Most believers acknowledge fasting as a spiritual discipline. The late author and missionary Dr. Wesley L. Duewel explained it this way: “Fasting in the biblical sense is choosing not to partake of food because your spiritual hunger is so deep, your determination in intercession so intense, or your spiritual warfare so demanding that you have temporarily set aside even fleshly needs to give yourself to prayer and meditation.”
Every time Gene and I have faced a major decision or sensed a significant change of direction, we’ve set time aside to fast and pray together weekly. We’ve also fasted on a regular basis on behalf of our kids and our ministries. God has honored our desire to seek Him more than food, and we are grateful.
One thing we’ve learned through fasting is this – it’s helpful to have a specific objective in mind. For instance, we experienced a season when one financial crisis after another hit us. As missionaries living on donations, we began to wonder whether it was time to leave the ministry and get a “real” job to pay the bills. We fasted and asked God, “Do You want us to stay or go?”
We could have asked, “How will You provide for our family’s needs?” or “Should we try to raise more support? If so, what should that look like?” but those questions weren’t the issue. The main issue was whether or not God wanted us to leave or stay put, so that’s where we focused our prayers. We figured that, if He wanted us to stay, then providing for our needs was His responsibility and He already had that figured out. He answered our prayers the same day with several confirmations that we were to stay.
Ezra 8:21-23 tells the story of Ezra’s leading the exiles from Babylon to Jerusalem. When the crowd reached the Ahava Canal, he ordered everyone to fast and pray that God would protect them, their children, and their goods as they traveled. Pretty specific, right?
Ezra chose that focus because he’d earlier told the Babylonian king that God protects those who worship Him. He was therefore ashamed to ask for soldiers and horsemen to accompany them and defend them from potential attackers enroute. He wanted to uphold God’s righteous reputation rather than trusting humans for protection.
David Livingstone said, “Fastings and vigils without a special object in view are time run to waste.” In other words, know your reason for fasting and pray with targeted requests.
Are you having relationship issues within your family? Don’t just ask the Lord for reconciliation. That’s good, and it’s what your heart desires, but perhaps it’s a bit vague. Instead, fast and pray for God to reveal the root cause for the tension and show you how to resolve it. Only then can true reconciliation take place. You might be surprised at what God reveals.
Are you in a difficult marriage and hoping for positive change? Don’t just ask the Lord to fix it. Instead, fast and pray for God to help you see your spouse through His eyes. Ask Him to break both your heart and your spouse’s heart over what breaks His. Ask Him to teach you both what it means to delight in honoring one another.
Are you in a season of transition and feeling overwhelmed? Don’t just ask the Lord to help you get through this. Instead, fast and pray that you’ll experience God as your Anchor amidst the winds and waves of change. Ask Him to send help in practical ways for those tasks you can’t accomplish on your own. Ask Him to help you keep your thoughts focused on the truth about who He is—sovereign over every detail of your life—and that He’ll grant you peace in doing so.
Fasting is a discipline that draws us into deeper intimacy with our Lord. If we want to make the most of it, then let’s know why we’re fasting and be specific in our prayers.
How about you? Have you fasted for a specific purpose? If so, what’s been your experience? I’d love to hear your story, and I know it will benefit others.
#SpiritualDisciplines #BiblicalFasting #bgbg2