In the church context, I have never heard people discuss the spiritual discipline of fasting. I have been “in church” all my life and I cannot recall one sermon, Bible study, or teaching on the topic.
Before anyone jumps to conclusions about my limited focus or church opportunities, let me reveal that I have a pretty diverse church background. I have faithfully worshipped in Methodist, traditional Baptist, Presbyterian, Pentecostal, Nondenominational, and Southern Baptist churches and in 33 years, there was little talk and no teaching about fasting in any of them.
Sure, I have had a few individual conversations on the topic; however, the conversations never got deeper than “turn your plate down” and pray. There was little direction for what to pray for or how to pray. When Susan Gregory released her book entitled, “The Daniel Fast: Feed Your Soul, Strengthen Your Spirit, and Renew Your Body” in 2010, I heard of people abstaining from certain foods and fasting as a means of renewing their health through dieting. Even in those discussions, however, there was not significant consideration for the spiritual need to fast.
The Bible reveals that the purpose of fasting is to make our voice heard by God. I believe teaching about fasting is limited because the education and understanding of this spiritual practice is limited. Many of the biblical characters God used for his glory fasted regularly (consider David, Elijah and many of the prophets, Jesus, Paul jus to name a few). In light of these biblical examples, I shutter at the thought that most church leaders probably do not fast regularly. If church leaders are not dependent and relying upon God and humbling themselves through fasting, then who are they depending upon?
Fasting humbles us before the Lord. This is the reason why all Christians need to better understand the practice. Who among us does not need humbling every now and then? I wanted to understand what the Bible says about fasting. I also wanted to understand if and why I should consider making this spiritual discipline a part of my life, as a Christian and more importantly, as a leader.
I entered the wilderness reading Dr. Tony Evans book, “Tony Evans Speaks Out On Fasting.” My mentor and I referred to this book as the “How Come” or “Why Fast?” resource. In the book, Dr. Evans reveals that the principle of fasting is to take the time we would ordinarily spend on activities of physical gratification (ex. feasting, celebrating, entertainment, sex, etc) and devote it to the Lord through prayer and waiting.
A true fast requires more than stopping our food intake. (We will discuss this in more detail later.) For now, I will simply share the foundation of fasting is the spiritual discipline of prayer.
After presenting a general overview of fasting, Dr. Evans highlights reasons to fast:
1. Fast for Healing (spiritual, physical, and emotional) noting:
We should fast for healing that is within God’s will.
We should fast for healing that promotes God’s program.
We should fast for healing that pursues God’s grace.
We should fast for healing that honors God’s Word.
We should fast for healing that develops God’s people.
2. Fast for Protection (Fasting for protection is a spiritual warfare tool.) Dr. Evans notes:
“We need to pray for God’s protection every day.”
Fasting for protection deals with our fears.
Fasting for protection activates God’s power.
3. Fast for Ministry. The purpose of fasting for ministry is to:
Seek God’s guidance and commissioning for service.
Identify God’s plan and place for everyone in the work of the ministry.
Listen and submit to the teaching of the Holy Spirit.
Teach us how much we need God personally, and how much we need him to minister on his behalf and advance his kingdom on earth.
Dr. Evans concludes, “Fasting breaks up those old, hard floors in our hearts. So whether your need is power, deliverance from addiction, healing, help in your marriage, financial problems, guidance, revival, burdens, ministry, or any other situation too big for you to handle, get close to the Son through fasting and prayer.”
Fasting is just one way God shapes the hearts of his believers.
Have you experienced enlightening conversations or teachings about fasting? Please share your insight. Have you read any good resources on fasting? Please share the title, author, brief summary, and what you learned from the book.
© Natasha Sistrunk Robinson 2012
3 thoughts on “Fasting in the Wilderness”
I like the chapter on fasting in Richard Foster’s “The Celebration of Discipline”.
Kathy, You are the second person this week who has mentioned this book to me. I will add to my reading list. Blessings, Natasha
Natasha, I felt called to fast one time during a discernment process and I did receive God’s guidance. But I also experienced other unexpected spiritual blessings: greater humility and compassion, and a greater strength over physical discomfort. I learned that I am, with God’s help, stronger than my stomach. I do not have to be ruled my my physical appetites any longer. It was a very empowering experience!
p.s. allow me to be the THIRD person to recommend Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline to you!