REASONS TO FAST
Fasting is the willful abstinence from food. In the Bible, believers would fast and pray for many reasons, chief among them to demonstrate remorse for sin, to show their hunger for God, and to humble themselves before their God.
Fasting and Repentance
The Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and having dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the wickedness of their fathers. They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the LORD their God. – Nehemiah 9:1-3
“Fasting in the biblical sense is choosing not to partake of food because your spiritual hunger is so deep, you determination in intercession so intense… that you have temporarily set aside even fleshly needs to give yourself to prayer and meditation.” – Wesley L. Duewel
In the Old Testament, when Israel was convicted of their sins, they would not only confess their sin with their mouths, but they would demonstrate remorse by fasting. However, God reminds us that He will not forgive those who fast and do not repent of their wickedness (Isaiah 58:4-5). God is not pleased by our fasting unless it is in conjunction with a penitent heart and a willful obedience
When combining fasting with repentance, we are acknowledging our sin before God and confessing that we are destitute without Christ. We recognize that fasting does not merit us any amount of righteousness, for our righteousness comes from Christ alone (Eph 2:8).
Fasting and Our Hunger for God
“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. -Joel 2:12-13
“Fasting helps cultivate that spiritual hunger by forcing the hunger issue on us and making us ask if we really do hunger for God.” – John Piper
Fasting helps express, deepens, confirms the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything, even ourselves, to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God. – Andrew Murray
Fasting is the willful abstinence from food in order to devote more time for prayer. Fasting increases the quantity of time we have in prayer. However, we do not fast to merely increase the quantity of our time in prayer, but it is an act of worship, for in our fasting, we are choosing to sacrifice our comfort so that we can spend more time with God. Therefore, fasting is an act of worship where we show God (and the world and ourselves) how supremely valuable and precious Jesus is to us.
Fasting and Humility
There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask Him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. – Ezra 8:21
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 will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. – 2 Chronicles 7:14
“Perhaps the greatest hindrance to our work is our own imagined strength; and in fasting we learn what poor, weak creatures we are – dependent on a meal of meat for the little strength which we are so apt to lean upon.” – James Hudson Taylor
Ezra proclaimed a fast so that the Israelites would humble themselves before God. In the Bible, God commands Christians to humble ourselves (1 Pet 5:6). Sanctification is a joint effort between the Holy Spirit and us (Eph 4:22-24). We are responsible for asking the Spirit to work humility in us and for living in a way where we humble ourselves.
Fasting is an activity that leads to greater humility. Fasting exposes our neediness and dependence. It gives us a lower and more proper view of ourselves, and ultimately, leads us to depend more on God.
God’s promise is that when we humble ourselves, He will answer us (2 Chr 7:14) and give grace to us (Pro 3:34). Therefore, let’s take this opportunity to humble ourselves before our Master so that we can experience His goodness and providence.
- What are the sins that God is asking me to repent of? How will fasting encourage repentance?
- What obstacles are preventing me from having a deep hunger for God? What do I need to change to help remove these obstacles?
- How has my pride prevented me from experiencing the goodness of God? How can a regular habit of fasting lead to greater humility and dependence on God?