When I was a freshman at Liberty University I used to fast once a week. From after dinner on Saturday night to before dinner on Sunday night I refused to eat food. I did this for my entire freshman year.
And I hated it.
Unfortunately I would “pig out” on Saturday night with a giant pre-fast, super-sized meal (merging fasting with gluttony is probably not the best idea.) After waking up with hunger pains I’d rush off to church the next morning and be daydreaming about food when I should have been worshipping God. And don’t even get me started about the temptations I would face on Sunday morning when it came to the elements on the communion table.
After church, when everyone else would go to the school cafeteria to eat lunch, I would go straight to my bunk bed in dorm 8 and sleep the afternoon away. When my 24 hours of self-imposed “spiritual discipline” time was up I would rush to the school cafeteria and pig out again. I would go to bed that night with a full stomach and empty heart.
Probably not God’s idea of an acceptable fast.
Since then fasting has been (with few exceptions) off the grid for me. Because when I fasted words like “grid” would sound too much like “griddle” which would make me think of waffles and start lusting for food again!
I’ve not preached on it much and have practiced it even less. Since my freshman year it has been the most elusive spiritual discipline in my world.
Over the years I think I have subconsciously tried to assign fasting to the Old Testament rituals that were (or should have been anyway) nailed to the cross. Nevermind the fact that fasting is mentioned several times in the New Testament. For instance, Jesus fasted in the wilderness, Paul fasted for three days immediately following his conversion and the early church leaders fasted before they set apart Paul and Barnabas for the work of church planting.
Just to name a few.
My excuse has been that I’m the kind of guy that needs to understand why something works to deeply engage in it. For instance, I understand that if I don’t worship God then he is not as elevated in my life as he should be. I understand that if I don’t disciple new believers that I’ll be making converts not disciples. I get the fact that if I don’t share my faith that people miss out on the joy that is in Jesus.
I need to understand why and then I figure out how to get ‘er done! That’s just the way I roll.
This has been especially true with fasting. To be honest, I don’t understand how depriving myself of food for a meal, a day or any extended period of time can somehow make my prayers more effective. But, according to countless Scriptures, it sure seems to.
Even Jesus said as much when, referring to a pesky demon who would not be exorcized by his disciples, explained, “…this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting” Matthew 17:21.
Okay, so maybe I need to tamp down my western (“I’ve got to understand this first”) mindset and just trust God that, in the divine economy, the right kind of fasting, can somehow grease the skids for prayer to work more effectively.
Fasting helps us get in the no-soup-for-you line behind Moses, Daniel, David and countless others who chose to have their daily bread as God’s Word and their water as Jesus himself. In some way, which is well beyond my pay grade, fasting just works.
Although James 4:6-10 doesn’t deal with fasting directly perhaps it holds the principle that holds the key to it’s effectiveness,
“But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
Maybe when we fast we humble ourselves before God to let him know we’re so serious about our prayer request that we are pushing away from something our bodies crave (food) for something our spirit needs (Him.) Perhaps when we stop eating and start praying our hunger pains somehow trigger our soul pains which are uttered out with more clarity than we would have on a full stomach.
I don’t know why fasting works. I just know from the overwhelming amount of Scriptural evidence that it does work. It works to purify the soul of those who fast (when done in God’s power for God’s glory) and it works to accelerate and effectuate the answer to our prayers.
With that in mind I’m going to ask you to consider fasting and praying for a spiritual awakening in this country, starting with the youth and spreading to the adults! Pray with me that God accelerates THE Cause, His Cause across America! Pray that the power of His Spirit is unleashed in an Acts-like revival across the globe!
Even if we don’t quite know why it works let’s work at it together!