Recently my Sunday School class has begun a study on fasting.  It is based on a book, and led by the author on a dvd.  We listen and discuss.  I missed the first 2 sessions, and was finally able to attend the 3rd one last week.  I have to say that I left feeling really uncomfortable with what the man said.  Some of it really rang true of the Doctrine of Prosperity.  If you are unfamiliar with that term, it is the teaching that God wants you to be healthy, wealthy, and happy and as soon as you give your life to Him, and give your money to His ministry, you will be healthy, wealthy, and happy.  It is a false doctrine that is not true to what the Bible teaches.  Jesus himself warned that those who followed Him would face trials and persecution.  He also warned that it is very difficult for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom of God…because with wealth, the temptation is so great to rely on self, rather than God, which is not the way to salvation (Jesus alone is the way, the truth and the life).  The apostle Paul stressed that when we are weakest, God’s strength shines through.  How then does it seem right to say that God wants us to be wealthy (and take the risk of being pulled away from Him), and healthy all the time (allowing us to live by our own strength, and not the strength of God).  And happy?  There is a difference between being happy (superficially, based on current circumstances) and filled with the joy of the Lord (the hope that we have in His presence at all times).

Back to fasting.  The author of the series said some things that sounded right.  But he also said some things that made me cringe.  He encouraged fasting as a way to breakthroughs in your prayers.  To sum up, when we fast, God takes extra notice and bam!  Miracles and answered prayers!  The breakthrough in your financing that you have been praying for.  The healing, the deliverance from drugs, or homosexuality, or other sins.  I believe that God stirred His Spirit within me for a reason.  Do you pray that God will give you wisdom and understanding before you enter a place where His Word will be taught?  It is so important to seek His leading, even while we are being led by others.  False teaching abounds, even when that is not the intention, and we must be on guard at all times.  Seek the guidance of the Spirit, our Counselor, so that we won’t be led astray.  1 John 4:1 tells us we are to test the spirits to see if they are from God.

I left Sunday School last week determined to do just that.  I went to the back of my Bible and wrote down every verse that mentioned fast, fasting, fasted, and I began to read those verses and the ones surrounding it.  I spent time praying and studying what the Bible says about fasting.  The following is what I learned.  At the end of this post, I will include the Bible references that I learned from so that you can test the spirits also.

What fasting is:

Fasting is a sacrifice on our part with the intention of drawing near to God.  It comes from a repentant heart that seeks to be in the presence of God with an intimacy that removes all other distractions.  It is an offering of oneself in a way that is pure and complete.  During this time of fasting, we are held up in our weakness by the power of God.  We experience His strength in a way that we can’t when our focus is divided.  In the act of fasting, we bring honor and glory to God.  Fasting is purely relational.  Because it is just between us and God, it is intimate in its very nature.  It is a longing to be near Him, to adore Him, to be completely fulfilled and satisfied by Him.  It is the opportunity to give Him our undivided attention, to pour out our souls to Him.  When we are so closely connected to our Father, then we are so much more able to hear Him speak to us, and see His hand at work around us.  We benefit in this time of nearness by knowing Him more deeply.

Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights after being baptized and before being tempted by Satan.  He didn’t fast for a miraculous breakthrough.  He fasted to draw near to His Father and glean strength from Him.

Prayer in times of fasting are linked in Isaiah 58 and Acts 10 to the obedience of the person praying…obedience specifically related to helping the poor, the needy, the destitute, the oppressed.  God says that He hears and answers the prayers of those who give to those in need.  Then they will experience light in the darkness, healing, God’s guidance and protection, satisfaction of the soul, strengthening of your bones, and God’s provision.

The one time fasting is specifically linked with a miracle/answered prayer is when Jesus said that a particular demon responds only to prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:14-21).  This would be a very specific situation that I believe the Holy Spirit would direct and inspire to the result that the demon would be exorcised and God would be glorified.

Fasting is not to be a method of manipulation, an attempt to get God to answer your prayers in the way that you want Him to.  Before you shoot me down, consider what the Israelites were doing in Isaiah 58.  They fasted and prayed every 5th and 7th month during their 70 years of captivity.  But God did not listen to them.  Why?  They were fasting for themselves.  Mourning what they had lost.  Praying for what they wanted back.  But what they didn’t get was that fasting was about God…repenting, drawing near to Him, seeking His will, and living in obedience to Him by meeting the needs of the poor, and observing the Sabbath…to worship God.  How does our fasting tend to look?  Is it our heart’s desire to be nearer to God and seek His will?  Or do we say, “Hey!  Look at me!  See what I am doing here?  I am fasting!  I am making the supreme sacrifice so that You will hear me.  Now please answer my prayer!  I need a financial breakthrough…I need my relative to give up alcohol…I need my child to turn from immorality or homosexuality…I need so and so to be healed….”  I am not saying we cannot, or should not pray for healing while fasting.  But we must be aware of our motives, the attitude of our heart.  Is it pure?  What is our intention?  Are we praying and fasting for our will?  Or the will of God and for His glory?

Prayer, with faith the size of a mustard seed, can move mountains, can bring healing, when it is the will of God.  Fasting, with the right attitude of the heart, and obedience in giving, will glorify God first and foremost, will deepen and strengthen our relationship with Him, and will seek His will above all.  Fasting is not about getting our way, it is about worship – profound, intimate worship.

Scripture references:  Joel 1:1-15 (vs 14), Zechariah 7:1-14 (vs5), Nehemiah 1:1-11 (vs 4), Daniel 9:1-19 (vs 3-4), Psalm 35:11-14, Psalm 109:1-31 (vs 24), Isaiah 58:1-14, Matthew 6:16-18, Matthew 4:1-2, Matthew 17:14-21, Luke 2:37, Luke 18:9-14, Acts 10:24-33 (vs 30).