Understanding the true essence of fasting and prayer

This post is an excerpt from “DAY OF FASTING AND PRAYER” By written by Pastor Rick Warren

I am sharing because it sheds light and understanding to the true meaning and essence of fasting. I never truly understood the essence of fasting so when I attempted to it, it just felt like a hunger strike. So if you feel the same way about fasting, you should read this.


WHAT IS FASTING?
Fasting is a spiritual discipline that is taught in the Bible. Jesus expected His
followers to fast, and He said that God rewards fasting. Fasting, according to the
Bible, means to voluntarily reduce or eliminate your intake of food for a specific time
and purpose.
“When you give up eating, don’t put on a sad face like the hypocrites. They make
their faces look sad to show people they are giving up eating. I tell you the truth,
those hypocrites already have their full reward. So when you give up eating, comb
your hair and wash your face. Then people will not know that you are giving up
eating, but your Father, whom you cannot see, will see you. Your Father sees what is
done in secret, and he will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18 (NCV)
WHY FAST?
There are many good reasons, and even health benefits, for fasting. However, our
UNITED DAY OF FASTING AND PRAYER on 9/22/04 for the 40 Days of Community
Campaign is for three primary reasons:

1. Fasting gives you more time for prayer. You can use the time you’d normally spend
eating as time in prayer for what God wants to do among us during this Campaign.
In the Bible, fasting is always connected with prayer.
“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for
me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” ACTS 13:2-3. (NIV)

2. Fasting demonstrates the depth of your desire when praying for something. It
shows you that you are serious enough about your prayer request to pay a personal
price. God honors deep desire and praying in faith.
“Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in
the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.” Joel 1:14 (NIV)
“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to Me with all your heart, with fasting and
weeping and mourning.” Joel 2:12 (NASB).

3. Fasting releases God’s supernatural power. It is a tool we can use when there is
opposition to God’s will. Satan would like nothing better than to cause division,
discouragement, defeat, depression, and doubt among us. United prayer and fasting
has always been used by God to deal a decisive blow to the enemy!
“So we fasted and prayed about these concerns. And he listened.” Ezra 8:23 (Msg)
“God says, “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of
injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every
yoke?” Isaiah 58:6 (NIV)


THE IMPORTANCE OF FASTING
Often in the Bible, God’s people fasted immediately before a major victory,
miracle, or answer to prayer. It prepared them for a blessing!
• Moses fasted before he received the Ten Commandments.
“Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or
drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant–the Ten
Commandments.” Exodus 34:28 (NIV)
• The Israelites fasted before a miraculous victory.
“Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from
Edom, from the other side of the Sea. It is already in Hazazon Tamar” (that is, En
Gedi). Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah.” 2 Chronicles 20:2-3 (NIV).

Daniel fasted in order to receive guidance from God.
“So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting,
and in sackcloth and ashes.” Daniel 9:3 (NIV)
“While I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to
me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. He instructed me and said
to me, ‘Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding.'”
Daniel 9:21-22 (NIV)
• Nehemiah fasted before beginning a major building project.
“When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and
fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” Nehemiah 1:4 (NIV)
• Jesus fasted during His victory over temptation.
“For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by the Devil. He ate nothing
during those days, and when the time was up he was hungry.” Luke 4:2 (Msg)
• The first Christians fasted during-decision making times.
“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for
me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.’ So after they had
fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”
Acts 13:2-3 (NIV)


TWO CAUTIONS
1. Remember that fasting is not “earning” an answer to prayer. God cannot be
blackmailed by human effort. God wants to answer our prayers and He answers
out of grace. Fasting simply prepares us for God’s answer.
2. Fast only if your health allows it at this time. If you are able to do only a partial fast – do it in faith and God will honor your intentions.

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