It’s January, and my husband and I are in the middle of our beginning-of-the-year fast to coincide with Canvas Church’s 21 days of Prayer and Fasting (click the link for ideas on what to fast).
We don’t particularly enjoy fasting, but because we have seen such tremendous power and breakthrough in fasting, we’ve come to look forward to it each year. What will God do this year? What breakthrough will we experience? What will the Holy Spirit speak to us during this time? What will God do in our church? The beginning of the year brings anticipation.
Before I explain the benefits of fasting, let me pause to explain what fasting is. Cleansing and dieting are trendy, but to be clear – fasting is not a diet or a cleanse, it is a spiritual act. It’s when we deny our flesh, its indulgences and appetites to take more time to focus on God through prayer. We sacrifice something such as food, saying no to our bodies and yes to our spirits.
Many people ask me what they should fast. My answer is: whatever is going to be a sacrifice to you. We choose to fast something that reminds us to pray. When we get a hunger pang, an urge to browse Facebook, or watch television – that’s the time we pray. We don’t fast something we shouldn’t be doing in the first place. For example, we don’t fast things such as gossip – we shouldn’t be gossiping anyway. If we want to eliminate a bad habit from our lives, it’s more beneficial to make that one of the focuses of what we pray about during the fast.
Here are 3 reasons why we look forward to fasting each year:
- We fast for breakthrough. In Matthew 17, the disciples asked Jesus why they weren’t able to drive out a certain demon. Jesus replied (vs 21, HCSB) “This kind can come out by nothing by prayer and fasting.” The most incredible breakthroughs we’ve experienced happened during a fast. We’ve had marital breakthroughs, relational breakthroughs, parenting breakthroughs, church breakthroughs, personal breakthroughs, the list could go on. I encourage struggling believers to try fasting if they feel stuck in one area or another. We also don’t just fast for our own breakthrough, but for breakthrough for others. Isaiah 58:3-7 says “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to se the oppressed free and break every yoke?” Fasting helps us take our eyes off ourselves and on to God, and when our eyes are on God our eyes are also on those in need. We might need personal breakthrough, but we also have in mind breakthrough for those around us; our local church, co-workers, family members or needs in this world. When we feel helpless in meeting someone’s need, I’ve heard it said, “prayer is not the least we can do, it’s the most we can do.”
- We fast to hear from God. We can hear from God any time, we do not need to be fasting to hear from God. But for me personally, I seem to hear from God more clearly during a fast, which is why I look forward to fasting in the beginning of the year to seek direction and clarity. I believe the reason is twofold. One, my mind isn’t clouded with social media. Two, I’m making more room for God to speak by spending more time in prayer and the word. God is always speaking, we just need to be willing to make the space to hear.
- We fast to detox our minds and bodies. No, fasting is not a diet or a new years resolution to consume less media. However, after the holidays, I’m ready for a fast. I look forward to my body being reset and my mind taking a break from the noise of the world and being renewed in the word. Studies have shown there are health benefits to fasting, God designed it to be good for us. And as addictive as media can be, it’s good for our minds to detox from the cravings of mindless entertainment.
Fasting is not resting in our own ability, it’s relying on God’s. We aren’t more holy or spiritual by how lengthy or sacrificial our fast is. Fasting shouldn’t be a burden we brag about carrying. In fact, I hesitated to mention our fasting practices in a blog because I didn’t want to make it about our efforts. However, I couldn’t shake the passion in me to help equip and encourage believers who feel stuck to experience breakthrough in fasting.
There is one more week left in January, want to join me? If so, comment below what you will be believing for and I will partner with you in prayer.