Over the last 7 years or so, I have committed myself to engaging in an extended of time of fasting and prayer at the beginning of the year. Whenever people hear that this is a part of my rhythms and routines as a believer they are taken aback and, often times, see it as extreme.
In an effort to remind myself of why I engage in this "extreme" spiritual discipline and to also possibly encourage others to do the same, here are 10 reasons why I fast and pray:
1. Jesus prophesied that believers would fast.
Jesus replied, "Do wedding guests mourn while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast. Matthew 9:15
2. Jesus assumed that believers would fast.
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18
3. Fasting re-orders my affections.
Abstaining from food for an extended period of time for spiritual purposes gives me the opportunity to place God as my supreme joy and fulfillment rather than God's gifts.
4. Fasting re-directs my hunger.
Instead of looking for satiation and fulfillment in food, television, social media, or other worldly pleasures, fasting forces me to hunger for and be fulfilled by the only One who can truly satisfy - Jesus Christ.
5. Fasting increases my sensitivity to the voice of God.
Food and other worldly enjoyments many times numb me to the voice of God and make me less sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. But when I fast, I find myself listening intently to the Bread of Life and Living Water because without Him filling me, I am unfulfilled.
6. Fasting displays my desperation.
Because I can't avoid sin. Because I can't lead effectively. Because I can't save a soul. Because I can't meet every need. Because I can't be the husband I'm supposed to be. Because I can't keep things together. Because I can't foresee the difficulty ahead. Because I am weak. Because I am fearful. Because I am ill-prepared. Because I can't do anything of eternal value apart from the power and presence of God, fasting is my way of communicating to God, "This Lord, is how much I need your power, wisdom, guidance, protection, and anointing in my life!"
7. Fasting initiates self-control.
On most days throughout the year and in most instances, I eat what I want, I go where I want, I watch what I want, I buy what I want, and I do what I want. This, by and large, is the "American Way." Fasting forces me to practice the type of self-control that is required of the way of Christ! Fasting exercises my "self-control muscle" so that when needed, long after the fast is over, it can be relied upon and activated.
8. Fasting deepens my appreciation for God's gifts.
Upon my fast's end, I am always more thankful for the gifts of food and other delights that God has made available for His creation to enjoy. I see God's gifts less as blessings that I am entitled to, and instead I see them more as joys that point to the greatness and glory of God.
9. Fasting reveals my weaknesses.
Nothing reveals my character flaws like taking away my food! When I do not have the option of numbing my anger, fear, insecurity, restlessness, anxiety, or selfishness with food, when I fast, these things are immediately exposed. My true self comes to the surface. Though this is painful to see, I am thankful for this gift that fasting gives.
10. Fasting sets an example.
Lastly, as a pastor of a local church, fasting sets an example for the people I am privileged to lead. It is very unlikely that if I didn't fast, that others would. It is very unlikely that if I didn't see fasting as a powerful means of connecting with God, that others would. It is very unlikely that if I didn't experience the profound joys and delights from abstaining from certain types of food over an extended period of time, that others would. In this sense, I fast not only for my spiritual vitality, but also for the spiritual vitality for those in my sphere of influence.
Prayerfully, after reading a list like this you would be able to see that fasting, for me, isn't "extreme," it's NECESSARY! As much as I dread the idea of committing myself to one each year, I can't see how I could neglect to do one after clearly seeing what's at stake each time I do!
If you are interested in committing to a fast, leave a comment below and I'll send some resources your way!