Jesus said:

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)

Grace:

Mike Bickle talks about the grace to fast. I have found this very helpful. Before you begin to fast, ask the Lord for grace for the fast. This will not necessarily take away the hunger pangs, but it will help you to keep focused on the end you have in mind.

Why fast:

Sometimes you may fast toward some end. Many have been fasting leading up to the recent election, adding to their fast prayer for our nation.

How long:

But for much of Christian History, a weekly day of fasting was part of the Christian life. I knew a couple when I was a young Christian who fasted every Tuesday and used it to pray together for their family. Now they did not take the day off and shut everything down. They just went about their business, but the moments when a desire for food popped up, they would stop and pray for their kids. Then in the evening they would take time together and pray through the life of their family.

Mike Bickle (sorry to keep going back to Mike, but he is one of the few teachers talking about this these days) asks (does not demand) that anyone on staff with IHOP fast once a week, and has recently upped this to two days per week.

There are times when a leader may call for an extended fast. Daniel tells of a 21 day fast, and there are numerous 40 day fasts in the Biblical record.

Caveats:

There is a little fine print that goes along with fasting and I would be remiss not to include it here.

First, PLEASE HEAR THIS – do not fall into condemnation! This is really important. This may also be the hardest part about fasting. If you are not in a solid habit of fasting, (and probably even if you are) you will blow it from time to time – maybe even every time. You will start out with the idea – I am going to fast for the day [this is what happened to me the other day] and someone will walk by with a box of donut holes, stick it in your face, and say, “wanna donut?”

Before your brain kicks in and says to your hand “we’re fasting today – politely decline – you are on your 2nd one.

Then you are like – I am an idiot!

Ok – get over it. At this point you can do 1 of 2 things.

1 – try again tomorrow

2 – go ahead and fast anyway

Next, understand that no where in the New Testament is fasting required. It is always voluntary. So lighten up. I only spent 2 weeks on it here because I don’t hear much teaching on it, and I thought it might help those who want to use this particular discipline.

With a couple of possible Old Testament stories, children are never required engage in a food related fast. Certainly there is room for the giving up of material things – entertainment, video games, or some part to their diet like desserts etc.

People with health issues (you know who you are) should only fast under the guidance of a doctor, and should feel no pressure to fast, if there are not physically able.

While Jesus tells us to keep our fasting to ourselves, there are times in the Word where Corporate fasts are called. Like praying, there is a segment of our walk with the Lord that belongs to the closet, and other parts that we can share.

If your leadership calls a fast, you are free to join, and walk in it. Most often, they will not require you to “sign up,” so you can still keep your participation between you and the Lord.

Well – I really did not expect that to take over 2 weeks. Please forgive me for camping here so long. I think I have officially gotten it out of my system now. I hope this helps!

Thanks so much for reading.

See you tomorrow.

Ben

Donut hole photo credit: calilily via photopin cc

Jesus said:

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)

Today I am going to detail seven types of fasting. Yes, I know I could have milked this for another couple weeks, but these descriptions won’t take that long, and besides, if I keep talking about fasting, I might feel compelled to give up a meal – sheesh – that would be over doing it.

1) The “Darius Fast,” a.k.a. the “Royal Fast.” The name come from when Daniel was in the lion’s den, and King Darius was upset.

Then the king went off to his palace and spent the night fasting, and no entertainment was brought before him; and his sleep fled from him. (Daniel 6:18 NASB)

Kris Vallotton of Bethel Church in Redding, CA, a favorite preacher of mine, jokingly talks about this fast often. He will tell you he has been doing a “Royal Fast,” where he fasted all night and then “broke fast” in the morning.

It is pretty funny, but there is some validity here. How many times have you tossed and turned in worry all night long because something big was happening in the morning? What if rather than toss and turn sleeplessly, you got up and spent the night in earnest prayer over that issue. Turn your fear into faith directed activity, until faith rises and sleep comes.

2) The “Water Fast.” This is what most people think of when they think fasting. Your basic zero calorie fast. When I do this, I often will have coffee or tea, and plenty of water. If you stay hydrated you can do this for a reasonable period of time.

There are many Christians who practice this one or the next one on a weekly basis. They will pick one day a week, and abstain from food. It would be good to plan your day in order that the temptations of food are less likely, and perhaps it would be a day when you were already scheduled for prayer – like a Church prayer meeting day, or a home group prayer day or something like that.

