To begin every year, we set aside a time of prayer and fasting as a corporate body. We believe this time sets the tone for our year, and we receive the blessings of God over the entire year. If you are thinking about joining us in fasting, but don't know exactly what it means, here is some information for you:
What is fasting?
Unger's Bible Dictionary explains that the word fast in the Bible is from the Hebrew word sum, meaning "to cover" the mouth, or from the Greek word nesteuo , meaning "to abstain." Fasting is “a Christian’s voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes.” Though The Day of Atonement—also called "the Fast" (Acts 27:9)—is the only fast day commanded by God (Leviticus 23:27), other national fast days are mentioned in the Bible. *We encourage those with health problems to consult a qualified medical practitioner before fasting.
Does Jesus expect me to Fast?
Jesus expected that His followers would fast. (Matthew 6:16-17, “And when you fast…But when you fast…”). The Acts church fasted: (Acts 9:9, 13:2, 14:23; Matthew 9:14-15). Until Jesus returns, He expects us to fast.
Why do we fast?
The Bible gives examples of God's people combining fasting with their prayers so as to stir up their zeal and renew their dedication and commitment to Him. King David wrote that he "humbled [him]self with fasting" (Psalm 35:13). Fasting is a means of getting our minds back on the reality that we are not self-sufficient. Fasting helps us realize just how fragile we are and how much we depend on things beyond ourselves. The Bible records that great men of faith such as Moses, Elijah, Daniel, Paul and Jesus Himself fasted so that they might draw closer to God (Exodus 34:28; 1 Kings 19:8; Daniel 9:3; Daniel 10:2-3; 2 Corinthians 11:27; Matthew 4:2). Jesus knew that His true disciples, once He was no longer there in the flesh with them, at times would need to fast to regain and renew their zeal to serve Him (Mark 2:18-20). James 4:8 tells us, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” Constant prayer and occasional fasting help us to do this. We are not to fast to have people feel sorry for us or to think we're pious (Matthew 6:16-18). Isaiah 58 gives both bad and good examples of fasting, contrasting wrong attitudes and actions (Isaiah 58:3-5) with the right approach of outgoing love (Isaiah 58:6-10). Daniel and Nehemiah set the example of having a repentant frame of mind (Daniel 9:3-4; Nehemiah 9:1-2).
How do I begin?
Start with a clear personal goal in addition to our corporate goals. Be specific. Why are you fasting? Do you need direction, healing, restoration of marriage or family issues? Are you facing financial difficulties? Ask the Holy Spirit for guidance. Pray daily and read the Bible. Prepare spiritually by confessing your sins to God. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal areas of weakness. Forgive all who have offended you and ask forgiveness from those you may have offended (Mark 11:25; Luke 11:4; 17:3-4). Surrender your life fully to Jesus Christ and reject the worldly desires that try to hinder you (Romans 12:1-2).
Scripture References for Fasting: Matthew 6:16-18, Matthew 9:14-15, Luke 18:9-14 Relation to Prayer and Reading of the Word: 1 Samuel 1:6-8, 17-18, Nehemiah 1:4, Daniel 9:3, 20, Joel 2:12, Luke 2:37, Acts 10:30, Corporate Fasting: 1 Samuel 7:5-6, Ezra 8:21-23, Nehemiah 9:1-3, Joel 2:15-16, Jonah 3:5-10, Acts 27:33-37
Remember that it is the attitude of a heart sincerely seeking Him to which God responds with a blessing. May God greatly bless you as you fast!