Christian Fasting and the Power of Biblical Fasts
Is there an area of your life about which you’ve prayed but have yet to see victory? If so, let me ask if you’ve combined fasting with your prayers. Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 17:21 that some things only come through prayer and fasting. So what is so special about fasting?
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4).
I once taught a Bible series entitled, “Our weapons of warfare,” based on 2 Corinthians 10:3-4. In that series, I taught that fasting was one of the weapons Christians have to defeat satan's attacks. God gave to His children power through fasting to wage battle for His kingdom. Unfortunately, many people didn’t know or understand that fasting was indeed a powerful weapon.
“But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21).
Is there an area of your life about which you’ve prayed but have yet to see victory? If so, let me ask if you’ve combined fasting with your prayers. Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 17:21 that some things only come through prayer and fasting.
So what is so special about fasting?
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What Is Biblical Fasting?
“Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it for bowing one’s head like a reed and for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed? Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the Lord? Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke?” (Isaiah 58:5-6)
On the surface, fasting is abstinence from food and drink. However, when we dig deeper, we see fasting is much more than that. According to Isaiah 58:5-6, a day of fasting is a day in which we humble ourselves before God and seek Him to loose bonds of wickedness, undo chains, give freedom to the oppressed, and to break every yoke. No matter which snares we may be trapped in, a day of fasting can set us free.
Fasting isn't only powerful on an individual level, it's powerful for families, communities, and countries. Imagine what would happen if the entire U.S. population came together for a corporate fast. Imagine the miraculous work God could perform on behalf of our citizens. We could see bonds and yokes of sin and oppression broken once and for all.
Let's take a look at just a few fasts in the Bible. Perhaps from these examples, we will be encouraged to fast for our brothers and sisters-in-Christ, and for unbelievers.
Fasting Helps Us Hear from the Lord
“So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.” (Exodus 34:28 KJV)
When Moses needed to hear clearly and concisely from God, he abstained from food and drink forty days and forty nights. Is there something about which you need instruction and wisdom from the Lord? Perhaps you're facing a life-changing decision and need to know God's will. If you need to hear from the Lord, I highly recommend fasting. Fasting humbles you (your will, agenda, and wants) so you can hear from God.
Fasting Breaks Bondage to Sin
“I fell down before the Lord, as at the first, forty days and nights; I neither ate bread nor drank water, because of all your sin which you had committed in doing what was evil in the sight of the Lord to provoke Him to anger.” (Deuteronomy 9:18)
Fasting also helps us break free from sin’s hold on our lives and the lives of others. If there’s a particular sin from which you want to break free, or if someone else desires to break free from a specific sin, fasting can help. It is God's will that we walk in liberty. Blatant, presumptuous sin prevents us from walking in liberty. Humbling yourself before God in a fast will break sin's hold on our lives.
Fasting Is a Petition to God
“David therefore inquired of God for the child; and David fasted and went and lay all night on the ground… Then his servants said to him, 'What is this thing that you have done? While the child was alive, you fasted and wept; but when the child died, you arose and ate food.' He said, 'While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, 'Who knows the Lord may be gracious to me, that the child may live.'" (2 Samuel 12:16, 21-22)
When the son David had with Bathsheba was sick, David fasted, hoping God would heal the baby. David's actions teach us that sometimes, fasting is a powerful tool in petitioning God on behalf of our loved ones. Humbling ourselves before the Lord while praying for healing and deliverance is powerful. It shows faith, trust, and dependence upon God. Thus, if you or someone you know is facing a serious illness, fasting may bring healing.
Fasting Is a Spiritual Weapon
“Jehoshaphat was afraid and turned his attention to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.” (2 Chronicles 20:3)
Fasting is a spiritual weapon when we need the Lord’s help. When enemies are approaching or are surrounding us, we must seek the Lord through prayer and fasting. We don't have to run and hide from the enemy. We don't have to let our fear get the best of us. Indeed, fasting brings God's protection, provision, and help. Fast your way through afflictions, hardships, obstacles, and opposition.
Fasting Is Humbling Ourselves before God
“Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions… So we fasted and sought our God concerning this matter, and He listened to our entreaty.” (Ezra 8:21, 23)
Fasting goes hand-in-hand with humbling ourselves before God. We're human, and we're used to leaning on our own understanding. Fasting humbles us before God and shows that we trust Him and are leaning upon Him. Ezra proclaimed a fast to humble the people and to seek God for a safe journey. We need to remember to fast for the same reasons.
Fasting Seeks God's Favor and Protection
“Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16)
Esther needed King Ahasuerus’ help. However, it was against Persian law for her to go before the king unannounced. She needed divine favor. Thus, Esther asked the Jews to fast three days and nights along with her maids and herself. Esther found favor in the king’s sight, which resulted in the death of her enemy, and her people were saved from destruction. When we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place, when it seems as though the odds are stacked against us, or we need God's favor, fast. God is "...able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us" (Ephesians 3:20).
Fasting Protects Us from Temptation
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said...” (Matthew 4:1-3)
While I caution anyone seeking to fast forty days and nights, there’s no denying fasting is an effective weapon in combatting and overcoming temptation. If you’ve been struggling with the temptation of a particular sin and genuinely desire to break free from its grip, fasting will help. Again, fasting humbles us before God, causing us to depend upon His strength even more. No sin or temptation is greater than God. Thus, seeking His strength through fasting and prayer equips us powerfully against temptation and sin.
Do you use all the spiritual weapons at your disposal? How often do you fast? If you're not fasting consistently, you haven't tapped into one of the most powerful weapons in your spiritual arsenal. Fasting is powerful because it destroys the works of the devil, and releases God’s blessings and favor on your life.
Fast consistently and intentionally. Humble yourself and seek the Lord. God may use your day of fasting to change not only your life but the lives of those around you.
Aretha Grant serves her local church as a bible teacher and elder. She loves writing and is the author of Overcomer: 25 Keys to Walking Victoriously. Aretha resides in Hagerstown, MD with her husband and two youngest children. You can read Aretha’s blog at www.arethagrant.com.