Why Fast And What Is It? (ATP)
What is fasting? Whenever we see fasting in the Bible we almost always see it connected with food. Typically it was done for at least a full day but in the case of Jesus, He fasted 40. Fasting was usually done for either mourning or when one was seeking God in prayer.
In our society fasting is used for many things, and not necessarily ones that relate to one another. Everything from discipline to weight loss, people may fast for many reasons. That culture inevitably gets into our minds and can create confusion. Before we talk about what fasting is in practice, we need to explore the purpose of it.
The flesh is loud, there is no doubt, and our society is rife with it. Many things in our society are designed to appeal to the flesh. Think of food advertisements that make you hungry or vacation advertisements with mostly naked and beautiful people. All are meant to draw you in by your desire with no consideration on thought. If you want someone to buy something from you, one of the most effective things you can do is entice them to want it without rationalizing it. The flesh is loud and the devil exploits this fact.
It’s no wonder then that God deals with the flesh in scripture so much. Galatians 5:17 tells us, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” If one desires to live God inspired spirituality, they will be in a battle with the flesh. The flesh will need to be subdued in order to allow the spirit to be heard. This is where fasting can be most useful.
What I find interesting is that fasting is a lot like prayer in scripture. We see examples of it but not a lot of instruction on the specifics of it. In fact other than Jesus saying, “this kind (of spirit) only comes out by prayer and fasting,” I am not aware of scripture that specifically directs us to do it or how. With that, we need to look at the principles of it.
Fasting does not move or change God, devils, or any other person. Fasting only affects the one who is not eating. Fasting has zero outward power and no spiritual magic. Fasting enables a person to more effectively yield themselves to His spirit. I remember as a young Christian I tried fasting many times to try and get something from God. God was the same after the fast was over as He was before it began and so was my situation. Fasting deals with the flesh, the individual’s flesh, and this is where it’s strength is.
All our answers to all our questions and problems are already known by God. In fact, I am convinced more as I go that the Bible is way more practical than we realize. It is in its basic form “instruction” in right living. More often than not our answers are found in what we can’t see, which is why God says about His own word to allow it to change our perspective. Our answers aren’t lofty, they are hidden and often the hiding place is our own desires and cravings. Fasting is an attack against what the flesh desires. Hunger is used as a metaphor so often for good reason. Hunger is a driving force that will push a person to do crazy things. When a person fasts, they make that flesh submit, and after a time to give up. When the flesh is silenced it enables you to more clearly hear in the spirit and yield to Him, and this is why it effective.
Fasting is like noise canceling headphones. When I am in a busy coffee shop and want to read without distraction I put on my headphones and press the noise canceling button. Suddenly, all I can hear is what’s in my ear, helping me to concentrate even when there’s tons of noise. Fasting silences the flesh. It’s in that place that helps you focus on God’s still small voice.
Now, though fasting in scripture is almost always done with food there is at least one other example I know of that is not food. I am not going to go into what that is because it would take at least another Faith Fix and without instruction could be very damaging. The reason I even bring it up is because I do believe there are fasts that do not involve food. I believe however, that there should be more instruction before one partakes.
I am giving an overview on this. There are a lot of things that should be considered when fasting and I would encourage a person to reach out to spiritual authority on help in the matter if they desire to do this. It can be very beneficial to your prayer life if you would add it in, but it should be done wisely. If someone thinks that they should start fasting or they are just more curious it would be a great thing to sit with your pastor either in a group or individually and have a discussion about it.