It is interesting to note that fasting is mentioned 77 times in the Bible. One such example is Matthew 6:16 which begins with these 3 words, “When you fast…” Personally, “if you fast” would be my preference but a reading of this passage indicates that fasting is not an option for followers of Jesus.
The purpose of this blog is not to get into the “nuts and bolts” of fasting but rather, a call for all of us to examine our hearts as they relate to the Biblical practice of fasting. Let me offer a personal example to help illustrate this point.
Recently, my wife and I began a practice of fasting the first Sunday of each month, beginning Saturday evening and ending with our evening meal on Sunday. Until recently, I found myself dreading the 24 hours of fasting, for we chose to fast from food, something I love and crave. The fast would begin and with that, my poor attitude as I wanted food and was mad I could not have it. Then, I would sleep most of the afternoon after church so I would not think about my hunger. Finally, when our fast ended, I would devour my meal and check off this box for another month.
As you can see, I totally missed the purpose of fasting. Fasting is more than our denying ourselves something, whether it is food, social media, or some other action in our daily lives. Our motivation for eliminating earthly pleasures should be fueled by our desire for the unsurpassable eternal pleasures of God (Psalm 16:11). Though I had fulfilled the physical act of fasting, my heart was far from fasting in that I was not seeking the one who could fulfill my every desire, the true bread of life.
How does fasting apply to SALLT and leaders committed to their city? Nehemiah 1:4 states, “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.” Nehemiah mourned for his city (Jerusalem) and as he mourned, he prayed AND fasted. As we read further in Nehemiah, “the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.”
Do you want this for your city? I know I want it for my city. Will you join like-minded individuals in prayer and fasting for your city? The transformation we desire cannot happen in insulation but must be done in unity with others.
Dr. Alan Spies