Fasting and Prayer Guide
Today, fasting is somewhat ritualistic. In some charismatic circles, it is done at the start of each year without fail. Some wonderful ministries that I know of fast for the first 21 days of the year. All this is admirable. I do question whether the essence of the fasting trickles down from the leadership to the congregation members and others who just fill the pews.
Nothing we do for the Lord should become ritualistic, just one other thing we need to tick off the list. Rituals tend to lose the heart that is meant to be behind what you are doing.
For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
The verse above is a great example of how easily believer tend to replace the desires of God with rituals. God desires sacrifice, but not at the expense of mercy. He desires burnt offerings, but not at the expense of knowledge of him. What is your fasting coming as a replacement of? You will recall that; reflection and self-examination are key components of this prayer course. Perhaps the best part to start would be identifying why it is that we fast.
WHY DO WE FAST?
The heart behind fasting is subduing one’s physical needs so that the spirit may be amplified. Rich or poor, most of us are defined by our means. We are defined by the food that we eat, the places that we go to and the sort of people that we keep around us. The heart of fasting is casting these aside and focusing on the Lord.
Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
The scripture above speaks of things that cannot be overcome by prayer alone, but by prayer coupled with fasting. Even Jesus’ ministry was preceded by time in the wilderness, a time of fasting and prayer. It was preceded by a time where he would be tempted on a weakness that his sacrifice in fasting had created. Fasting exposes ills in you. There is a constant tug between body and spirit, fasting strengthens the spirit man and subsides the body. It is better to be a man who has dominion over his own body than one that rules over nations.
If you consider that the body is temporary, while the spirit is eternal, you will make sense of why it is important to build longevity in spirit.
It is difficult to stay in tune with the Lord as well as to hear his voice above the noises of this world. The essence of fasting is, shutting out the world’s noises that you may hear from the Lord. You will not that fasting was often done in the wilderness. This would have been a way of physically separating oneself from all the day’s hassle. As a carpenter, I imagine, Jesus would have had some clients coming over to place orders, his mother would have needed a hand with something, but be withdrew himself from all of this, so he could be with the FATHER. Are you making time to withdraw yourself from everyday mundane, that you may be with the father?
The Lord is more concerned with the heart behind the actions, than the actions behind the heart. Actions can be faked, or done out of the wrong motive, but the heart tells all. If your heart is not in it, there is no point doing anything really. Your time should rather be invested in praying for the state of your heart.
Like most Christian things nowadays, the essence of fasting has been somewhat lost in believers’ goal to make it more mainstream. Although there are many factors behind this, one of the main attributes of this is the financial incentive that comes from filling our pews. If the people we want to bring in do not agree with some of the things that we don’t think are necessarily key to our faith, we start to compromise these things. This is what has in some ways happened to fasting.
We have become so caught up in names and types of fasting. The driving factor in most of the new variants is our desire to appease God while maintaining our comfort. There is a lack of the desire to sacrifice, which is the heart behind fasting.
“Sacrifice is the language of the spirit.”- Pastor Bonnie Deuschle.
You and I must not become too focused on ticking this ritualistic box, lest we lose the value and essence of fasting.
Types of fasting
Most fasting is governed by the duration that one would go without. These will range from:
- 6am till 6pm fasting (going without food between those hours).
- 3 Day fast (going for 72 hours without).
- 7 Day fast (gong for 162 hours without).
Biblical fasts noted Jesus as having fasted for 40 days. Other fasts recorded include queen Esther’s fast for the lives of her people, the fasts of several prophets. The common factor in these is sacrifice. A fast void of the sacrificial factor is not a fast at all. It doesn’t matter how long you do it for, sacrifice is key.
Current medical advice is that one should not go without water for over 7 days. It is possible to go without food longer. Again, if we are getting stuck on food, we are missing the point. Isaiah makes it clear what true fasting is.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say,
‘and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?’
“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.
4 Your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.
The scripture above explains exactly why some periods of so called fasting bear no results. Why are some periods of fasting and humility in seeking God not met with any results? Our relationships with other people are a key component of any fasting. True fasting starts in your own homes, in the workplace and every other place that you spend time. Often, people will fast and pursue God while they are simultaneous ill-treating others.
23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.
Scripture tells us that we cannot say we love God while we hate our brother. True fasting is a ministry of reconciliation. There is no point in fasting to make up with God while you are holding your loved ones at bay. There ought not be strife. Verse 4 of Isaiah 58, as shown above states “You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high.”
Consider your fasting for a moment. Remember, a key part of this prayer course is self-evaluation and reflection. It is very rare that anyone will tell you a deeper truth that you can tell yourself. At times, you must look in the mirror and show yourself where you are slacking. I believe that this is one of the key reasons why miracles are drying up in the Western world as they grow in the east. We have become so consumed with patriotism that we begin to hate our brothers and sisters from different races, faiths, denominations and so on; yet we still go before God in the name of fasting. How can we say we love God, and hate our brother?
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness[a] will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
11 The Lord will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
13 “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the Lord’s holy day honourable,
and if you honour it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
14 then you will find your joy in the Lord,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Fasting is casting our own ways away that we may walk in Christ, we walk like Christ in his fullness. Is your walk mirroring Christ at every turn? Fasting is taking time out to be intentional about our father’s business. Where you see yokes, you are going after them, to break them. Fasting is seeking out the broken that you may extend the hand of the Lord. You are a carrier of grace, are you walking and imparting it as you go? Wherever Jesus went, the presence of the Lord was encountered. That is a sign of fasting, becoming Jesus to the least among us. That food you are not eating today, take it and give it to the needy. Fasting is practical, as described above by the prophet Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah goes on to speak of the results that we are to expect from true fasting. Is it not time you and I began to truly fast?
Fasting has often been associated with the wilderness. This is where Jesus went off to be with God in fasting and prayer. This is where the prophet Elijah went, and more and more have done the same. What does the wilderness look like for you and I today? Today the wilderness is stepping out of routine that we may have become comfort and stuck in. The wilderness is shaking off our feet that have become stuck in the mud. We are called to be movers and shakers!
8 But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.
No disrespect to anyone, but Daniel’s fast should be viewed within the context in which it was done. Daniel fasted, by his refusal to defile himself. This was a move of obedience. Today, we have picked this as the “fast” of choice because it is easier on the body than a dry fast. We are a people after comfort, while trying to please a God who is after obedience and sacrifice. It worries me that we now have recipes for “Daniel’s fast”, adding pleasure to an act of sacrifice. Before we dive behind “grace”, let us never forget that grace does not take away the need for sacrifice and obedience.
Everything you do for the Lord should be viewed in the context of your heart’s condition in doing it, as well as what it costs you. King David would refuse to give God gifts that were of no cost to him. What is the cost of your gift to God?
I charge you, step out into true fasting!
Things to reconsider:
- The cost of your gift.
- Reconcile with your people.
- Step out.
- Find your wilderness.
- Forget comfort.
- Dont make it about food.
This post is a module that is part of our free prayer course.
Originally posted 2018-02-06 23:14:44.