Service type: Morning


Sunday 24th March 2019 ()

Matthew 6: 16-21 |


Different purposes for fasting
I mentioned these ten reasons for fasting that Don Whitney gives in his excellent book ‘Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian life’. I’ve listed them below with some notes and verses if you want to dive further.  Note that none of them are to gain God's favour.  'We cannot use fasting as a way to impress God and earn his acceptance.'

1. To strengthen prayer - there is something about fasting that sharpens the edge of our intercession and gives passion to our prayers. Ezra about to lead exiles back to Jerusalem proclaims a fast before they go.  'Note the Bible does not teach that fasting is a kind of spiritual hunger strike that compels God to do our bidding.  If we ask for something outside of God's will, fasting does not cause Him to reconsider.'  All it does is show the Lord that we are serious about what we are asking.  'Fasting is one of the best friends we can introduce to our prayer life.'

2. To seek God's guidance - Acts 14:23 Paul and Barnabas prayed with fasting to know who were the right elders.  'Fasting does not ensure the certainty of receiving clear guidance from God.  Rightly practiced however it does make us more receptive to the One who loves to guide us.'

3. To express grief - David fasts for Saul and Jonathan and the army of the Lord 2 Sam 1:11-12.  Can also express grief for sin 'fasting communicated the grief and confession my words could not.'  Might be expressing grief for sins of others.  Perhaps church does it for sins of nation.

4. To seek deliverance or Protection - eg Ezra above or Esther in 4:16.  'Fasting rather than fleshly efforts should be one of our first defences against persecution from family, schoolmates, neighbours or coworkers because of our faith.  We are tempted to strike back or manipulate or manoeuvre.  Instead we should appeal to God with fasting for protection and deliverance.’

5. To express repentance and return to God - it can signal a commitment to obedience and a new direction eg Jonah 3:5-8.  Without repentance however it can be in vain.  ‘It is a perversion of fasting to try to use it to balance self-punishment for a sinful part of life we want to continue feeding.’

6. To humble oneself before God - physical expression of humility before God, just as kneeling in prayer might be.  Ahab 1 Kings 21:27-29 tears his clothes and puts on sackcloth and fasted.

7. To express concern for the work of God - Nehemiah 1:3-4 he fasked when he heard the state of the walls of Jerusalem.  Daniel 9:3 did it as he was burdened about return from exile.   'May the Lord at least occasionally give us a concern for His work so great that our normal concern for food will seem secondary in comparison.'

8. To minister to the needs of others - Is 58:6-7 so you can fast for one meal or day and use the time to counsel others.  You might also give the money you would have spent to the poor or needs of others.

9. To overcome temptation and dedicate yourself to God - Mat 4:1-11 - fasting is a way of overcoming temptation and of freshly dedicating ourselves to the Father.  Perhaps when we are struggling with a particular temptation.

10. To express love and worship to God - Luke 2:37 Anna worshipped day and night in the temple and fasted and prayed.  Fasting can be an expression of finding your greatest pleasure and enjoyment in life from God.  Or you can spend the time of the meal adoring God.  Fasting must have a God-centred purpose not a self-centred one.  Note we cannot manipulate God.  As with prayer we fast in hope that by His grace God will bless us as we desire.  Zec 7:5 earns us that fasts can become empty rituals.