Blessings to you and your families during this season of new things! I belong to a couple communities who fast during the beginning of the year, and I wrote this explanation for one of them.
I grew up in a tradition that “fasted” during Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter. I did it, but I never really knew what the point was. Later after I became a believer, I fasted for various reasons, mostly trying to get God to do something in my life or a loved one’s life. I thought if I gave up something it would earn me more favor with God, or at least remind me to pray for that cause.
In the past several years, I have learned another purpose for fasting. It relates to our identity as spirit, soul, and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Each human is an eternal spirit, who has a soul (mind, will, and emotions), and lives in this earth in a body. Many scriptures describe the tension between spirit and flesh. (Galatians 5 is a great chapter on this topic.) Briefly, our born-again spirit has been renewed and made perfect by faith in Jesus, but our soul/mind and our flesh/body are still subject to sin. To put it simply, my spirit is holy, perfect, and blameless, but my flesh is all about me, myself, and I.
In Matthew 17 there’s a story about a boy severely afflicted by a demon, whose father brought him to Jesus’ disciples (while Jesus, Peter, James, and John were on the mountain.) The disciples were not able to cast the demon out, but when Jesus came, he did.
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”
So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
I believe the “this kind” that Jesus refers to is this kind of unbelief, not necessarily this kind of demon. Either way, the principle is the same: to operate fully in the authority Jesus intends for us requires prayer and fasting.
When we fast, we choose to believe God’s word over our own feelings. This is essential to maturing in faith, and to bringing ourselves in line with God’s kingdom. When we go without food, our bodies will say, “You must feed me now!” The process of choosing not to give in to the desire for food strengthens our ability to resist all sorts of temptations. Jesus said, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,” (Matthew 4:4) and “I have food to eat of which you do not know” (John 4:32). We can trust that God will sustain us through our fast. Fasting helps us focus our attention on God and his kingdom rather than our own physical circumstances. Every time we choose to seek the Kingdom instead of giving in to our flesh, we strike a blow against the enemy. Fasting is very powerful in the spiritual realm.
I find it especially effective to combine fasting with taking Communion. I set up a supply of unleavened bread and juice, and every morning during my fast, I spend time with Jesus in a very real way through the bread and wine. There are dozens of scriptures to dwell on, and each time I receive communion, I unpack one or two of these. I also actively receive the life and power that Jesus intended for us through this meal. I often pray and make declarations for the people in my life during this time.
Below I have included a listing of 30+ Scriptures that deal with the power of Communion and our unity with Jesus. Whether or not you are fasting, I encourage you to take time to dwell on the bountiful feast to which we have been invited! Also, please share in the comments the reasons and ways that you fast. Be blessed!
John 6:33-53, 17:13-25
Romans 3:25, 5:9, 6:5, 7:4, 8:11
1 Cor 10:16-17, 11:23-26
2 Corinthians 5:21
Ephesians 1:7, 2:13
Hebrews 9:14, 9:20-22, 10:10, 10:19, 13:20
1 John 1:7, 2:2, 5:8
Revelation 3:20, 7:14, 12:11, 19:9