3) The “Liquid Fast.” Similar to above, only you would add in juices and broths. As I will reiterate when we get to the “rules” of fasting tomorrow, you set your own standard, so you can take this to any extent you want.

I remember we called a fast once, and a number in the group had never tried it before, and when we said liquids only, they spent the day drinking milk shakes. You know what. The fast still had a as great an impact on them, as it did on the ones who went on water only, and it was a great starting place.

This type of fast can be maintained for long periods of time. I know people who have done 40 days on a water fast. That is hard core, and if you plan to try long water fasts, you will need to modify your activities because you will run out of resources. A liquid fast is much more doable.

4) The “Daniel Fast.” Remember in the beginning of the Book of Daniel when he and the rest of the best of the Jews were taken into captivity and press into service of the Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. They were required to eat the kings meets which they knew might have been sacrificed to idols. Daniel threw down a challenge to the manager in charge to withhold from them the kings meet and his dainties (teehee – sorry that just strikes me funny.)

So the Daniel fast is the giving up of meets, breads and desserts. This one can also be done for long periods of time, since you body is getting nourishment, and you can continue to be active.

5) The “Benedictine Fast.” This is a traditional fast that has been used by various religious groups across the ages. It originated with the Benedictine order (bet you didn’t guess that) and put simply it is one meal per day. It is very similar to the fast that Muslims observe during Ramadan as I understand it, though I am not expert on either Muslim or Catholic traditions. But this is a valid fast, and after a good period of time will be just as fruitful.

6) The “Total Fast.” No food, no water – nothing! This can and should only be done for a very short period of time. Any more than a day or two is dangerous.

7) Finally what I would call the “Material Fast.” This would be the giving up of some thing or activity for a period of time to devote more of your time and resources to the Lord. Many Catholics practice this during lent. When I was a kid, I would hear about my classmates giving up Chocolate or TV during lent.

For years I did not think this was valid as a form of fasting, but for those who due to age or health restrictions can not do dietary fasting, I have found it to have the same effects in those with an honest heart and godly mind set.

Tomorrow I will finish this series with a few more details and precautions.

Thanks much for sticking with this for so many days.

See you tomorrow.

Ben


Jesus said:

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)

What does fasting have to do with intimacy you ask? Walk through this with me for a few minutes.

John the Baptist taught his followers to fast often. As they observed the disciples of Jesus moving from party to party, and carrying away baskets full of food, and pitchers of wine, they began to wonder why their deal  did not include their least favorite part of discipleship – fasting.

Here is how it went down.

Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast." (Matthew 9:14-15 NASB)

So let’s talk about this mourning for a minute. You are probably asking what does mourning have to do with intimacy?

What does it look like to mourn a loved one?

You miss him.

You think about him.

You remember good times you had together.

You long to be close yet again.

Mike Bickle puts it like this: A mourning heart is fiercely discontent and desperately hungry for God.

We can put aside our plates, and press in with our hunger for God.

This type of fast – this intimate fast is – has at it’s core desire. A desire to be closer to Jesus, to be alone with Him, to know Him.

Remember that Hillsong worship song from the 90’s, “I want to know you (more)”

In the secret, in the quiet place
In the stillness you are there
In the secret, in the quiet hour
I wait only for you
Cause I want to know you more

I want to know you
I want to hear your voice
I want to know you more

I want to touch you
I want to see your face
I want to know you more

I am reaching for the highest goal
That I might receive the prize
Pressing onward, pushing every hindrance aside
Out of my way
Cause I want to know you more

That is exactly what is going on with this fast. We are pushing every hindrance aside, out of the way so we can know Him more (pardon my grammar.)

Thanks for stopping in today.

I hope this is helping.

Tomorrow I will talk about some more of the nuts and bolts of fasting.

See you then.

Ben


Jesus said:

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.

When we find ourselves in circumstances that do not match up with the clear promises of God, it is appropriate to bring them before Him and remind Him.

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.

Thanks for coming by today.

Ben


Jesus said:

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)

So this one is probably pretty obvious, but fasting was often used to show repentance.

Fasting, you see, is a demonstration of humility. It is humbling ones self before God. It says my needs are in subjection to you, and until I receive your favor, I will not satisfy myself.

Jesus said, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:3)

One of the clearest examples of this type of fasting occurs in the book of Jonah.

