I apologize for not getting you a full lesson on fasting last week, but I did want to give you a few points that I think are very important.
1. Fasting is about sacrificing self for intimacy with God. You should go into a fast with expectancy. It is a great opportunity to shut the world out and focus on God. Fasts should be coupled with prayer. Humble yourself, ask God to search you, and show you His will for your life. Seek to know Him better and ask Him what you should be praying about. Also, remember prayer is a two way conversation. Be sure to pay attention to things going on around you. God speaks in many ways.
2. Fasting is not a diet method. Please do not look at fasting as a way to lose a couple pounds. This takes the focus off of God and puts it back on you. It will also make the fast harder and less fruitful.
3. Fasting does not have to be food. Although food is the most common sacrifice during fasts, the purpose of fasting is to focus and get closer to God, therefore you can fast from anything that would normally take your attention away from Him (ex. Cell phones, internet, TV, shopping…). If you do choose to fast from food, note that there are different food fasts in the bible.
a. Absolute fast: No food or drink for a period of time
This fast was performed by Moses (Ex. 34:28), Elijah (I Kings 19:8), and Jesus (Mat. 4:2). It is recommended that you participate in this fast for no longer than two or three days at a time. My husband and I normally do this fast from 12 am to 12 pm for a designated period of time.
b. Fruit and vegetable fast: Only fruits and vegetables for a period of time
This fast was performed by Daniel (Dan. 1:12).
People have also been known to fast from sweets and junk food.
4. Do not fast to be seen by men. Matthew 6:16-18 says
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men 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 other words, don’t make news of your fast in an attempt to make people pity or respect you. Go about your days as usual and as much as possible let your fast be a private act between you and the Father.
5. Fasts are not meaningless religious rituals. Isaiah 58 tells us what we can expect to manifest if we fast sincerely. The fasting that Jesus honors will loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke to set the oppressed free. Fasting and learning Jesus’ character will inspire us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and provide shelter to the wanderer. The bible then tells us that with sincere fasting our light will break forth like the dawn, we will call and the Lord will answer, we will cry for help, and He will say, “Here am I.”
Again, I apologize for not getting this to you earlier, but I hope it blesses you nontheless. Marcus and I will be starting our fast at noon tomorrow (Sun. 9/7/10) and we encourage you to participate if you feel so led. The fast will culminate next Sunday, November 14, which is the International Day of Prayer for the persecuted church. Whether you fast or not, please remember to keep the persecuted church in prayer.
There are many examples of fasting in the bible. Here are a couple of verses that I picked out, but this is far from an exhaustive list.
I Samuel 7:5
Acts 9:9, 13:2, 14:23