financial breakthrough. It could be that God wants to give you a double victory – bringing your husband to saving knowledge of Jesus Christ AND giving you both a financial breakthrough!
Questions: Which of these posts did God use to speak to you today? What is He asking you to do in response to His word?