Praying can be hard and can get really dull. But there are some things that can fire it up. One that is often neglected by Christians, is fasting. Fasting can ignite our prayers!
In the New Testament, fasting isn’t commanded, but is expected and exampled. In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus assumes that his follower will fast. And Matthew 9:14-15 shows that Jesus’ disciples will fast when he is gone. Also, there are several examples of fasting in the Bible: Lk 2:36-38, Acts 13:2-4, 14:23, 1 Cor 7:5, Is 58:1-9.
So, what is fasting?
It is abstaining from good things we have from God, to say we want him or other things far more than what we abstain from. Normally its abstaining from food, but it could be entertainment, phones, etc. Fasting is an aching for elements of God’s kingdom that haven’t yet come. John Piper says, “it is a physical exclamation point at the end of the prayer, God I want you, I need you, I want to treasure you, I want this person saved, I want Jesus to return.”
What should guide how we fast?
Well firstly, don’t show you are fasting or desire for others to see you (Matthew 6:16-18). Too often we want to complain or mope around to show people we are going through something. Don’t do this when you serve God or do things for Him. Secondly, fasting should be regular and have a pattern (Luke 2:37). But it should also be random, where we fast when a situation in our life comes up and calls for it. And finally, be wise in how you fast and know what your body can handle. You may need to slowly work up to it and begin by skip a breakfast. Then you might be able to step it up to missing two meals or a whole day of fasting once a week. Also, as you fast, be wise and don't fast from water.
What is the purpose of fasting?
Fasting is to heighten and ignite our prayers. Fasting must go alongside prayer (Acts 13:2-4, 14:23). It isn’t just some religious act we have to do. And it isn’t just a new element to our diet. Fasting is supposed to show our hunger and desperation for what we are seeking in prayer. Every time our tummy rumbles or when we crave what we fast from, it should remind us to seek and pray for the spiritual things we are really longing for. When we fast while praying for something, we are saying “God I am desperate and hungry for you to do this.” Fasting helps us desperately seek something from God in prayer as it reminds us that the spiritual thing we hunger for is far more important than food.
So, let’s fast and pray, longing for God’s glory and for His kingdom to come. Let's fast and pray, hungry for the salvation of souls and our spiritual growth. And let's fast and pray, so that we are humbled and realise that we are weak, but God is strong.