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Is there any value in fasting?

Of Fasting and Temptation.  Matthew 4


Sometimes you feel it in your soul, sometimes your mind is quickened by a scripture verse or a desire to feel closer to God; other times, your spirit is moved by the magnitude of a situation in which God's wisdom, intervention or grace is needed.  Such was the case the other day when I sat across from a woman I love who has a huge decision to make, (along with her husband), about the family's move to another state.  Children in high school here in Southern California, but family back home and aging parents in another state a thousand miles away with a very strong pull.  'How do I know for sure whether to stay or go?' 

Throughout the Bible, fasting refers to abstaining from food for spiritual purposes - always with God at the center.1  I like what Luke wrote about Anna, who saw Jesus as an infant when he was taken to the Temple-

"she worshiped God with fasting and prayer". 

Our fasting must not be consumer oriented, but rather should be God we seek.  As such, Christians fast-

 to increase awareness of God in our lives,                                                   to increase effectiveness in praying for others (intercession)

 for guidance in decisions (as referenced above)

 for increased concentration on a spiritual matter

 deliverance from something in which we need to see breakthrough

 for physical well being, and more.

While there are different kinds of fasts, including duration and restrictions, Jesus abstained from any kind of food, (but apparently not water).  His fast took place in the Judean wilderness immediately after his baptism.  One reader wrote,

"I like the question of why Jesus fasted before being tempted by Satan. Jesus would have been extremely vulnerable in his physical state, but his spirit would have been strengthened by his heavenly Father. I like to think that Jesus was ready to take on Satan such as a prizefighter prepares for a fight. Jesus was lean, hungry, but confident that His mission was eternally important and that He was well prepared for whatever the prince of darkness hit Him with. And we know who won that temptation battle. Jesus knocked Satan right out of the ring. Glory to God in the highest!!!! I can see the Father, the Holy Spirit and the angels cheering in heaven. Jesus is our Saviour, Redeemer, Hero, and physically amazingly strong to withstand that test.

I do not fast, but see the importance of it," she wrote.

'Is fasting commanded in the Bible?'  Nope. However, why would we refrain from the simple, humble activity if it increases our chances of seeing the mighty hand of God move?  In most cases, fasting is a private matter between God and us, but then on the other hand, one of my favorite passages in the Old Testament is not.  But it is about desperate need, fasting and prayer, and a miraculousresponse by God.  2 Chronicles 20.1-30

If you have been with me for any length of time, you know how I admire, revere and adore Paul the Apostle.  He made two declarations that really resonate with me:  "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any."2 And, "I discipline my body and bring it into subjection..."3Another translation says, "I pommel my body and subdue it ..."4 Disciplining ourselves is good and it is right; disciplining our appetites is good and right as well.  Heck, maybe you don't need to fast from food, but from some other obsession that has you in its grip, and submit it to God . . . ?

So you're new to this and you'd like to fast about ____ or over ____ or because ___, what do you do when you decide to fast?  Perhaps start with just 'turning over your plate' for one meal, like lunch.  Take some time to meditate on a meaningful Scripture verse, and pray-thanking God for who he is, for his goodness, for his willingness to hear and answer your prayers-and then if it is a particular need or breakthrough that you desire, offer that up to the One who loves you more than life.  Be certain to make some break from people and normal activity and busy-ness to 'come apart' for a little while and mindfully pray.

Pray.  Fast.  It is good for your body, it is good for your soul, it is great for your spirit.  I love you each, I love you all~

1 - "Fasting" from Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster is the best treatise I have read on fasting.

2 - 1 Corinthians 6.12

3 -  1 Corinthians 9.27, NKJV

4 - 1 Corinthians 9.27, NRV

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