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“You Want Me to Fast?”

Because prayer with fasting is not a usual practice in churches today, believers quickly shy away from it. Let me share with you some of the most common objections and questions people have about a spiritual fast.

“If I’m supposed to fast, why do I never hear about it at church?”
The Early Church followed in the footsteps of our Lord and the apostles with prayer and fasting. But by medieval times, fasting as a discipline came to be severely frowned upon.

“Does the Bible really say that we should fast?
Fasting is mentioned frequently in God's holy Word.1 Often it is associated with weeping and other acts of humility before God. For believers, then, the question is not “Should I fast?”, but “Will I fast?”

“But is fasting a commandment? Where does God make it clear that He requires us to fast today?”

This is a controversial issue. Theologians who believe in fasting differ. “Fasting,” argued Thomas Cartwright, “is an abstinence commanded of the Lord, to make solemn profession of our repentance.” “ John Brown, on the other hand, did not believe Christ commanded the practice but proceeded on the principle that the children of the kingdom would perform them.”2

“But isn't fasting practiced by ungodly religions?”
Fasting is not exclusive to Christianity. The discipline is found in all the major religions of the world. Zoroaster, Confucius, the Yogis of India, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle-even Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine-believed in fasting. But Christians are the only ones who fast unto the Creator God, the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Christians, therefore, are the only ones who can know the blessings of God that come from spiritual fasting.

“But I just don’t feel the need to fast!”
This may be an honest admission, but many believers who say this are at the same time calling out for spiritual guidance and power in their lives. By neglecting fasting and prayer, they are blocking a dynamic means by which the Holy Spirit brings the changes they so earnestly desire.

“I just don’t have the time!”
Time is a gift from God. Every second of every minute, every minute of every hour, twenty-four hours a day, belong to Him. Each of us has enough time to do what we believe is important.

“How does fasting ’unto the Lord’ benefit me spiritually?”
Many who write about the values of fasting point to increased effectiveness in intercessory prayer, deliverance from bondage, and guidance in decisions.

“Will God always answer and give me what I ask if I add fasting to my prayers?”
No. He will not always give you what you want just because you fast. We cannot barter with God. He only answers prayers that are in harmony with His will and purpose for our lives.

“Do I fast for blessings for myself or for someone else?”
Praying for ourselves and interceding for others are among the reasons we should fast and pray. But true spiritual fasting focuses on God. Our prayers bring results only when our hearts are pure and our motives are unselfish. And this can only take place if God and His holy Word are at the center of our attention.

“I’m thinking about fasting, but how do I know when I am supposed to do it?”
Some teach that you should always be led or prompted by the Holy Spirit to fast. But being “led” by the Spirit and "hearing” the Spirit is a highly subjective, personal area of the Christian life. Believers do not always "hear" accurately, especially if it is something they do not want to do. Once you learn the purpose and benefits of fasting, you are free to "proclaim” a fast whenever you sense the desire to draw close to God in a dynamic way or feel the need to seek special help from Him.

“Is it possible for a Christian to get ’caught up’ in fasting and go too far with it?”
We should think of spiritual fasting in terms of balance. More fasting does not automatically mean more spiritual benefits. Spiritual fasting is not a lifestyle in itself, although it should definitely be a part of your Christian walk.

“Do I need an organized plan for my fasting or a schedule to follow?”
In the final analysis, Christians are not under the Law of the Old Testament and the New Testament does not command fasting on certain days. As with what we eat (Romans 14), fasting is left up to us as a matter of faith.

“Should I consult my doctor before I fast?”
I recommend it. Unfortunately, many doctors have not been trained in this area and so their understanding is limited. There are certain persons who should never fast without professional supervision. The rule of thumb is this: If you have serious questions about your health, or if you are under a physician's care, you should consult your doctor before you abstain from food or change your diet.

“How does God want me to fast?”
“In Scripture the normal means of fasting involves abstaining from all food, solid or liquid, but not from water," says Richard Foster. “From a physical standpoint, this is usually what is involved in a fast.”3

The partial fast is described in the book of Daniel. Although the water fast seemed to be the custom of the prophet, there was a three-week period in which he only abstained from “delicacies” meat and wine (Daniel 10:3).

The Bible mentions two other fasts, the absolute and the supernatural absolute.4 These are total fasts, meaning no food-solid or liquid-and no water. But because of dehydration, I do not recommend these types of fasts. They can be dangerous to your health.

“What about work and normal duties? Should I take time off to fast?”
How long you fast, the kind of fast you undertake, and whether you adjust your work schedule depends mostly on your occupation. Persons with office jobs, pastors or housewives-unlike those who perform heavy manual labor-may naturally find it easier to continue their duties and fast longer periods of time.

“Will fasting ruin my health?”
This is a legitimate concern because of the limited teaching on the subject. But most nutritionists and health specialists who are knowledgeable about fasting can document hundreds, even thousands, of examples where fasting has been physically rejuvenating.5

*******
1. 1 Kings 21:9; Nehemiah 9:1; Esther 4:3; 9:31; Psalm 35:13; 109:24; Isaiah 58:3, 4, 6; Jeremiah 36:6, 9; Daniel 9:3; Joel 2:12; Matthew 4:2; 6:16, 18; Mark 2:18; Luke 2:37; Acts 13:2; 14:23.
2 David R. Smith, Fasting: A Neglected Discipline,(Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1969), p.21.
3. Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1988 (page 49).
4. Foster, p.49.
5. Lee Bueno, Fast Your Way to Health (Springdale, PA: Whitaker House, 1991), pp.85-86 and Paul C. Bragg, The Miracle of Fasting (Santa Barbara, CA, Health Science, n.d.), p.80.

[Excerpt from Chapter 8, The Coming Revival by Bill Bright]

Continue to “Preparing for Your Fast”

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