The Power of Fasting

by: Bill Bratt


What is Jesus’ instruction about fasting? Jesus said: "Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward" (Matthew 6:16.) First let’s notice that Jesus said ‘when’ you fast, not ‘if’ you fast. This implies that a person who is truly converted will fast from time to time. Also notice that you shouldn’t disfigure your face with a frown and tell everybody how hungry you are. Put a smile on your face and think about having the right attitude that you are drawing closer to God.

Jesus was questioned about fasting: "The disciples of John came to Him, saying, "Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?" {15} And Jesus said to them, "Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast" (Matthew 9:14-15.) Jesus’ instruction to His disciples was that after His crucifixion and then His ascension to heaven, His disciples were to fast. Fasting is one of the spiritual tools in our spiritual toolbox, with these tools being: prayer, Bible study, fasting and meditation. Sometimes we need extra help, spiritual help, in overcoming a problem, trial or test. Fasting could be compared to a ‘power saw’ in comparison to a ‘hand saw’. Fasting let’s God know that we are serious. Let’s face it, when we fast, it certainly gets our attention. When you do a spiritual fast, going without food and water, it shows us how weak we are and it definitely is a humbling experience. The main point in fasting is that you are to draw closer to God and while you fast take some time to spend in prayer, meditation and Bible study. James recorded: "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. {8} Draw near to God and He will draw near to you" (James 4:7-8.)

When you fast, you will find that there is power in fasting.

You Fast to Humble Yourself and Draw Closer to God

Let’s look at a few Biblical examples of fasting. Daniel recorded: "Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes" (Daniel 9:3.) The terms sackcloth and ashes were acts of humility. Daniel was fasting because of the national sins of the House of Judah in which their punishment was being exiled from the land of Israel for seventy years. He confessed their sins of breaking God’s Law and Commandments and cried out to God to have mercy on them.

Esther fasted before she went into the king to intercede on behalf of her people due to Haman’s plot to destroy the Jewish people. Esther stated: "Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!" (Esther 4:16.) She humbled herself before God by fasting so that God would cause the king to find favor with her and God answered and King Ahasuerus found favor with Esther.

Jesus humbled Himself by fasting for forty days and forty nights to draw closer to God before His encounter with Satan the Devil. " Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. {2} And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. {3} Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." {4} But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God'" (Matthew 4:1-4.)

A Word of Caution - A Disclaimer

As a word of caution, do NOT fast for forty days and forty nights. You might die fasting that long. Even a two day fast is a long time. A standard fast is from sunset to sunset and you can also do partial fasts, perhaps skipping one or two meals. If you have any kind of a medical problem or you’re taking medicine make sure you consult your doctor before doing any kind of a fast.

The Day of Atonement

The only fast required in the Bible pertains to the Day of Atonement, which is one of God’s seven annual Holy Days.

The Day of Atonement is ordained in Leviticus 23: "The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: {27} "Also the tenth day of this seventh month shall be the Day of Atonement. It shall be a holy convocation for you; you shall afflict your souls, .... {28} "And you shall do no work on that same day, for it is the Day of Atonement, to make atonement for you before the LORD your God. {29} "For any person who is not afflicted in soul on that same day shall be cut off from his people. ... {31} "You shall do no manner of work; it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. {32} "It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest, and you shall afflict your souls; on the ninth day of the month at evening, from evening to evening, you shall celebrate your Sabbath" (Leviticus 23:26-32.)

The Day of Atonement is a Holy Convocation and a statute forever and it is to be kept for a 24 hour period from evening to evening. The term "afflict your souls" refers to fasting.

The Day of Atonement is also a New Testament Holy Day and the apostle Paul kept it and observed it late in his ministry as recorded by Luke in Acts 27:9 " Now when much time had been spent, and sailing was now dangerous because the Fast was already over." The word ‘fast’ refers to the Day of Atonement. Check your center margin in your Bible and it will say ‘The Day of Atonement" or "the tenth day of the seventh month" which is, of course, the Day of Atonement.

In Conclusion: Fasting shows us how dependent we are on physical food and water. Spiritually, fasting is a powerful tool in humility and in drawing closer to God.

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God's Holy Days