No More Unanswered Prayers! The Key to Igniting Your Prayer Life
Fasting is something that is rarely acknowledged in our culture, unless in the context of medicine or dieting. Even among the Church, fasting isn’t something that is widely talked about, leaving even long-time Christians confused as to what, exactly, it is.
So, what is fasting? Fasting is an incredibly powerful spiritual discipline that, when done correctly, can have a momentous effect on our spiritual life (as well as on our bodies).
A quick Google search brings up a wealth of information on the physical benefits of fasting. As it turns out, fasting on occasion can actually be extremely good for the body. Fasting boosts metabolism, which is especially good news for those struggling to lose weight. It may also have positive effects on blood sugar, cardiovascular health, and neurological health. Studies have even shown fasting to have a protective effect against cancer and other diseases.
Fasting doesn’t only have physical benefits, however. In fact, that is not its primary focus at all. It is primarily (and most importantly) potent in the spiritual realm. Throughout the Bible, there are many examples of people fasting as a sign of devotion to God. Consider Joel 2:12: “’Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.’”
In this passage, God is speaking to the nation of Israel. For them, fasting was a time of sincere reflection. It was a time to repent and turn away from sin and acknowledge the great mercy of God. Fasting was marked by prayer and worship; and so it is today.
Perhaps the reason fasting is so powerful is because it removes our focus from this world and our problems, and sets it on eternal things: “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). In Matthew 4:4, Jesus says, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
When we fast, we become acutely aware of how weak and fragile we are. We realize just how dependent we are on God for everything in life. Fasting is a symbolic demonstration that we are not held captive by the “god of our stomach” — our need for food. Rather, the Word of God (and our relationship with Him) is sufficient for us.
One thing Jesus warns us not to do when fasting is to make a show of it. Matthew 6:16-18 states, ““When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
In Jesus’ time, the Pharisees and religious leaders would sometimes go out in public and boast about their fasting, to show that they were holier than everyone else. But according to Jesus, fasting should always be done in a spirit of complete reverence and humility (James 4:10).
Fasting is a unique and mystifying experience that helps restore us spiritually (and physically!). While fasting too regularly could become unhealthy for some, not to mention diminish the sacredness of the event, the occasional fast is a great (and much needed) reset for our mind, body and soul. Fasting is not a legalistic rite that we must perform to get God’s attention. Rather, it is a powerful tool God has given us to get ours.
Written by Meisha Johnson