Fasting is sharing with God the joy that was set before him that made him endure the cross. It is laying down our own lives to have the kingdom come into the lives of others. I could spend weeks recounting the miracles we have seen through prayer and fasting. History is lit up with breakthrough that stems from the mighty arm of God in our weakness. I am not saying fasting is fun, it is rewarding, it is worth it, but hungry is not fun.
Once I was in the middle of a fast and spontaneously yelled out “I’m hungry!” The Holy Spirit asked me, “Why are you doing this?” He was so matter of fact about it that I was taken a back for a moment. But then my head saw my heart and I answered. “I want the nations healed. I want the bound in Portland free.” His calm still voice came again, “Okay then.” And with that peace and grace for the fast returned.
To begin let’s address the idea that fasting is “Old Testament”. Better yet, let’s address the rejection of the Old Testament as incongruous with the new. Jesus told the Pharisees, “You search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.(John 5:39) Aside from the life of Jesus written of in the four gospels, there is arguably more spoken about Jesus in the Old Testament than in the new.
When we read Jesus own words to the people in Matthew 6:16-18, he just assumes they will fast and pray; “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. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
Also in Mark 2:18-19, Luke 5:33 and Matthew 9:14-15 Jesus addresses the issue of fasting as being most important when He has gone. “Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?” 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.”
The New Testament talks about people who had lifestyles of prayer and fasting. Luke 2:36-37; “Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.” Anna had a rhythm of fasting and prayer that established her in the place where she was able to see the Messiah when he came.
In like manner Cornelius, a devout Roman man, sought God with prayer and fasting. Acts 10:30; “Cornelius was seeking the God of the Hebrews through prayer and fasting when the Lord sent an angel to direct him to Peter. “So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God.”
Also in the book of Acts 14:23; fasting was used to establish and anoint new leaders. “So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they believed.”
Fasting is part of the “ancient path” of the people of God. Actually, people of all nations have recognized there is power in fasting. We don’t understand it fully, but we do know that it changes history. How did the king of Nineveh know to call a National fast to change their impending doom?(Jonah 3:5) Why did King Darius fast and pray for Daniel while he was in the lions den?(Daniel 6:28) They know in their hearts that there is power and sincerity in prayer accompanied by fasting.
For the sons of God, walking intimately with him, fasting is part of our upside down kingdom. Just as we give when we need, and love those who hate us, we fast and become weak to be mighty in the Spirit. Does it make sense? No- neither did the death of the Messiah. How does that route the Romans and restore God’s people?
In Isaiah 58, the blueprint for fasting, the Holy Spirit tells Isaiah that it is not about groveling and humbling ourselves to impress God but rather a lifestyle of living like God.
“Is this the fast I have chosen, a day for a man to afflict his soul? Would you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord? Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house those who are cast out; when you see the naked that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?”(Isaiah 58:6)