Have you ever wondered, “Why do we fast?”
As we begin the New Year, it’s like a blank canvas ready to be painted. What colors or designs will take shape? Rest assured God knows what will be on the canvas. He invites us to be the artist that he paints through, every brushstroke inspired by Him. Our 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting, beginning January 9 will be an important time for us to hear the heart of God and then begin painting onto that canvas. Prayer and fasting enable us to humble ourselves, die to our flesh and heighten our sensitivity to the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.
Have you ever wondered, “Why do we fast?” Let’s search the Bible and see why people fasted.
In Matthew 6:18 it was to honor God, “…But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 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.”
In Isaiah 58:3, we see that it was to humble ourselves before God, “‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’…” If we read a little further in Isaiah 58:6, we see God’s people fasted to experience God’s intimate presence.
There are times in scripture we see God’s people fasted to mourn over personal sin and failure as we read in Nehemiah 9:1-2, “On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors.”
When Samuel was serving as Israel’s leader, I Samuel 7:6 tells us people fasted to mourn over the sins of the nation, “When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, ‘We have sinned against the Lord.’”
Jesus showed us through his example in Matthew 4:2 that He fasted for several different reasons, “And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’” Fasting prepared Jesus for the upcoming temptation by the devil in the desert. It also prepared him for the work that his Father had for him to accomplish – salvation through the cross for all who would receive him.
He also explained to His disciples in Mark 9:29 that prayer and fasting would be key to walk in God’s authority to defeat evil and demonic forces, “…This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
We also see in scripture that God’s people fasted to gain wisdom and revelation of God’s will in a given situation as in Acts 13:2-3, which says, “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away.” The disciples needed godly wisdom and revelation and they received it!
As you can see from the examples above, there are numerous reasons to fast. It’s important to remember that fasting is not some magical formula or arm-twisting that we do to get something that we want from God. God is most interested in our heart posture and our relationship with Him. He wants our fasting to be seen only by Him and reflect our desire to draw near to Him. To seek His heart and hear His voice is the goal.