I have to admit, praying I can do. Fasting is a difficulty for me. So this post was a difficult one to put up. But in Scripture fasting and prayer go hand in hand. Those who did it, did not always fast and pray. It was usually reserved for times when real guidance was needed. In the book of Acts there are at least three occasions when fasting and prayer are specifically mentioned:
The first is Cornelius who spent four days fasting before God came to him in a vision:
Acts 10:30 And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing…
The next was at the calling of Paul and Barnabas before their first missionary journey together:
Acts 13:3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
The last is when Paul and Barnabas ordained elders in the churches in Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch:
Acts 14:23 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.
While this series is not about fasting, the question still needs to be asked: Why fast?
- First, it makes it clear to God that you mean business.
- Second, it clears and focuses the mind.
- Third, it is a sacrifice that takes real discipline and God is honored when we make sacrifices for Him.
When we do decide to fast, we need to be sure that we are doing it not to be seen of men, but to be seen of God:
(15) But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
(16) Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
(17) But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
(18) That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
Practically speaking (and this is all based on other reading I have done on this), when you get ready to fast:
- Have plan. Set aside a time when you will fast. Put it on your schedule.
- If you have health conditions of any kind, especially any affected by your diet, talk to your doctor to make sure it is safe for you to do.
- Start small. If you’ve never practiced fasting before, plan to do it for a meal, or a day at first. Save longer fasts for when you’ve had some practice at it.
- Be prepared for strong temptations to break your fast. Have Scriptures memorized that you can meditate on to get you through those times.
- Don’t fast on holidays, or during planned eating times. Remember, we fast to be seen of God and not of men. So, don’t plan to fast during times like Thanksgiving – or planned things like office get-togethers – when everyone is expecting you to eat. Otherwise, you’ll spend the whole time explaining yourself and that will defeat the purpose of being seen of God to fast, and not of men.
- Be prepared for God to convict you of things and to move you toward greater sacrifice. That is the whole point of praying and fasting, isn’t it?
What I learned from my own personal “fast.”
When I started looking into this, I was convicted about the fact that I do not practice fasting. So, given my type 2 diabetes, I “fasted” in manner of speaking. I skipped two meals a day over three days. (I speak this to my shame. My goal is to be able to do a full fast, but I need to talk to my doctor first – wife’s orders.) Given my modified fasting trial, here are some things I observed:
- Eating is overrated.
- I find that I eat more out of habit than out of need.
- Fasting can help you identify your needs from your wants.
- Eating can become an idol.
- Fasting can help you identify other idols in your life as well.
Fasting helps you to better understand what real prayer is: It forgets the problems of the world, forgets the limitations of man, and focuses wholly on the Person and power of God.