God has given each of us a powerful tool to use in order to increase our effectiveness in prayer, our spiritual power, and our ability to know God’s will. All believers can multiply their effectiveness in prayer by utilizing the discipline of fasting. Many people ask, why should we fast? The Word of God gives us many insights into why and so here are five of them for you to consider.
We fast in obedience to Jesus’ teaching.
If you’re a follower of Christ, you will fast. Jesus didn’t say IF you fast but rather WHEN you fast (Matt. 6:16-18). It’s a tool God has given us to increase our spiritual power and help us communicate more intimately with God. So at the most basic level, we fast because Jesus said so. But if he called us to fast there must be some powerful benefits associated to this discipline.
We fast to demonstrate our dependence upon God.
There are many ways we can demonstrate our humility before God, but choosing to go without food for the sake of spiritual things is one of the more practical ways (James 4:10). That physical urge is a test when you’re fasting. Will you do what your flesh is urging you to do, or will you rely upon God for his strength? Fasting is a very tangible way to teach our minds and our bodies that we do not have to gratify the urges of our bodies. We can say “No” when our body calls for food. When we do this, we demonstrate to God that we are His, and that we are more needful of his righteousness, of his power, of his wisdom, of His direction, rather than physical nourishment.
We fast to demonstrate repentance from sin and to pray for others who need to repent.
Jonah, story is told of prophet Jonah receiving instructions to take a message to his arch-enemies the Ninevites (Jonah 3:5-10). Jonah eventually obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh and proclaimed God’s message of judgment. The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them—from the greatest to the least—participated. So God relented from sending judgment.
It is one thing to pray, “Lord I’m sorry for what I’ve done.” It is something else to deprive yourself of food and plead with God for him to have mercy upon you for the sins you’ve committed against him. Such a fast is called for in situations where you or I face a sin that constantly ensnares us. If we are willing to pay the price of fasting and praying, we can know deliverance from that sin, and the joy that follows! A decision to fast in such a situation demonstrates to God that we are truly serious about our repentance, and that we sincerely long for new life in that area.
Sometimes fasting is necessary on behalf of others who need the mercy of God in their lives. Daniel and Nehemiah were great men of God fasted and prayed for God to relent from his judgment upon the people of Judah. (See Daniel 9 and Nehemiah 1.) So there is something we can do to “turn up the power” in our prayers for people or situations that so desperately need the touch of God.
We fast to receive God’s wisdom and direction.
Leaders of the early church fasted and prayed to God for wisdom about how to proceed as a church (Acts 13:1-3). The Apostles demonstrated to God that they needed the power of the Holy Spirit to guide their decision making. They disciplined their bodies in order to hear more clearly from God and in order to set apart these new leaders with spiritual power. When we need wisdom we should use the gift of fasting, which will focus our minds upon whatever situation we’re praying about. Pray for God to speak, ask him to reveal his will—and then we wait!
We fast to receive deliverance in times of crisis.
“... we do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.” —2 Chronicles 20:12
This expresses the heart of someone who is facing a crisis and endeavors to fast and pray for God to bring deliverance. When the diagnosis is bad news; when our nation is at a crisis point like an election or because of calamity; when our family is facing a crisis; these are times for fasting. To go beyond our normal routines of prayer and determine that we need to have God’s intervention in our lives much more than we need food.
It is important to note, however, that fasting is not a “magic” way to make our prayers get answered, or to somehow force God into answering our prayers a certain way. God cannot be coerced. We may still have to go through the difficult circumstance, but the more we are willing to fast and pray through the process, the more we will be rewarded with the power and the presence of God to strengthen us and give us faith for the journey.
So, as we entire this final week of our 21-Day fasting and prayer time, if you have not yet joined us in this journey, plan to participate this week. God has provided us with a tool for intensifying our communication with Him and unleashing the power of God in our lives!