What makes someone want to fast? In America, we want someone to sell us an idea. Fast so that you can be skinny, or fast to detox your body. Fast to get something from God.
Why is it so difficult to do the right thing? Why do we push back against something that doesn’t feel good? We want to know the benefits. We want to know the way this will make us feel good. But, in the West, we want to be in control and comfortable. This is a far cry from our ancestors who worked the land and travelled West in conestoga wagons without drive thru Starbucks at 3pm.
I was struck by a wonderful discussion in our women’s Bible study on Monday. We talked about the reason why believers in Jesus do not study their Bibles, or fast and pray. We went back and forth between the need to understand that God is calling us to a relationship with him full of love and communion — which is not fully experienced or realized when we do not read his Word — to the idea that discipline is a beautiful thing.
Disciplines like fasting train us to obey the Lord and not our flesh. When our flesh gets angry, fasting subdues it’s cries for satiation, because we submit to the Lord, even when it is difficult. It says in Romans 6:16-18, “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey – whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.”
OBEY FROM THE HEART
Isn’t this the full realization of a committed Christian life? Not just feelings. Not just obedience. Obeying from the heart, by faith.
Ezra 8:21-23 gives a great example of fasting as a discipline of obedience that comes from the heart. This took place when Ezra was bringing the exile families back to Jerusalem. Ezra testified to King Cyrus of Persia that the returning exiles didn’t need any help or provisions to return to Jerusalem. But, truly they did! However, he wanted to be a testimony to King Cyrus of the provision and faithfulness of the Lord.
Have you ever considered that fasting is a support to your testimony? When telling people about the power of God, doesn’t it seem like a good idea to seek the face of God to fulfill everything you have testified to? Many people say, “God will do it. I don’t have a part in it.” How untrue. Here we see an example of the children of God humbling themselves before the Lord in faith to see the hand of God move – to his glory- so that King Cyrus would see the Lord’s awesome power. God chooses to move and work through his people when they humble themselves.
Ezra 8:21 “There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. 22 I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, ‘The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.’ 23 So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.”
According to Helps Word Studies, the Hebrew word in Ezra 8:21 for humble “presents the doer fully engaged, acting passionately (wholeheartedly) in light of its personal benefits. The impassioned, heartfelt activity spotlights the impact back to self, i.e. the perceived advantages for the doer.” In this case, it is obedience that is from the heart.
God promises that when we obey him, we are rewarded. Psalm 34:7 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, (in order that) he gives you your heart-petitions.” Fasting, in this case, brings delight, because you know that God will reward you, because he is good and faithful to keep his word.
His greatest reward is himself. When we fast and spend time in his presence, we draw closer to him and he reveals himself to us in power, beauty and love. He brings provision where we need it.
Father God, I have proclaimed your name. I have trusted in you. I have told many people about you. I pray that through this fast that you will hear my prayers and cries for mercy. Lead me in paths of righteousness, for your name sake. Answer my prayers, oh Lord.
Lord, I pray that you will do a new and fresh work in my life. I pray that you will rebuild the walls of my life that have been torn down by sin.
I pray that as I advance in your kingdom, you will bless me. I claim every place I step with my feet for you, Lord, and for your kingdom. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. May your kingdom be done in my life and my family. (List family members, friends, and needs that arise here. Pray for the kingdom of God to come and be established in these relationships and situations.)
I ask you Lord to conquer the enemy. I stand in the power of the name of Jesus, with my Helmut of salvation on my head. It is by your grace and mercy that I am saved. I have the righteousness of Christ to thank for the protection of my heart. Jesus, you became a curse for me. You took my sin. I stand in this righteousness alone, as I oppose the enemy.
I pray that you will destroy the foundations of the devil’s work in my life, my church, my family, my community, my state and my nation… and the world. Shake the foundations of his organization and plans. Turn his evil plans back on himself, in Jesus’ name.
I pray for your work to manifest in my life and my ministry. I ask that you will bring many people to know you through me and that they will be transformed by the Holy Spirit. I pray that you will rescue others out of darkness and others out of deception and sin. I ask that your power will fill my life and my ministry. I pray that your Holy Spirit will bless the planning and prayers that are going into this ministry.
I ask that my life will have ripple affects into generations to come. I pray that through this Jesus will be glorified!