The Bible says you can supercharge your prayers through the neglected discipline of fasting. Biblical fasting has two main purposes. First, it expresses your deep sorrow and mourning for sin. Second, it shows that you are serious about seeking God. They are the two reasons why fasting is linked to prayer. It is not enough for you just to fast. Your fasting must be mixed with prayer. The prayer and fasting mixture is a powerful spiritual weapon – which is why in the Bible the people of God fasted at times of crisis.
Fasting expresses sorrow
Fasting can be your natural reaction to shocking news, but it can also go much further. It is a way of expressing your deep sorrow to God. In Nehemiah’s day, the walls of Jerusalem were broken and the city was derelict. The Scriptures say that Nehemiah sat down and wept when he learnt that God’s heritage was in ruins. He mourned, fasted and prayed for several days. This was clearly a time of prophetic mourning. We too can mourn spiritually for ourselves, for our church and for our nation.
Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4
Biblical fasting is often linked with mourning for sin and humbling before God. This is implied in a famous passage on repentance. “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways. Then I will hear form heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land” 2 Chronicles 7:14
The phrase “humble themselves’ refers to fasting. It means “humble yourself by fasting’. The Bible never tells us to ask God to humble us. We are always told to humble ourselves. “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He will lift you up.” James 4:10 When we do fully humble ourselves, God hears us and lifts us up. He always pours His grace on the humble! Hallelujah! “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6 Fasting is showing God just how serious you are in wanting His will established in your life.
Fasting shows sincerety
The physical discipline of going without food brings health benefits. But the spiritual power of fasting does not lie in the act of denying ourselves food. God is not moved by such techniques! You should not stop eating to try to force a blessing from God. Remember, fasting is not a spiritual hunger strike. Instead, fast to show God that you are serious about seeking Him. Fasting demonstrates to Him that you really do mean spiritual business.
When you fast, you say to God, “Father, right now, seeking you is more important to me than anything else. It is even more important to me than food for my body.’ This means that fasting is almost a by-product of seeking God. It is you deep sincerity with God that gets your prayers heard. Your fasting is a sign that you are spiritually single-minded, provided, of course, that you are fasting with pure motives.
Fasting with godly motives
In Isaiah’s time, the people of God had reduced fasting to a ritual, to a spiritual technique. They believed that they could control God by their fasting. They thought that their religious ritual kept God happy and made Him answer their prayers. But Isaiah announced God’s shocking news: “You will not fast as you do this day, to make your voice heard on high. Is it a fast that I have chosen, a day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast and an acceptable day to the Lord?” Isaiah 58:4-5 They were pleasing themselves, not God.
Fasting can be abused. You must ensure that your fasting is not a religious ritual; that it is not a legalistic duty and not a stupid attempt to impress people with an outward display of spirituality. The Bible condemns these. “When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” Matthew 6:16
While condemning false forms of fasting Isaiah also commended true fasting. “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed to free, and that you break every yoke?” Isaiah 58:6 This is the fasting that God seeks. It must accompany a lifestyle of prayer and practical caring for the needs of others. Can you see that God seeks the mixture of prayer with giving and with fasting? “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?” Isaiah 58:6
Fasting which gets answers must be triggered by the Holy Spirit. This means that you don’t decide for yourself when to fast! The Spirit must lead you! The prompting of the Spirit may come suddenly, in response to an urgent need. It may also come as a command to set aside particular times for seasons of fasting before the Lord. If the Holy Spirit does not direct your fasting, it will be totally fruitless.
Fasting achieves breakthroughs
Biblical fasting can bring about great spiritual breakthrough. It can sharpen your ministry, release revelation, and unloose great spiritual power. Through fasting, God manifests His presence and releases His divine authority.
Jesus fasted while He fought Satan in the wilderness. The early Church fasted before major decisions and during special seasons of ministry. Throughout the Bible, fasting often comes before a time of revelation and leads to a great deliverance or victory.
If you are serious about offering prayers which get answers, you will mix fasting with your prayers. But you must take care that you fast only for godly reasons, only for God’s will, only when He directs you and that you mix your fasting with practical caring for the needy.