"WHY" We Fast
To fast, is to experience God. Many leaders in the Bible fasted, such as Daniel, David…all the way to Jesus, Peter and Paul. In modern times, there are known medical benefits to fasting, one example being detoxifying the body. Without a spiritual purpose, however, fasting may easily become a burdensome, self-serving experience.
Spiritual fasting is about prioritizing God over other activities, idols and any drivers which prevent deeply interacting with God. These distractions to this point have only served to strengthen the flesh. We abstain from such things during a fast, including food, and in its place, practices worship, prayer, and mental focus upon spiritual matters. In the New Testament, fasting literally referred to emptying oneself.
Donald S. Whitney, in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, described fasting as a need to move beyond legalism. For a moment in time, we lay down those things which beset us, bind us into one mold, and simply come to know God better. Jesus pointed out that some things only occur, such as a dynamic spiritual warfare, through prayer and fasting. While some fast for specific situations, over time fasting becomes hyper-focused on knowing God. Regarding purpose, Whitney argued for multiple valid reasons in which one spiritually fasts, in order to: strengthen your personal prayer life, discern God’s will, express grief, seek deliverance or protection, express repentance, humility, minister to the need of others, overcome temptation, steadfast dedication, and finding a deeper love for Him.[ii]
Imagine a moment where you are before your Creator, in which nothing stands between you; not sin, or temporal distractions, such as what you just ate or the things you cannot stop obsessing over. It is just you and God. Such a focused fast develops deeper love for and understanding of fasting, because you begin obsessing over God. Often, fasting enables believers to discern God’s will because of this closeness.[iii] You should be warned, as Whitney brought to light, there is no eternal benefit to fasting unless you practice it with a repentant faith and heart in God.[iv]
Keep your eyes on God during the fast. You will find amazing blessings that can only come from God.
This excerpt was taken from “The Leader’s Health” in The Spiritually Healthy Church Leader by Eugene T. Wilson and Matthew R. Mullins.
[i] Bass, C. B. (1988). Fast, Fasting. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, pp. 780–781). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House. [ii] Whitney, 2008 [iii] Judges 20 [iv] Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, [Audio version], Colorado Springs, CO: Hovel Audio, 2008