You probably know the story of Jonah the renowned prophet of Israel who was given the task of taking God’s word to Israel’s greatest enemy, Nineveh.

Nineveh was probably the most wicked civilization that ever existed. They were brutal to their enemies, and not so great to their friends.

Skipping all the drama between Johan and God (see Jonah 1 & 2) Jonah ends up in Nineveh with a ghostly pallor. He marches himself through the city declaring the Word of the Lord to his enemies.

It was a 3 day walk from one end of the city to the other, and Jonah set out declaring God’s judgment on that great city.

“Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” (Jonah 3:4 NASB)

Pretty straight forward if you ask me.

Check out the reaction of Nineveh. It is pretty impressive.

Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them.

When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat on the ashes. And he issued a proclamation and it said, “In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands.  Who knows, God may turn and relent, and withdraw His burning anger so that we shall not perish?” (Jonah 3:5-9 NASB)

The result:

When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it. (Jonah 3:10 NASB)

I want to reiterate that we can not earn favor with God. Our fasting does not actually earn points, but it can break the stronghold of wickedness on our lives.

It is as if we are saying to God, I am all in.

Do you struggle with a besetting sin that you just cannot get past. It drags you down, and you go back and repent, and feel week and broken, and the next thing you know you are there again?

This might be just the key you need to break through the stronghold that thing has in your life. It will not earn you forgiveness, Jesus already paid for that, and gave it freely. But it might just help you access the amazing power of the cross to bring victory into your life.

I so appreciate you coming back to the table day after day.

See you tomorrow

Ben


Jesus said:

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)

Let me set up the scenario. Israel has been in captivity for decades. King Cyrus comes to power and is moved to allow the Jews to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem and so he sends them and equips them.

The work progresses quickly and Israels enemies are threatened. The complain to the next King (reading the book of Ezra we seem to be cruising through kings at quite a pace) and he halts progress.

Then yet another King – Artaxerxes – gives Ezra commission to move forward with the rebuilding yet again.

It is quite a task to get all the names and who’s who straight here, but for the purpose of this post here is where we stand. Ezra needs to travel to Jerusalem with a fairly large group of people, and he has some pretty serious opposition.

What does he do? (you probably guessed by now)

He calls a fast! Hear Ezra tell it:

Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions. For I was ashamed to request from the king troops and horsemen to protect us from the enemy on the way, because we had said to the king, “The hand of our God is favorably disposed to all those who seek Him, but His power and His anger are against all those who forsake Him.” So we fasted and sought our God concerning this matter, and He listened to our entreaty. (Ezra 8:21-23 NASB)

Another example from almost the same time in history comes from the wonderful story of Esther.

This one is probably a bit more familiar to most of us. Hayman (you may boo and hiss right here) convinces the king to sign into law the right of the common citizen to kill Jews at will.

Queen Esther is of course a Jew, and so determines to go before the king and make this right, but as you can imagine she is afraid for her life.

“Go, assemble all the Jews who are found in Susa, and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maidens also will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.” So Mordecai went away and did just as Esther had commanded him. (Esther 4:16-17 NASB)

As you probably know, God honored Esther’s entreaties, and used her to save the Jews. This is one of the greatest stories in the Word, and well worth a read if you are not familiar with it.

So here we have 2 great hero’s of the faith, and the Bible faithfully showing the fear they had to overcome in order to be great hero’s of the faith. Fasting was a key part of overcoming the fear they faced.

Thanks for reading today. I really love reviewing these OT stories. Hope you are getting lots from these musings.

See you tomorrow

Ben


Jesus said:

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)

Here is one that might not be obvious, but it is so powerful.

Daniel was one of God favorites.

In Daniel Chapter 9 he records an amazing prayer and the response he received.

So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.

And he gave me instruction and talked with me, and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding. At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed; so give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision.” (Daniel 9:3,22-23 NASB)

I highly recommend you read the whole text. Daniel 9 - Blue Letter Bible

Two things strike me about this.

First, notice the intensity with which he is pursuing his request. This was no throw away prayer. He was pressing in with everything he had to obtain his answer.

Prayer

Supplications

Fasting

Sackcloth

Ashes

Daniel was seeking God for one thing with massive intensity.

So what was the object of all this passion? This blows my mind. He is not praying for a loved one’s (or even his own) healing from some life threatening disease. He is not praying for help with some financial crisis. He is not praying for the right political regime to take office.

