I was talking to my daughter this morning about fasting. The church she attends was having a corporate fasting day and she was hungry. This was not the first time she had participated in a corporate fast with the church. The first time she felt as though it was a simple task, she relied on the Lord to provide her sustenance through prayer and His Word. It was a time of growth for her. She thought this time would be the same experience, but she started struggling early into the afternoon. I asked her why she was fasting. She wasn't sure. She finally decided that she was participating in the fast for the wrong reasons.
I understand what led her to participate, but it started me thinking. I wonder how many Christians participate in corporate fasts because the pastor says that is what they have planned? How many of those Christians end their day of fasting and consider themselves failures because they did not make it the day without food? How many of those Christians find themselves in guilt and shame and condemnation from the enemy for not fulfilling something they were not called to do?
Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
It is possible for the enemy to try and pile on condemnation if we have tried to do something because we want to or because we want to make a good show in front of others. If we choose to pray about our decisions first, to determine what the Lord would have us do, then we can rebuke the enemy when he attempts to put thoughts in our heads of guild, condemnation and shame. We can stand strong and confident in the power of the name of Jesus because He gave us that authority with His death and resurrection.
If I do not feel like the Holy Spirit is leading me to fast, then I shouldn't fast. Fasting is not for public show. Fasting has purpose, but should not be entered into lightly. So...what are the purposes of fasting?
Fasting can be used as a weapon.
In Matthew 17 the disciples had been trying to cast a demon out of a young man whose father described him as a lunatic.
Mat 17:15 Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic and grievously vexed; for oftentimes he falls into the fire, and often into the water.
Mat 17:16 And I brought him to Your disciples, and they could not cure him.
Mat 17:17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you? Bring him here to Me.
Mat 17:18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and he departed out of him. And the child was cured from that very hour.
Mat 17:19 Then the disciples came to Jesus apart, and said, Why could we not cast him out?
Mat 17:20 And Jesus said to them, Because of your unbelief. For truly I say to you, If you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Move from here to there. And it shall move. And nothing shall be impossible to you.
Mat 17:21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.
So...if fasting, along with prayer, can cast out a demon, then it must be a weapon. After all, 2 Corinthians says:
2Co 10:4 For the weapons of our warfare are not fleshly, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds,
2Co 10:5 pulling down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought into the obedience of Christ;
2Co 10:6 and having readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.
Fasting can definitely be considered mighty through God if one is led by the Spirit to fast.
Fasting is a sacrifice.
We starve our flesh of what it needs so we can focus on what God would say. We bring our flesh, our bodies into subjection to the Will of the Father. Furthermore, fasting acts as a method of purification, especially if we are abstaining from everything but water. Water is a form of purification because it helps to flush the impurities and waste from our systems. With the right heart before the Lord, we can focus on what is really important during the fast. We can ask the Lord to purify our hearts and minds just as the water is purifying our bodies.
From personal experience, fasting and prayer is very powerful. I am a former smoker who literally put cigarettes down overnight and never picked them back up. That was about 6 years ago. I wanted to quit smoking so desperately. I was having a problem breathing and difficulty playing with my children. After praying about it and asking the Lord to remove the addiction to cigarettes, I very quietly heard in my spirit "Fast for three days." So I did. The morning of the fourth day while at church, there was communion. I cried for the first food I ate after my fast, was the Lord's supper. I haven't touched or craved a cigarette since. I firmly believe that addiction is the "kind" of demon Jesus referred to when He said it could only be cast out by prayer and fasting. SO... fasting can be a weapon MIGHTY to pulling down of strongholds and can serve as a purification process.
Another thing to remember is that fasting is a personal experience and Jesus provided instructions on how to present ourselves when we fast.
Mat 6:16 And when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, of a sad face. For they disfigure their faces so that they may appear to men to fast. Truly I say to you, They have their reward.
Mat 6:17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,
Mat 6:18 so that you do not appear to men to fast, but to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret shall reward you openly.
When we choose to fast, we should fast with purpose, we should make certain our fast is between us and the Lord and we are not to present ourselves, to brag, or to be like pharisees wanting to show how spiritual we are. We are to be humble...waiting on the Lord...eager to please Him and only Him. Seeking His righteousness, His kingdom, His Will. He will reward us for obedience to His word.