If you saw the title of this post and rolled your eyes or had feelings of annoyance, this post will be good for you, and is for you! If not, you should still probably read it anyway.
Yesterday, our church finished our 21 days of prayer and fasting—every year for many years our church has done 21 days of prayer and fasting in the month of January. I joined in with them, and even though it could have always been better—as in I could have always tried harder to pray more and resist more, it was good for me, both in spirit and bodily health.
Today I want to share with you why fasting is so important, why you should consider it, and I’ll also clear up some misconceptions.
For starters, this is what fasting is: Wordly sacrifices for spiritual benefits.
That takes me to…
Why You Are Fasting
Truly, everything in this post points back to this: why you are fasting. People in the Bible fasted for different reasons. Nehemiah fasted out of sadness (Nehemiah 1:4). Moses fasted for Words from the Lord: wisdom and commandments (Exodus 34:28). Jesus fasted before he took on a big project: his ministry to save humankind (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:13, Luke 4:1-13).
You can fast for all sorts of reasons—mourning, confessing sins, seeking wisdom, preparing for something big.
The whole idea of fasting is to focus less on (even temporarily turn away from) worldly distractions and focus more on God and prayer; to have a time of spiritual healing, restoration, and/or strengthening. I’ll say it again: worldly sacrifices for spiritual benefits.
The above 112 words form—in reality—the main point. Now, I’d like to talk briefly on 4 other factors that are important and need to be addressed. I know I tend to rant, but I will try to keep it concise, every sentence I write having a purpose.
1. What To Fast From
Biblical fasting was most commonly from food, often even food and water. However, there are other unnecessary nonessential distracting activities, as well as worldly items that take your attention, that could be fasted from. Food is important, but of course there are circumstances where it’s not the best thing to fast from.
Activities: Preparation of a meal, video games, social media, TV, listening to secular music, I could go on. The last four listed are not necessary. You could spend your ‘social media time’ reading God’s Word. You could listen to Christian music instead of secular music.
As for the first listed, your body needs water and food to keep on functioning. You could have easy-to-make meals so that you can pray while you prepare. Before you fast I suggest writing down a list of healthy, easy meals, then go out and get ingredients for them.
Items: Chocolate. You don’t need it. Your phone. You don’t need it (well, maybe you do but there are things you use it for that you don’t have to). Coffee. You don’t need it. Have I made my point clear yet?
Sacrifice. If you utter one single prayer to God, something like, “fix all my problems please,” I bet you He won’t do it. Anyone can say that. But not everyone has the strength to sacrifice in order to have ‘all their problems fixed.’ If you really do believe in God and love Him, you have more than likely sacrificed. You spend your Sunday morning with the Church; you’ve quit bad habits; all that. When you fast, you’re just sacrificing even more and I’m sure, at the end of the day, you will reap the benefits!
No sacrifice I could offer would be anywhere near what Jesus sacrificed for us when He literally died on a cross. That is in fact one of the most painful ways to die, and He did it for us, because He loves us. The least we can do in return is sacrifice some of the things we treasure on this earth.
In conclusion, focus on anything that’ll encourage you to look to Christ, and avoid anything that will point you away.
2. How Long To Fast
Now you have in mind what you will be fasting from. “Great,” you might be thinking. “I’m not going to go on social media or eat chocolate. For how long??”
It’s really up to you and what you feel God calling you to do. It also depends on why you’re fasting. You could fast for a day, a week, even a month. (It also depends on what you’re fasting from. I’m not telling you to fast from all food for a month.)
3. Other Benefits of Fasting
Fasting is not dieting. You fast because you want to grow closer to God. But physical and/or mental health benefits do often come included!
Mental: In sacrificing, you’ll build up self-control, which is a very important virtue. If you succeed, you’ll be more confident in your abilities to resist. Then there’s social media: it can literally destroy your mental health. That’s not a lie. The more time you spend reading instead of scrolling, the cleaner your mind will be. Of course, if you slip and catch yourself giving into temptation, do not let it sink and do not quit. Apologize to God, then get back up.
Physical: Your taste buds are crying out, “we want sugar! We want sweets!” Do not listen to them! They don’t see the big picture of your whole bodily health. Unhealthy foods bring temporary pleasure, but healthy foods bring longer-term strength and health. This is really all I need to say.
4. Avoid Being the Pharisee
I’ve always been a rule-following control freak with the (God-given) mind and qualities of a leader. The title of ‘pastor’s kid’ only increased the significance of that. When I was younger, during the 21 days of fasting our church had I’d always be like the Pharisees in Jesus’ time. Focusing on the actual doing instead of the real meaning. I would subtly, sometimes even directly, ridicule my brothers and friends for not fasting from as much as I was or caving into temptation.
Don’t go there. It’s not a healthy place. Jesus called the people who were like that whitewashed tombs. That’s not a title anyone would want to be given, especially by the Son of God, King of kings.
I’m trying much harder to not be like that but to be merciful (when need be) and kind. When people see me, I want them to see someone who intentionally does things for a true and good purpose and not just to appear superior and cool.
This is all I have to say. In conclusion, please consider fasting! If you’re only a teenager and not quite an adult yet, maybe talk with your parents about a more serious fast. Actually, talk with your parents about it anyway, serious or not, adult or not! It’s something I need to do more of. Well, God bless and see you next week!
With God’s help,