In the Bible, throughout the Old and New Testament, the people of God fasted and prayed. They put their hope and trust in God and God acted decisively. There are a host of reasons why people fasted - we’re going to look at just a few:
Our fast is a Holy Fast. It is not a diet (so put the scales away!), or a way of feeling virtuous, superior or proud. In Luke 18.1-12, the Pharisee’s reward for fasting twice weekly is his own sense of superiority. There is no heavenly reward in it. A salutary reflection upon the following passage from Isaiah may aid us in our focus and intention of the heart:
‘Why have we fasted and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ And God responds, “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (Isaiah 58:3-7)
Throughout the Old and New Testament the people of God fasted and prayed. They put their hope and trust in God and God acted decisively. There are a host of reasons why people fasted - we’re going to look at just a few:
• Repentance - “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” (Joel 2.12)
• Grief and Fear: When Saul, Jonathan, the army of the Lord and the nation were defeated by the Philistines (2 Sam 1:2), the people prayed and fasted, seeking God’s comfort and renewed hope.
• The state of the Nation – When Nehemiah heard about the state of Jerusalem and the Temple, he ‘sat down and wept. For some days [he] mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven’. (Neh 1.4). Only after prayer and fasting was God’s plan for Nehemiah to return and rebuild made clear.
• Seeking direction – While Christians in Antioch “were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13.2); and
• Commissioning for Ministry and Mission - So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them [Barnabus and Saul] and sent them off. (Acts 13:3-4)
• Appointment of Leaders - Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust. (Acts 14:23)
You will find many other examples in the Bible and across the centuries we learn when the people of God prayed and fasted, God acted decisively.
It is among this cloud of witnesses that we hope you consider a sensible fast.