by Pastor Tim Burt
When it comes to fasting and praying, I think that most people think wrong or have been taught wrong in their approach to it. I would like to help share with you what I believe is truly one of the best ways to approach fasting and prayer and why.
Sadly, most people think of fasting as simply giving up something, not something they really want to do but do out of some religious obligation and consequently half hearted and with no real purpose. So, what is the point of fasting and prayer? I shared some of the reasons yesterday but on a personal level, it is first and foremost for the purpose of hearing from God so that you can obey God. And then so that you can influence the lives of others through your prayers. Follow the fasting of Jesus and you will see that this is true.
John 8:28-29 says, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man on the cross, then you will realize that I am He and that I do nothing on my own, but I speak what the Father taught me…. For I always do those things that are pleasing to Him."
We live in a world of temptation that continually seduces us into things we shouldn’t do and excesses in things that might be okay if done in moderation. During a good fast, you withdraw from things that steal from your relationship with or obedience to God. That might be food or forms of pleasure or behavior that really have nothing to do with the plan of God for your life and that rob your time to live meaningfully for Him. Times of fasting and prayer help us escape patterns of life we’ve become addicted to or stuck in and help us receive supernatural awareness, help, and grace to break out and become free to love and follow after God.
The approach to simply taking something out of your life can confuse you. If a person suddenly stopped doing something that they knew wasn’t good such as smoking cigarettes, they run into a dilemma. Now what do I fill this time with? There are habits that form around habits and they all come in to play when you are trying to break the worst of them. People often fill those times with something else that could be worse in the long run. This is why people gain weight when quitting smoking. They trade one excess for another. Jesus described it like this. "When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, searching for rest. But when it finds none, it says, 'I will return to the person I came from.' So it returns and finds that its former home is all swept and clean. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before."(Luke 11:24-26)(NLT)
When you begin to fast, ask God what you should eliminate. At the same time, ray about what God wants you to add to you life. This is the key to a successful fast because it will result in real life change that is pleasing to God. By adding what God wants, you have to squeeze out something else. In relation to the scriptures I just showed you, now you are cleaning the house and filling it, not leaving it empty for boredom, confusion, and the reverting right back to the same old habits or worse.
If you decide to get up earlier for Bible reading and prayer, then you might have to squeeze out that last hour of watching television or whatever you’ve been doing and get to bed an hour earlier. This is where the work of the fast comes in and where you need God’s strength to accomplish this change. Jesus said “Your heart is willing but your flesh is weak.” His answer to the strength you need is praying “God please give me the grace moment by moment to actually make this change.” You know what? He will!
Prayer and fasting is usually a combination of life change and seeking God to make those changes, AND seeking God to pray for and be a blessing to others. When you do this, then you have had an effective fast that will last and help you live more obediently to God.
In closing, I think you can see what I am saying through these powerful verses on fasting.
Isaiah 58:5-14 (NLT) You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like a blade of grass in the wind. You dress in sackcloth and cover yourselves with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord? "No, the kind of fasting I want calls you to free those who are wrongly imprisoned and to stop oppressing those who work for you. Treat them fairly and give them what they earn. I want you to share your food with the hungry and to welcome poor wanderers into your homes. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help. "If you do these things, your salvation will come like the dawn. Yes, your healing will come quickly. Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind. Then when you call, the Lord will answer. 'Yes, I am here,' he will quickly reply. "Stop oppressing the helpless and stop making false accusations and spreading vicious rumors! Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as day. The Lord will guide you continually, watering your life when you are dry and keeping you healthy, too. You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring. Your children will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as the people who rebuild their walls and cities. "Keep the Sabbath day holy. Don't pursue your own interests on that day, but enjoy the Sabbath and speak of it with delight as the Lord's holy day. Honor the Lord in everything you do, and don't follow your own desires or talk idly. If you do this, the Lord will be your delight. I will give you great honor and give you your full share of the inheritance I promised to Jacob, your ancestor. I, the Lord, have spoken!"
In His Love,
Pastor Tim Burt
Published by Pastor Tim Burt
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