Maybe the most misunderstood and under-practiced of the spiritual disciplines is fasting. Fasting was a regular weekly routine of the Pharisees, but they fasted in a hypocritical way that drew attention to themselves. As with the other disciplines, fasting is an expression of worship and devotion to God, but it also has great benefit for the disciple in keeping the appetites of the flesh in their place. God has made man a trichotomy: spirit, soul, and body. This is the renewed order in which we live our lives. We are first and foremost spiritual beings that emphasize the spirit life.
- JESUS and PAUL: Jesus fasted (Matthew 4) and He assumed His disciples would fast as well (Matthew 6:16; 9:14-15).
- FASTING and PRAYER: It’s evident that fasting is linked together with prayer. On many occasions they are linked together as a powerful, spiritual 1-2 punch.
- Spiritual Battle: With respect to overcoming demonic activity in the lives of people Jesus told His disciples that some demons are exorcised only by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:20-21).
- Guidance: The leadership of the early church ministered to the Lord and fasted and as they did the Holy Spirit spoke concerning His will for Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:1-3). This initiated the greatest church planting movement the world has ever seen.
- Intercession: As Paul and Barnabas established leadership in their church plants, they gathered the new believers together and commended them to God through prayer and fasting (Acts 14:21-23).
- In Repentance: The Bible teaches that fasting accompanies a heart that is humble and broken over sin (Psalm 35:13; 69:10). This also ensures that our fasting is pleasing to God, setting righteousness as a priority in our lives and not meaningless religious rituals (Isaiah 58).
- Separation from the World and Focus on Spiritual Things: Daniel and his 3 friends fasted from the delicacies of the king because they knew it violated the law of God. They entrusted themselves to God, separated themselves from the worldliness around them and God blessed them (Daniel 1:8-21). While fasting is generally focused on food, identifying other distractions that are unhelpful to your spiritual life and fasting from them will deepen your relationship with God.