The Practice of Fasting – Biblical fasting is a spiritual work in which we temporarily eliminate distractions so we can give undivided attention to our heavenly Father through prayer.
Fasting: Matthew 6:16-18 New International Version (NIV)
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Today much is misunderstood about fasting. One common assumption is that it’s related to dieting and health. And there are those who hope their self-denial will impress God or certain people. But neither of these is the purpose of the practice, according to Scripture.
Biblical fasting is a spiritual work in which we temporarily eliminate distractions so we can give undivided attention to our heavenly Father through prayer. As we abstain, other things begin to lose their sense of importance, and we gain a heightened awareness of God’s presence and His priorities for our lives.
Fasting can be carried out in several ways: going without food, eliminating activities, or forgoing sleep in order to seek the Lord. The intent is always to pray without disturbances so we can focus fully on the Lord.
Have you avoided fasting because it appears too hard or confusing? Think instead about the joy you will experience from having deeper communion with your loving heavenly Father, and then step out in faith. Giving the Lord your undivided attention for a period of time can deepen your relationship with Him.
God’s Purposes for Fasting – Nehemiah 1
“Why should I fast?” It’s a question many Christians ask, and one the Bible answers. In Scripture, fasting is often associated with seeking God for a specific purpose.
Daniel fasted in order to plead for Israel’s release from Babylonian captivity, which God had promised (Dan. 9:1-3). Nehemiah fasted for a similar reason when he heard of the desperate state of the Jews who had returned to the land after captivity (Neh. 1:4).
When we look closer at these two fasts, we notice that both men identified and confessed their nation’s sins. And that is often what happens during this spiritual discipline.
We may be seeking God for a certain reason, but in the process, we begin to see ourselves from His perspective and become acutely aware of ungodly thought patterns, attitudes, habits, and misplaced priorities.
The Lord sometimes uses fasting to do “housecleaning” in His children’s lives, and that is a good thing. Sin can hinder our prayers, stunt our spiritual growth, and keep us from a deeper understanding of scriptural truths.
As we eliminate distractions during our fast, God is able to show us what needs to be cleaned up so we can become more like Christ.
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