Is Fasting Required?
By Annagail Lynes
What is fasting? Is it necessary for every Believer to fast and pray?
I once had a temporary job at a collection agency. When I started, I met a girl who claimed to be a Christian. She fasted every Friday and topped my list as the most grouchy person I had ever met. She made Oscar the Grouch look happy. There are many people in the Bible who fasted.
The one that springs immediately to mind is Daniel. The king insisted Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego eat the king's rich delicacies and wine. In response, Daniel asked the man in charge, the king's chief of staff, to allow them to eat only vegetables and water for a span of ten days. The chief of staff allowed them to do so. In that time, they became healthier and stronger than their counterparts that ate the king's food and wine. Now we called eating only vegetables and water the Daniel fast.
Another person in the Bible who fasted was Esther. She became the queen of Persia just as an evil man, Haman, plotted to kill the Jews. Esther, although Jewish herself, had not revealed her heritage to her husband. Haman tricked the king into signing a decree to kill all the Jews on a certain day.
Mordecai, Esther's cousin, who raised her as his own, urged her to go to the king about the matter. To add insult to injury, if she went to see the king without being summoned, she could be killed if he didn't raise his scepter. If she went to the king, and he didn't hold out his scepter, or if she didn't do anything at all, she and her people would die.
She and her maid servants fasted for three days and prayed for God to intervene on their behalf. God did come through for her and her people. Once Esther revealed the plot to the king, he hanged Haman on the same gallows Haman made for Mordecai.
Fasting during a crisis brings results. It doesn't move God. Instead it changes you. When you fast during a crisis, your focus on God becomes clearer. You hear God better. Yes, but those examples are in the Old Testament, you might say. Jesus' disciples brought a demon-possessed man to Him. The disciples couldn't cast out the demons, but Jesus could and did. Why was Jesus able to cast out the demons when His disciples could not? Jesus said those kind come out by prayer and fasting. That's a New Testament example.
I knew a preacher who went on a forty-day fast and ended up in the hospital. Therefore the first thing you must do when considering a fast is to consult God. If He wants you to fast, He will give you a time and a period for which to fast. Don't fast unless God directs. Don't do it just because everyone else is doing it or because you feel obligated.
Next you need to talk to Him about what kind of fast He wants you to do. When most people think of fasting, they think of abstaining from food. However, fasting is not always food. According to the Webster's Dictionary, it is defined as abstinence from food. For our purposes, though, it is better defined as abstaining from something that is hindering your walk with the Lord. Maybe you are focusing a lot of your time on television, movies or music and spending little time with God. Therefore, you would abstain from those activities for a period of time.
In the food fast category alone, there are several fasts. The Daniel fast, for example, consists only of vegetables and water whereas another fast consists of no foods and only water. There is the juice fast, which consists of--yes, you guessed it!--juices.
Then there is a total fast, which means you fast all your meals. Most people find it more acceptable to fast one meal a day rather than every meal. However you cannot fast meals and then go out and play racquetball or golf. You must spend time with God when you would have otherwise been eating, or doing whatever activity you are fasting. You must replace the activity with building up your relationship with your Heavenly Father through prayer or sitting in His presence.
Why should you fast at all? As I said before, only fast when God tells you. A fast can have spiritual as well as physical benefits. A spiritual benefit is becoming closer to God. Not only does it cause you to strengthen your relationship with God, but it also breaks the strongholds that have been holding you back. It builds you up spiritually. A physical benefit of fasting is that the toxins are removed from your body. It is like having a massage or detoxifying your body. All the impurities flush out.
The point is to crucify the flesh, to put it under submission to the will and purposes of God. When you obey God when He tells you to fast, He rewards you for your time and effort. In every area of your life, not just in the area of fasting, you need to crucify your flesh. What does that mean? It means that you need to refuse to do things that are contrary to God's plans and purposes.
For example: let's say your friends want to go to a party, where you will be tempted to do drugs. Now if you give into the flesh, you will go to the party and do those drugs. When you crucify the flesh, though, you will stay away from the party altogether because you know you will be tempted.br />
YYou also need to crucify your flesh when you are married and are developing feelings for someone else. Before anything happens, you should rearrange your life so you will not be tempted by this person any more. Your feelings are not an accurate judge of what is going on in your life. Following your feelings will always lead you into trouble. When you fast, you must have God's approval on it. You need to nail down the details with Him about length, type and the starting date of the fast. Fasting, God's way, will bring you spiritual benefits if you replace the activity with spending time with God. Fasting, if done right, will have tremendous results in your life when you keep your eyes focused on Jesus and Him alone.
Annagail Lynes, ordained minister, is spreading the Gospel through writing for various online and offline publications. You can read her inspirational blog for your daily dose of wisdom at http://www.annagaillynes.net