Someone has said, “Prayer connects you to heaven and fasting disconnects you from earth.” In a certain way that’s true. When we combine fasting with prayer something powerful happens. Most prayer warriors in Scripture and in history discovered this truth for themselves. Now it’s our turn.
What Is Fasting?
In the Greek New Testament the word “fasting” is easy to understand. The literal translation is “no eat.” In the Hebrew Old Testament the word “fasting” is even more direct. The most literal translation is “shut mouth.” Fasting is the practice of refraining from food for a period of time specifically for the purpose of drawing near to God.
Moses fasted. Elijah and Daniel, Joel and Nehemiah, Ezra and thousands of others fasted in the Old Testament. Then in New Testament times Jesus fasted, John the Baptist and his followers fasted. Paul and Barnabas and the early church fasted and God blessed each of them as a result. Fasting is part of our walk with God.
Jesus expects His followers to fast. In His most famous sermon, Jesus said, “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-18) Twice in those 3 verses on fasting, Jesus said “When you fast…” He didn’t say “if you fast”, He said “When you fast…” Jesus expects us to fast.
Later, His critics challenged Him because His disciples were not fasting even though the disciples of John the Baptist did fast. Jesus’ answer, as always, was revealing. He told the critics His disciples were like friends celebrating with the groom at a wedding party. Who would expect them to fast at a time like that? He then added, however, “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.” (Mark 2:20) We are now living in the period when the bridegroom has been “taken away” and Jesus said, “… then they will fast.” They will fast. The “then” is now. The “they” is us. Jesus didn’t say they might fast. He said they will fast. Jesus expects His followers to fast until the bridegroom returns!
How to Fast
Fasting isn’t as difficult as we think since we are able to train and discipline our appetites. The key to denying your physical hunger is feeding your soul. Prayer and Bible study replace food when you fast.
To learn to fast, try skipping one meal. In the time you would have spent eating, read the Bible and pray. Feed your soul. Remember, fasting is not dieting. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that accompanies prayer. Prayer is often mentioned in Scripture without fasting but fasting in Scripture is almost never mentioned apart from prayer.
After you’ve made it through one meal, the next week build up to missing two meals so you can pray, read more of the word, and worship. Soon, you will learn how to spend an entire day fasting and it will seem easier as you do it more.
If you will drink plenty of water while you’re fasting it helps curb the appetite and of course will keep you feeling more refreshed. Avoid sugar drinks but 100% fruit or vegetable juice in moderation will help sustain you during longer fasts. You will be surprised how energetic and alert you will feel as you fast and pray.
God’s Word will spring to life in your mind and spirit as you read chapter after chapter, all the while seeking God’s face when fasting. Prayer will seem more spontaneous and faith will rise up inside you.
If you have to follow a medical diet you should check with your doctor before attempting a long fast. If you must eat something in order to take daily medications, or for some other reason, you might consider a type of “Daniel fast”. He fasted from only certain rich, tasty foods and lived on a small controlled diet for a few weeks. If you must eat for medical reasons, could you do a “fruit fast” one day where all you eat is a small amount of fresh fruit? Because our bodies are so accustomed to large portions and variety, you can still get the benefits of fasting even if you ate an apple instead of a large meal.
No matter how you approach the fast, the key is Bible reading with prayer. Try fasting and as you discipline your body you will discover a deeper walk with God and more faith in your prayers! You can do it.