5 R’s: #4 Resolute Fasting
I will tell you why I started fasting. I had prayed for a long time that God would show me how to take my relationship with Him to the next level, and He kept telling me to fast through different means. Suddenly, I started noticing how much the Bible talks about fasting, and even Jesus talks as if we are supposed to fast.
But I didn’t want to fast. “Lord, isn’t there another way? Can’t I go on a mission trip, or sell my favorite jewelry and give the money to the poor, or give away my firstborn…something else?”
So I told God, if He REALLY meant for me to fast, He was going to have to speak very clearly on the matter. I love my food and I needed solid, unquestioning feedback on this matter before I would even consider it.
Shortly–much too shortly–after that request, I was getting ready to read my Bible one morning for my quiet time and I asked my daughter to go get my Bible for me on my night table. She was nine at the time. When she came back and handed it to me, my eyes bugged out. My Bible is a Daily Bible (same as the One Year Bible on resource page) that I got at a women’s conference event with Becky Tirabassi in 2000. It says, “Change Your Life” on the front cover. At some point since my last reading the day before, my daughter had randomly stuck a sticker on the cover of my Bible…right above the “Change Your Life.” The sticker, off a children’s activity sheet and meant to convey speed, said, “Fast.” So…Change your life…fast! Does it get any clearer than that? So started my “fast adventure.”
I admit, when I started fasting, I had a lot of big needs and prayer requests in my life at the time. I thought that as soon as I started fasting, “POOF” all my prayers would be answered immediately. Isn’t that why God led me to fast, I reasoned?
No. But this I had to learn. Over time, I have learned why God wanted me to begin fasting. The ultimate goal of fasting is not to get God to behave and do what I want Him to do. He’s not a cosmic vending machine where I insert quarter, select the item, and hold out my hand in eager expectation.
Fasting is about making God the center. It’s about God changing me, whether or not my circumstances change right away. It’s about becoming more intimate and in tune with God as I cut myself away from my flesh and the world in order to be set apart for Him. I have noticed that God has used regular fasting in my life to show me areas where I’m being controlled by other things, to break my strongholds (not overnight), to transform me to be more like Jesus, to soften my heart to my own sin (yes, it brings about a repentant heart), to reveal His purpose for my life and open doors of ministry, to make me more aware of His presence and speaking into my life, and I have even noticed that my prayers in general truly are more effective.
Now, about the things I began fasting for in the first place, some of them are still as yet unchanged in my human perspective, but I believe that in His timing those things are going to be changed as well. Not because I made God fall in line with my prayers and fasting, but because through the course of the last six years of fasting, God has revealed to me that, at the right time, He will indeed answer those prayers when His purposes have been accomplished and the time is right.
I have to say, it has been a great journey for me. I feel sad that more believers don’t want to take up this great discipline, now that I see how much good has come from it. But I also understand how hard it is in the beginning. I REALLY didn’t want to give up food in any capacity when I started, which is EXACTLY WHY I needed to adopt this amazing practice.
Remember this. When you fast, God notices. God shows up. Things happen in your life. You begin to learn more about the heart of God. You begin to see things you never saw. Life gets exciting!!! Fasting is feasting-feasting on the very Word and presence of God. If you want an exciting devotion and prayer life, there is no greater way than to begin the discipline of fasting. It sounds like a huge cost but it’s so very small in comparison to the results. But this is all something you have to discover for yourself–no one but you can learn the benefits by taking the first step of fasting and then watching God show up the way He does.
A word of warning. Do not fast if you are just doing it to get something. God has had to purify my motives in this so many times. I’ll get discouraged because nothing is changing that I am praying for. And God will remind me that the answer to my prayer is not the goal. An intimate relationship with Him is the goal and if I will give up making it about me, I will get filled up. Only when I make it about Him and forget the benefits, do I find the reward–His presence! This is a very hard part of fasting for me–keeping my motives pure.
Is fasting for everyone?
In my humble opinion and based on what I see in God’s Word, fasting is for everyone who wants to: A. begin an authentic repentance process for sin, B. take their intimacy with God to the next level, and C. deepen/strengthen their prayer life.
Joel 2:12-13 “‘Even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.’ Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity.”
Matthew 6:1-18 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, who try to look pale and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I assure you, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will suspect you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in secret. And your Father, who knows all secrets, will reward you.”
What can I expect from fasting?
Truthfully, not much at first. That’s not because God isn’t working or listening, but because fasting isn’t (usually) a quick fix or a way to make God do what you want Him to do right away. He still has His own plan and His own time, but fasting is a way for you to show God you are serious about seeking Him and His help. This discipline will help you discover His plan and your part in it. From my own experience, here are a few things you can expect to happen over time from fasting (not all inclusive but from my own discovery).
- Increased awareness of my own shortcomings and idols
- Growing desire to change and have intimacy with God
- Feelings of repentance
- Greater character growth, inner change, and liberation from sin (over time)–especially in areas that were seemingly unchangeable before
- Help lining up my will with God’s will
- Increased awareness of God and His work in my life
- Increased understanding and application of God’s Word
- Purified motives in coming to God to feast on Him and not what He can do for me
- Increased understanding of the big picture of what God is doing around me
- More powerful intercessory prayers/answers
- Increased compassion and concern for suffering people in the world
- Growing sense of my individual, unique, and exciting purpose in this world and growing opportunities to live it
Remember, fasting is not as much about changing your circumstances as it is about changing you. While that might not sound very motivating at first, it is amazing how much passion, purpose, and fulfillment comes through this discipline, because what really needs to be fixed first is you, and God longs to begin healing you from the inside out. Making spiritual fasting a part of your lifestyle will help you begin to actually understand why you are alive on this planet, and it will give you the wholeness and passion to begin feeling and being fully alive!
How do I fast?
The best place to start is by reading a great book on the subject (I’m sure there are others but this is my favorite), “God’s Chosen Fast ” by Arthur Wallis. This book is NOT boring, the chapters are short, and it will inspire you to start fasting as soon as tomorrow!
There are basically three kinds of fasts:
Total fasts (no water or food). Note: These are not ever recommended for more than three days and should only be done at the SURE prompting of God.
Partial fasts. These are the most varied. You can decide to drink only juices, or only eat fruits and vegetables. You could also fast a particular type of food like all sweets, or whatever is a temptation for you.
Traditional fasts (water only).
As always, to ward off a law suit for my or Arthur, before you begin fasting consult your doctor and make sure you are in the right physical condition to do so.
Beyond that, I can tell you that I’ve only fasted as I’ve been led by the Holy Spirit (which is quite a lot). I feel a need or prompting to do a fast, and it is usually specific as to what and how long. I’ve done all kinds of different fasts. One day a week fasts (water only) for almost two years (skip two meals, eating dinner one night and then waiting until dinner the next night). 40 day fasts for sweets of any kind, 3 day fasts (water only), 30 -40 day fasts of vegetables, fruit, and water only, and on one occasion a lengthy water-only fast. The only way I have been able to carry out the fasts that have been impressed upon me is by God’s sustaining power. I couldn’t have done them on my own initiation or power. When you are ready to take this step of faith and self-denial, ask God and He will help you know what to do through your prayers. But make sure you read the book-it is very helpful!