He is asking for understanding – for clarification of scripture.

Get this now – He was reading the prophecies of Jeremiah, and he wanted to make sure he had it right. He wanted to make sure he was not misunderstanding what he was reading. He was looking for how this passage should impact how he was living.

He did not just accept the common understanding of the passage from the main stream. He pressed in to hear what the heart of the Father would speak directly to his heart.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting you go out and create your own pet doctrines. But sometimes a verse jumps off the page at you – doesn’t it?

When it does, you need to be diligent and gain understanding that will impact your life.

When God calls your attention to a passage, you need to seek His face and learn from Him where He wants to apply it IN YOUR LIFE.

If the Word of God is not changing your life, you must change that.

Let me bring 2 more scriptures into this conversation.

Solomon said (and I love the old KJV for this one)

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. (Proverbs 4:7 KJV)

I might recommend all of Proverbs 4 here.

Solomon – the wisest man of all times - tells you with every ounce of “get” in you, you must get understanding. Don’t be satisfied if it is not making a change in your life.

The final text I want to bring to the table today is from James.

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. (James 1:22 NASB)

When you hear the word, and do not find its intersection with your life, no transformation is possible. [Tweet This] You become deluded into believing that by simply reading the Word you are justified.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

So then when God puts a passage on your heart, you might consider skipping a meal or two and pressing in for understanding. He promises that if anyone asks for wisdom, He will gladly supply it.

Thanks for stopping in today.

Ben


Jesus said:

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)

We are on the 2nd of 7 Biblical reasons for fasting.

Yesterday we looked at fasting as a means to hearing from the Lord for direction in your life.

Today we will look at Jesus’ comments to the disciples when they were faced with the demon possessed boy.

You remember the story. Jesus took His favorites, Peter, James and John, with Him up on the mountain where they had a meeting with Moses and Elijah. When they returned they found the rest of the crew in an uproar with a man and his boy.

The boy had a demon and was always trying to commit suicide, and the father as you can imagine was beside himself. He brought the boy to meet with Jesus. Since Jesus was otherwise occupied, the disciples tried to do what they had see the Master do over and over again but to no avail.

When Jesus arrived, he dealt with the father and his boy, and then went off to the side with his men.

What follows is revealing.

And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” (Mark 9:28-29 NKJV)

As we have noticed before Jesus was all prayed and fasted up so to speak. He was ready, but this demonstrates to me that Jesus lived a life of prayer and fasting.

Fasting can help us quiet our flesh and tap into the resources that are already our's in Christ. We have the power to cast out demons, because the greater one is within us. [Tweet This] But there are times when we need to shush the roar of our lives and our flesh so we can tap into that which has been freely given to us.

Thanks for stopping by.

See you tomorrow.

Ben

Over the next couple days I want to lay out 7 Biblical reasons for fasting.

We come to this today by way of the red letters as always.

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)

Notice 3 things first:

When you fast…

Don’t make a show…

The Father will reward you…

Our first WHY for fasting is found in the book of Acts:13:2-3

And while they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. (NASB)

And again in Acts 14:23

And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, having prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed. (NASB)

Fasting is a great choice when you are looking for direction in life. Here we see the early church dependant on the voice of the Spirit, and one activity they used to increase their ability to hear was fasting.

Fasting brings your appetites under the mastery of your spirit, and enables your spirit to hear The Spirit more clearly. [Tweet This]

Thanks for stopping by.

See you tomorrow.

Ben

Before I jump too deeply into this fasting series, I want us to remember the context.

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)

This first half of Matthew 6, right in the center of the Sermon on the Mount, has 3 warnings about our Spiritual activity.

Giving, Praying, and Fasting all are to be normal parts of the Christian life, but these are not the good works that Jesus wants put on display for others to see.

These three are each acts of intimacy, activities meant for the closet, the secret place. Bragging (or testifying) about what happens between you and the Lord in your secret life of your spirit would be like telling the guys in the locker room about your intimacy with your wife, or gossiping with your girls about the things you do with your man in private.

What happens in the closet stays in the closet.

Please understand I am not talking about shameful closet secrets, I am talking about intimacy with the Lover of your soul.

This is the place where God put on your heart the thought to give, pray and fast.

So let’s keep the self-righteousness out of this conversation.

Thanks for coming by today.

Tomorrow we jump into the WHYs of fasting. Don’t miss it.

Ben