Oh Jesus! . . . Grant that I may become detached from all things and in all things seek you alone. Grant that I may direct my knowledge, my whole capacity, all my happiness, and all my exertions, to please you, to love you . . . Amen.
Thomas À Kempis
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”
Fasting is one of the best ways to come to the end of who we are, and be filled up with God. Fasting is the discipline by which we deny ourselves for a certain period of time good things such as food or drink for the express purpose of being drawn into close intimacy with God; having a specific request answered (Judges 20:26); interceding for the oppressed or sick (Psalm 35:13); as a response to tragedy (1 Samuel 31:13); as a result of being broken before God for personal or corporate sin and the failure to act responsibly (Ezra 9:5, Nehemiah 1:4, 9:1; Daniel 9:3; Joel 2:1216); or committing our work, ministry, or task to the Lord for His guidance and blessing (Acts 13:2-3, 14:23). It must not be undertaken as mere ritual (Isaiah 58), or to bring attention to our own godliness (Matthew 6:17-18), for our own self-righteousness (Luke 18:12), or for our own pleasure (Isaiah 58:3). Jesus fasted (Matthew 4:2; Luke 4:1-2), the disciples fasted (Matthew 9:14-15; Acts 14:23), and Jesus expects us to fast (Matthew 6:17-18).
Fasting is to be practiced in order for God get a hold of us, and for us to get a hold of God, in order that He might clarify our hearts and minds for the purposes that He has for us. Fasting is the breeze brought by God to clear away the fog of our intentions, motivations, aspirations and attitudes, so we can see more clearly what God has for us.
In Acts 13, we get a glimpse into fasting in the early church. While the believers from the church in Antioch were worshipping the Lord and fasting during the corporate worship service, the Lord spoke to them. The Holy Spirit commanded that Paul and Barnabas be set apart for a specific work of the Lord. And once the Holy Spirit spoke, they committed Barnabas and Saul (who became known as Paul) to the task which God had entrusted to them. Notice that it was during the time of fasting and worship that God the Holy Spirit spoke to the church, and after the Holy Spirit did speak, the church still prayed and kept on fasting.
Do we want to see a work done in our midst for which only God could receive glory? Do we believe that God could do more than we could ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)? If we desire that God would do a great work, then we must have faith (Hebrews 11:6). While there are times when God operates despite our faith (Matthew 8:26, 14:31), more often than not, our Lord operates in proportion to our faith (see Matthew 9:22, 29, 15:28; Mark 5:34, 10:52; Luke 7:50, 8:48, 17:19, 18:14, 42). He may do a great work, or He may not work because of our lack of faith, or unbelief (Matthew 13:58, 17:19-21). We fast and pray, asking God to increase our faith so that He might do a work in our midst whereby His hand may be seen and He may receive glory. And while we fast, we are purified and enabled to focus on the Lord. But, when we do fast, we must do it with the right attitude, in brokenness and with our hearts completely focused on Him.
In the depth of our faith, we experience God’s closeness, but we may also experience Satan’s attacks. Therefore, we continually use our time of hunger to feast on God’s Word, filling ourselves up with Christ, demonstrating that we are not sustained by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3).
As we fast and pray let’s ask the Lord to increase our faith. Ask Him to remove any wrong motive or ambition that we may have so that we might desire Him more intently, crave Him more acutely, and look for Him more longingly. Feast on His Word, tasting and seeing that He is good, eating of the bread from heaven, feasting on the water of life, drinking of the pure spiritual milk of the Word of God—in essence, being filled up with God’s food so that we might lead righteous lives, indwelt by His Spirit, our own spirits finely tuned to hear His voice when He calls. And as He does call, may we proceed boldly to action in faith, knowing that He will bless those who seek and trust Him, both now and forevermore.