“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: To loose the bonds of wickedness, To undo the heavy burdens, To let the oppressed go free, And that you break every yoke?” Isaiah 58:6
I consider three things when thinking of spiritual fasting.
1. Fasting has to be intentional and sacrificial. Simply being too busy to eat or skipping meals to lose weight will not have the spiritual benefit that fasting for the Lord brings. God knows the intent of our heart, and if we are just fasting out of obligation or we pick a day because of convenience, it will not have the same meaning in the spiritual realm (2 Sam 24:24). Sometimes leaders will call a group fast, which is intentional. Other times we feel the need to fast on a specific day, or we feel led to maintain a regular fasting schedule. Many times when I intentionally choose a day to fast, someone will invite me over for dinner, or a coworker will bring in donuts to work. The temptation is obvious, but if we understand the importance of sacrifice, it is easier to decline those invitations because what we are willing to give up shows our dedication to the Lord.
2. Fasting has to come from a right spirit. At the beginning of Isaiah 58, we see the religious people fasting out of routine, just going through the motion, and then they expected God should move on their behalf because they were giving up food for God. God will not be manipulated. Fasting is not about giving up food so we can convince God to give us something. The right attitude is giving up food because we recognize our need for God is greater than any meal. Recognizing that His spiritual provision is far better than any natural provision we can provide ourselves. Without physical nourishment, our bodies will die, But likewise, without spiritual nourishment, our spirits will die!
“And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” John 6:35
When we eat physical food, we are sure to be hungry again within a few hours, but Christ will satisfy us in ways that the best meal never will.
3. Fasting should always be coupled with prayer and expectation. The purpose of fasting is to remove the distraction of this world (food) and set ourselves apart so we can be in a place to better hear from God. Both fasting and prayer are disciplines, they are not always easy or convenient, but when we train ourselves to be consistent in these disciplines, God will be able to communicate with us in a clearer way. We should expect to hear the Lord's instructions during fasting (Moses getting the 10 Commandments - Deut. 9:9, Elijah hearing the still small voice of God giving instructions – 1 Kings 19:8-16, Daniel receives a vision for the future – Dan 10:3-5, 14, Paul receives instruction and healing – Acts 9:9, 17-18). In Isaiah 58:6, the Lord clearly explains that just refraining from food is not enough. It should be accompanied by action. As we fast and pray, God will instruct us on what action we need to take to not only be a blessing to ourselves but to bless others.
Prayerfully choose a day this week to fast. During the day, dedicate extra time to seeking the Lord through prayer and reading. Expect God to speak to you.