Mathew 9: 14 - 15 reads: 14 One day the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and asked him, “Why don’t your disciples fast[a] like we do and the Pharisees do?” 15 Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests mourn while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.
The dictionary explains 'SOMEDAY as 'some unspecified time in the future'. From the verses above, it is safe to say that the unspecified time would be when the groom (Jesus Christ) will no longer be with the guests (his people).
Mathew 6:16 - 17 reads: 16 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get.
The dictionary explains 'WHEN' as 'the time or in the event that' So it is safe to say that 'when' in the verse above means that the time WILL come for the need for us to fast.
Fasting it seems, is one of the most neglected spiritual disciplines in the life of most Christians. The bible does not specifically command us to fast, however, prayer backed up with fasting can bring forth tremendous changes in our lives. Sometimes, fasting and prayer is the simple, yet powerful combination we need to bring forth a breakthrough; to release strongholds, and to bring us that much closer to God, so much so that we can feel his very breath on our faces.
Fasting helps to take our focus off the things of this world and focus on God. When we fast, it brings us closer to living out the realities of 2 Chronicles 7:14, which reads : "Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land".
Why is that so you ask? Fasting helps us to see who we really are, it brings forth repentance and confession of sin, making us humble before God. When we fast we are stirred up to simply seek God's face. So what are the Bible's guidelines on fasting? Isaiah 58:6 - 9 presents the perfect guidelines. It reads (NLT):
6 “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. 7 Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
8 “Then your salvation will come like the dawn, and your wounds will quickly heal. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. 9 Then when you call, the Lord will answer. ‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression. Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
Isn't that awesome, this passage explains the shape and nature of the type of fast we should embrace. It teaches us that when we fast, we should:
- embrace the spirit of forgiveness - verse 6 which reads "Release yourself and those who have wronged you into forgiveness
- Share with the hungry - verse 7. When we fast, we should always remember those who are less fortunate than us, for example the day we fast, we should find someone to help in any way,shape or form - we can donate our money, time, food, and much more. We should be helpful
But guess what? It does not stop there, the passage goes on to further explain the benefits and blessings we WILL receive from God, when we fast (it really is for our benefit to fast isn't it?)
- Vs 8 boldly declares that "our salvation will come like the dawn" Hallelujah - salvation means "to be preserved or delivered from destruction, difficulty, or evil.
- Verse 8 also says "our godliness will lead us forward" . To be godly means that 'we conform to the laws and wishes of God', which means that we will be lead constantly and daily by God. Isn't that awesome?.
- Verse 8 further declares that "the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind". As we go about our daily business, the devil is busy throwing arrows at us from all angles, front back and sides, and we do need God's constant protection on all sides. He knows what the devil is up to and so he protects us from all sides.
- Verse 9 proudly states "then when you call, the Lord will answer" - now tell me, how much do you really need to hear God's voice in that matter that is so close to your heart.
Now won't you agree with me that, the blessings that comes from fasting is nothing compared to depriving ourselves of the world's comforts; food, tv, magazines and much more.
So how do I fast, I hear you ask? Well there are various types of fast one can undertake (for medical reasons, please do consult your doctor before embarking on one).
Some fasting methods are:
Normal Fast: This is a no food fast and only water is allowed. Jesus set an example as we read in Matthew 4:1-4 -"Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."
Absolute Fast: This is a no food, no water fast. (this should only be undertaken if you have a clear directive from the Lord and are in good health and monitored). An example of an absolute fast in the bible can be found in Ezra 10:6 -Then Ezra left the plaza in front of The Temple of God and went to the home of Jehohanan son of Eliashib where he stayed, still fasting from food and drink, continuing his mourning over the betrayal by the exiles.
Partial fast: This fast requires abstinence from certain kinds of foods (e.g. no meat, fish, sweets, e.t.c). An example of a partial fast can be found in the book of Daniel 10:2-3, it reads "During those days, I, Daniel, went into mourning over Jerusalem for three weeks. I ate only plain and simple food, no seasoning or meat or wine. I neither bathed nor shaved until the three weeks were up."
Juice fast: This type of fast has emerged in recent times, and usually embraced for weight loss. It involves consuming fruits and vegetables only. It is a form of partial fast.
When fasting, one should fast as the Holy spirit directs, the above is just a summary of the types of fasting methods one could follow.
At my place of worship, every year, the month of June is set aside for fasting and praying (I know right in the middle of summer! all those bbq's). We are encouraged to come together in unity and fast and pray as one body for 30 awesome days; to go deeper and Higher into the presence of God. Personally, I can tell you that God works wonders from the very first day of that month and beyond.
So, here is me inviting you to join us on this journey of going 'deeper and higher' into the presence of the most high father. An expectant and receptive spirit is all you need on your part.
Have an awesome time in fasting and praying, whilst presenting a sacrifice of praise; not forgetting to make the most high God famous along the way.