But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face so that you may not be seen fasting by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. (Matthew 6:17-18 NASB)
I am, of course, a little boy at heart, and that little boy cries out “tell me a story” all the time. So when I come across books of the Bible that are primarily narrative, the little boy in me snuggles up and listens with wide eyes and wonder.
That is the first reason I love the book of Nehemiah.
But maybe 6 or 8 years ago I heard Bill Johnson teaching about Nehemiah and he pointed out that the name Nehemiah means The Lord Comforts, and that you should read this short book thinking of Nehemiah as a type of the Holy Spirit, our comforter. This doubled down my love for this book.
That being said – back to fasting:
The book opens with Nehemiah learning of the mistreatment of his people and the fact that the walls of Jerusalem were broken down.
The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month Chislev, in the twentieth year, while I was in Susa the capitol, that Hanani, one of my brothers, and some men from Judah came; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped and had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem. And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire.”
Now it came about when I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven. (Nehemiah 4:1-4 NASB)
So why is he fasting? Is it just part of his mourning? I think it is more than that. Let’s look at the next couple of verses and see if we find another reason.
And I said, “I beseech Thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, let Thine ear now be attentive and Thine eyes open to hear the prayer of Thy servant which I am praying before Thee now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Thy servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against Thee; I and my father’s house have sinned. “We have acted very corruptly against Thee and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which Thou didst command Thy servant Moses. “Remember the word which Thou didst command Thy servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples; but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the most remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell.’ And they are Thy servants and Thy people whom Thou didst redeem by Thy great power and by Thy strong hand. O Lord, I beseech Thee, may Thine ear be attentive to the prayer of Thy servant and the prayer of Thy servants who delight to revere Thy name, and make Thy servant successful today, and grant him compassion before this man.” Now I was the cupbearer to the king. (Nehemiah 1:5-11 NASB - emphasis is mine)
I have highlighted a couple phrases. For sure this is not all that can be gleaned from this 1st chapter of Nehemiah, but I want you to see that Nehemiah went to the Lord with prayer and fasting in order to remind the Lord of promises He had made.
No, He is not forgetful, or distracted.
It is actually an act of faith. We do not live by sight, but we can see. So when we see something that does not line up with the Word of God, the faith filled reaction is to take it back to God and lay it out for Him.
We see this over and over again in scripture. It is not complaining about your plight, but rather saying to the Father, Ok – I see the circumstances here do not line up with Your Word, I know You’re about do change something.
Our boy Nehemiah mixes in fasting, and then proceeds with confidence.
Remember, fasting does not manipulate God, but it could get you to a place where you see what steps you need to take for God’s plan to move forward.
Nehemiah did not ask God to fix it, Nehemiah simply saw that if God was in it, he (Nehemiah) could bring the change.
Don’t miss this. When God shows you the disparity between life and His revealed will, He wants you to be part of His solution. [Tweet This] Fasting will help you see your part and identify your next step.
Are there any unfulfilled promises in your life that you are desperate enough to pursue with fasting? Do you need a revelation of your next step?
Try adding a little fasting.