This week my family and I will intentionally engage in 21 days of prayer and fasting. These are 21 days when we will give up certain things that we desire and give a more intense focus to spending time communicating with God through prayer. Why would we do that? Why would anyone choose to go without something they wanted, if they could access the object of their desire? They would only do so if they desired something greater.
Fasting in General
Fasting is simply abstaining from something that one normally enjoys. There are many types of fasts. I’ll list a few in this blog, but abstaining from anything for a planned period of time is a fast.
Simply put, fasting is engaged in order to change a result. Many people have the experience of having blood tests ordered by their doctor. Often the order will include a time of fasting before the blood for the test is drawn. This is done so the blood will have time to return to its natural state without any additional chemicals being added through something ingested.
Fasting with a Spiritual Objective
The same is true with those who fast with a spiritual objective. The goal is to change the result of living in this natural world. We are tripartite beings made up of body, soul (mind, will, and emotions), and spirit. Most of the things around us feed the humanistic side of our soul and please the body. What you feed will lead. Feeding the natural desires of the flesh cause it to become strong allowing our natural desires and inclinations to become more powerful than our spiritual desires. This is why it’s so easy to fall into sin but doing righteous things often seems difficult.
Fasting is saying, “No” to our natural desires. Fasting alone develops self-control. Fasting connected with prayer, reading of scripture, and intentional times of worship both weakens our carnal nature and strengthens our spiritual nature. Starving our flesh and while intentionally feeding our spirit allows our spiritual nature to gain control.
Jesus healed a young boy that the disciples were unable to heal. They asked why He had been successful where they had failed. His response was that this kind (spirit, situation, issue) can’t be handled except through prayer and fasting. We know that all power is held in the name of Jesus. Notice that Jesus didn’t say, “I’m the only one who could have dealt with this issue.” His focus wasn’t on His person, but on the strength gained in prayer and fasting allowing the believer to deal with this “kind” of situation. He wasn’t speaking about just this specific boy and his specific problem, but referencing a classification of issues and problems.
Salvation is by grace through faith. When you receive Christ you gain all that He has to offer. The level of spiritual authority you operate in can apparently vary according to your spiritual strength. Spiritual authority isn’t earned by good works, but it is focused by discipline and self-control. Jesus clearly revealed that denying one’s flesh while feeding one’s spirit resulted in the ability to exert greater authority in specific moments.
In “biblical” terms, we fast to bring our natural man into submission to our spiritual man. We say, “no” to natural cravings and “yes” to spiritual desires.
While fasting does not make you more or less saved or loved by God, it does reorient the focus of authority in your life.
Types of Fasts
As stated, anything you intentionally abstain from could be considered a fast. Here is a list of a few of the fasts I’ve participated in over the years.
Complete food fast: This is abstaining from all foods and ingesting only liquids. Always consult your doctor before beginning this type of fast. This is a great fast to quickly weaken the flesh as it is extreme.
- Day Fast: Abstain from food and water from dawn to sunset. This is a great fast for those continuing to work while fasting. There is no restriction on what is eaten or drank, but only on the time which it’s being done.
- Daniel Fast: This is a popular fast because calories are still being taken in allowing for clear thinking and strength, but diet is heavily restricted. Much has been written about this fast, but we actually know little about what Daniel ate. We know he abstained from the king’s meat and his wine. Restricting diet to whole grains, fruits and vegetables, removing sugars, meats (some people retain fish and dairy product), abstaining from sweets and all alcoholic beverages are all common components of the Daniel Fast.
- Media Fast: This is a great fast of removing all media (news, social media, entertainment, fiction/non-spiritual books, etc) from life for a prescribed amount of time. This can be a wonderful fast to detox from the negativity of the world around you and focus on the goodness of God. Spending time normally spent with media in prayer, reading of scripture, spending time with family playing games or other pursuits will leave you feeling refreshed and often very relaxed.
- Informational Fasts: I’ve often intentionally restricted my reading, listening, and watching to specific spiritual objectives. This could be a type of media fast, but the medium was not my focus. The information was my focus. This is a great fast if you are desiring to grow in knowledge and authority in a specific area.
While any and all of these fasts will be beneficial, the most important part of fasting is making a plan and being faithful to that plan. The goal is self-control. During the time of fasting, you will become sensitized to the elements you are lacking, whatever they may be. Your desire for those things will increase forcing you to be firm in your sacrifice or give in to your desires.
Why would you intentionally deprive yourself of those things you desire? You sacrifice what your flesh desires to attain something greater. While fasting does not make you more or less saved or loved by God, it does reorient the focus of authority in your life. As your flesh becomes weaker it is submitted to your spirit. As your spirit becomes stronger it assumes greater authority. As your spirit gains authority your connection with God becomes clearer, more defined, and according to Jesus…your ability to positively impact the world becomes greater.
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