by John Edmiston
Fasting has a good biblical pedigree, it was practiced by Jesus, John the Baptist, the apostles, the Old Testament saints and the New Testament church. It has also been regularly practiced wherever revival has come and many of the Christian greats such as John Wesley, Martin Luther, John Calvin John Knox, Finney and Moody practised prayer and fasting to enhance ministry effectiveness.
The merest suggestion of self-denial sends cold shivers down the spine of most modern Christians. We seem to find every excuse to dodge fasting . I might have the wrong motives.. My health isn't quite up to it.... Isn't it a bit fanatical. Unfortunately for us Jesus did say that we were to deny ourselves, take up our cross daily and follow Him (Mark 8:34). The spirit of the world is firmly against self-denial and preaches ungodly and profligate indulgence. Perhaps this is why fasting is proving so powerful for church growth today - because it represents Christians making a serious break with the spirit of the world in order to consecrate themselves to God.
The motive behind fasting is all important. Fasting in order to lose weight and look good is hardly a Christ-centred, cross-bearing act of self-denial. It may still be difficult and painful but it is essentially self-centered. Fast whenever you desperately want God to do something. Fast when you want power in the spiritual realm for Kingdom purposes here on earth.
Fasting is a potent spiritual weapon for the transformation of difficult situations faced by God's people. Esther declared a three day fast (Esther 4:3) when her people were threatened with destruction from the wicked Haman. Deliverance came from God, her people were rescued, Haman hung and the Jews victorious. Jesus fasted to conquer Satan in the wilderness. (Matthew 4:2) Saul and Barnabas were sent out on their first missionary journey after a session where the leadership of the church in Antioch were ministering to the Lord and fasting (Acts 13:3) David even prayed for his enemies when they were ill - with sackcloth and fasting, for their deliverance. (Psalm 35:13) Countless saints have fasted to find the will of God for their lives or intercede for loved ones. True godly fasting is powerful tool for personal, social and spiritual change. But beware of imitations! Fasting can become a source of spiritual pride as it did for the Pharisee (Luke 18:2) or become a public show (Matthew 6:16) Jesus says such fasting is self-rewarded and ineffective. True fasting is not just a ritual but involves a determination to obey God in all areas of life. (Isaiah 58:1-14) . This leads us to the problem of how to go about it.
Start with one day fasts where you allow yourself fruit-juice. Skip breakfast and lunch and after the sun sets eat well. After you have done this a number of times gradually move to two and three day fasts. Most spiritual problems can be resolved in two to three days and I have never had to fast for longer. Wait on God He will indicate to your spirit how long you need to fast for. It is generally wise not go on ten day or longer fasts without a medical checkup from a sympathetic Christian GP. You don't have to pray all day when you fast. Just carry on with your daily work and use the normal meal and snack times for prayer. Jesus tells us to anoint our heads with oil...in other words look happy and act normal while you are fasting. Don't look like a bucket of gloom. Alert those who need to know and those who prepare meals but otherwise keep fasting private. The results of fasting make it enjoyable. When prayers are answered and lives changed you will love fasting for the joy it brings into the world and the discipline will seem worthwhile. Well, as the shoe ad says, Just do it.
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