January 10, 2018
Every year, millions of people go through the spiritual discipline of fasting. It’s not the easiest thing to do because resisting food is hard! Like, wouldn’t you choose, say, two luscious pieces of Chickenjoy served with gravy and piping hot rice, over an hour of prayer?
Still, there must be many reasons many Christians deny themselves the joy of a good meal and replace it with the joy of prayer instead. In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote, “for the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
Fasting can result in joy?
For one thing, the Hebrew word for fast is tsom, while its Greek translation is nesteia; both words mean the same thing: “self-denial.” There are many reasons for fasting in the Old Testament, but many Bible scholars believe that fasting as a spiritual discipline started with particular individuals who denied themselves the joy of food because of their situations:
Soon, fasting was being done on a national level:
Eventually, this practice of fasting became connected with an appearance of grief:
When fasting shows up in the New Testament, we see it in a different light, primarily because of its twin: prayer. Characters who submitted to the will of God by denying their fleshly desires to fast and pray found they were sensitive to the direction of the Holy Spirit. God’s people were no longer bound by regular fixed dates, unlike in the Old Testament:
Prayer coupled with fasting is a powerful spiritual discipline that will unlock a great number of spiritual doors in the life of a Christian believer as we continue to honor God and make disciples.
Here’s the thing: fasting without prayer and reading of God’s word is just plain physical weight loss. Denying our stomachs to meditate on the Word of God–Jesus Himself said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4)–is an expression of humble submission to God’s will.
Fasting with prayer and meditation of God’s Word will move not just the physical reality but the spiritual realm as well. It helps you clearly hear the voice of the Spirit in your personal moment of devotion. It deepens one’s intimate relationship with God, giving you sensitive insight of the Holy Spirit’s leading, aside from spiritual breakthroughs so we could do His will in our personal life, our family, our campuses, our workplace, and our nation.
What usually comes with breakthrough? JOY. Oh, yes, the kind that feels better than fried chicken and gravy over hot rice.
This article is based on “The Theology of Fasting” by Pastor Jun Divierte.