Intimacy With God Through Fasting (Jul-Aug 2003)

By Matt Dabbs

by Peggy Park
July – August, 2003

Jesus’ Call to Fast

Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:16 immediately following the Lord’s Prayer speak about fasting. It is interesting to note that Jesus does not say if you fast but “when you fast.” In Mark 2:20 He also says that the disciples would fast when the bridegroom (Jesus Himself) was taken from them. While we too wait for the bridegroom to return, should we not fast in preparation? While one of Christ’s first recommendations about fasting is not to make a show of it (Matthew 6:16-18), he assumes that fasting is a practice for those seeking the “unseen” God (6:18). My conviction is that fasting is a discipline we too ought to practice today.

Reasons for Fasting

Fasting exposes the tyranny of our appetite as well as our self-will. I heard the expression once that “fasting dials down the flesh and dials up the spirit.” I think this is very true but often only after the initial decision is made not to allow our appetite to control us. The world screams for our attention. We may be victims of unresolved hurts—hence unconfessed sins—which often lead to sinful thoughts or actions. We have preconceived ideas about how God should act in situations over which we are praying. Fasting helps us become more in tune with God’s will in the situations for which we are concerned. Fasting helps us to get in touch with our own spirit as well as increases a sense of God’s presence.

The very heart of fasting lies in the increased intimacy with the heavenly Father. We begin to identify our spirit as a separate entity within ourselves, desiring for and asking the Lord to bring any unruly self-will into submission. Fasting reveals the hold that food has on us manifested by the place we allow it to occupy in our thoughts.

Practical Aspects

In Jewish culture, the day starts and ends at sundown. I have found this time period to be a very practical way to observe a one-day fast. An evening meal can be adjusted to be eaten before sundown on the day you begin the fast and after sundown on the day you complete the fast. This is a manageable way to begin to practice fasting.

Some believers choose to fast one meal as a way to start the discipline of fasting. Others choose to fast desserts or favorite foods, forego excessive shopping, watching TV or whatever they discern occupies too great a place in their lives. Choose a time to fast when you can allow extra time in your schedule to come apart from the world and the daily demands on your time. Fasting and prayer go hand in hand. The rewards found in fasting increase in proportion to the amount of time you set aside for prayer and fellowship with the Lord.

My experience is that a total, water only, fast works best. A one meal or one day fast does not require much attention to re-entry into eating. Longer periods of fasting require easing back into food with small amounts of fruit or raw salads in order not to experience problems with elimination by overloading your digestive system. The key is to go very slow in starting back to eat. After fruit, salad, thin soup, or a baked potato are good choices. Then gradually reintroduce heavier foods.

The fast I have described is an individual one and is primarily to subdue the clamor of self and to make room for increased intimacy with our heavenly Father. You will find the fellowship is so sweet at times that you are reluctant to break the fast. Peace and calmness come over troubling situations, and faith awakens to the fact of God’s control in our lives, even his sovereignty in our world. I recall once when I was too involved emotionally with a situation over which I agitated almost constantly. I was finally able to release this through fasting.

Corporate Fast

There are examples in the Bible of desperate situations where the leader called the people to fast for specific concerns requiring divine interventions (Joel 1:14, Ezra 8:21-22, and 11 Chronicles 20:12). In our day various ministries have invited Christians to join in corporate fasts for our country and other concerns which burden us.

Testimony

I can personally bear witness to the increase in answered prayer as my friend and I have entered into a commitment to fast once a week on the day we meet for prayer. We find we are praying more in line with the will of God, as we are better able to discern how we should pray. He is sending people across our paths that come for a concentrated period of focused prayer.

Several of the people we have been privileged to pray with have reported a heightened sense of “God with me.” They testify to a soothing of their spirits as we are petitioning on their behalf as well as in the days following.

One of the most dramatic answers to our prayers involved my friend’s son, David. He has come out of a life reminiscent of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11). David rebelled and had been living in a violent atmosphere. His life was a picture of self on the throne; yet, now he is acknowledging the power of prayer and starting to return to and live by faith anew. He is accepting the responsibility for a wife and child. David told his mother, “I know I am sitting here alive because you prayed me through.”

As troubling situations are brought before the Lord, a sense of well-being and peace rises within. All prayer helps us feel more peaceful, but I have found an additional dimension of peace when fasting is combined with prayer. An increased sense of God’s presence arises as the self will (flesh) is laid aside resulting in more room for the Spirit.

I encourage you to prayerfully consider how you will respond to Jesus’ words “when you fast.”New Wineskins

Peggy Park

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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