Why should I fast? [Living a Fasted Life Pt. 1]
This time of year is always interesting, everybody seems interested in making a change and sticking to it – I love it!
The air is so ripe with excitement and expectations but if only excitement delivered results (it doesn’t – hard work & persistence does).
As a Christian attending a Pentecostal church (check out Gateway Chapel), I find that at this time of year, something interesting also happens in many Pentecostal churches to “kickstart” the year: FASTING
I’m referring to a food fast, not an “activity” fast (I’ll avoid that conversation for now). I remember once, a colleague asked me why I fast and what was different from the Muslims who fast at Ramadan. This was a most intriguing question because even though I knew the answer, I’d never had to articulate it before.
I think it’s important to make the point here that the primary purpose of fasting is not about petitioning God to give heed to your personal request or to “level up” in the spirit [controversial? Yes, I know but if we’re going to do this then let’s do it properly no?!]. Don’t take my word for it, The Bible is still the sole standard by which all things are judged.
I can understand why people believe that fasting is a self-focused exercise – either to conquer some problem or to acquire more power, after all, the Gospel according to Mark (19:28-29) tells us:
After He went into a house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”
And He told them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer [and fasting ].” (HCSB)
The “it” referenced in that scripture was a demon who had possessed a boy.
So… Why do we fast?
You might then be wondering why Jesus would associate fasting & prayer (tools of warfare) with a display of power such as casting out demons.
Let’s look at Isaiah 58:
Vs 1-5 demonstrates some poetical dialog from The Lord. To summarise, after all the cries and wanting to draw near to God all you want, God is saying that the direction of our hearts matter. If that isn’t right, your prayers won’t make it past the ceiling!
What about denying yourself and lamenting over your situation? Sackcloth and ashes surely is a good way to show your resolution to The Lord (wearing sackcloth and throwing ashes on your head was a symbolic gesture of deep grief in the Old Testament)? Well, vs 5 tells us that God is not impressed either(!)
“So, what should we be fasting for?” I hear you ask – well, let’s look at vs 6 & 7:
Isn’t the fast I choose:
To break the chains of wickedness,
to untie the ropes of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free,
and to tear off every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
to bring the poor and homeless into your house,
to clothe the naked when you see him,
and not to ignore your own flesh and blood?
Isaiah 58:6-7 (HCSB)
Let’s break this down to make it more digestible. We fast, predominantly, for 7 reasons:
1) To break strongholds
2) To deliver from habits (untie the ropes)
3) To free the oppressed
4) To liberate the burdened
5) So we can share The Word
7) Reconciliation with one another
Just look at the delight The Lord takes in this!
[You can always tell how (dis)pleased God is by what He says following any proclamation]
Vs 8-14 reveal some keys to accessing covenants that you’d otherwise miss. The best part? – there’s no jumping through fire, walking on coal, selling your house, your car, your baby and maybe your spouse to achieve this!
Now there is much to be said about what the prophet Isaiah spoke about concerning popular fasting habits and the associations that come with that. This is not, by any means, to diminish the need to fast and pray for oneself – I have personally experienced the breakthrough that such activity brings but it is time we take Christianity back to its roots and look outwardly and see how everything that God has initiated in this faith has called us to look OUTWARDLY.
In that vein, next time, we’ll look in more detail at these 7 reasons for fasting and their corresponding covenants. If we could tap into these, I am sure every follower of The Way will want to access the blessings that come with this.
If you are fasting during this time – for whatever reason – remember: God is rooting for you and waiting to help you – He wants you to win!!