The Bible is filled with references to the prayers and fasting of God’s people. In Matthew 6, Jesus placed fasting on the same level as praying and giving. He said, in essence, “When you fast! When you pray! When you give!”
I wonder why Christians today and churches in our generation don’t place fasting on the same level as praying and giving? Jesus, by his example and his teaching, demonstrated that prayer and fasting are important and integral ingredients in the lives of his followers.
Fasting and love
One purpose of prayer and fasting is to bring our hearts to a place of being filled with a sacrificial love that results in godly attitudes in our lives. True fasting will draw us closer to God and his purposes.
Fasting and humility
I can’t explain why God has chosen prayer and fasting as the gateway to supernatural power. One thing I do know: Scripture, prayer, and fasting are the ways believers humble themselves in the sight of the Lord. When we humble ourselves, he promises to exalt and lift us up at the appropriate time (1 Peter 5:6; James 4:10). God also indicates that he will resist the proud but will give grace to the humble (James 4:6). Again, 2 Chronicles 7:14 indicates the importance of humbling ourselves before God.
Fasting and focus
Fasting brings a sharp focus to the dramatic difference between our physical and spiritual natures. Eating is one of the most fundamental things we do as physical beings. One of the most natural desires is for food. Without proper nourishment we die. By exercising our wills and depriving ourselves of food for spiritual purposes, we acknowledge our spiritual natures and honor our Creator-Father. When we deny the natural for the purpose of calling upon God to do the supernatural, he will enable and empower us to experience the supernatural.
Fasting and worship
Through fasting, we confirm the words uttered by Jesus in the face of temptation during his forty-day fast: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4 NIV). Through prayer and fasting we forsake our own physical needs and the creature comforts of this world and call upon God as the Originator, Giver, Source, and Sustainer of all life, especially our own. We exalt him as our hope and salvation. True spiritual fasting will result in submission and devotion to God.
God blesses when our fasts . . .
- focus on him and honor him. Although you will receive spiritual blessings when you fast, these are not the proper motives for fasting.
- have spiritual purposes. Although you may realize certain physical benefits, these are not the proper motives for spiritual fasting (for example, weight-loss purposes).
- cause individuals to humble themselves and submit to the authority of God and his Word.
- cause individuals to acknowledge and repent of sin.
- deprive our natural desires and lusts to focus on the spiritual.
A final observation
Even when we honor God by praying and fasting, this does not mean that our heavenly Father will grant everything on our wish-and-whim list. God will only work and bless in ways that are consistent and in harmony with His will and purpose.