Spring Training just ended and I am very excited to see my husband a little more often these days! My husband Billy is a rookie ball hitting coach for the San Francisco Giants and so when spring training rolls around each year, he is out of the house at 4:45am and he pretty much puts in 12 hour days for a month straight!
Now don’t get me wrong…I am far from complaining about his job which is an unbelievably amazing blessing to our family. This coaching job was given to us by the Lord over a year ago and to hear the incredible story of just how the Lord gave us this job…you need to check out my husband’s book “7 Day Fast” at sevendayfast.com.
During spring training this year, Billy began to struggle in the very area that is one of his greatest strengths…throwing batting practice to the baseball players. We couldn’t figure out what changed all of sudden! He wasn’t hurt but somehow mentally he was in a rut.
We began to pray because throwing batting practice is a very important part of his job. We couldn’t figure out how his mechanics and performance changed so suddenly. This pattern continued all through spring until last week when I decided to fast and seek the Lord for a breakthrough. I fasted for 24 hours…I basically had dinner Monday night and broke the fast with dinner Tuesday night.
And praise God! His throwing improved that very day and his performance returned as usual by the last day of spring training! It was truly an answered prayer and really had nothing to do with me but everything to do with God and his sovereign grace and mercy!
You see… truly amazing things can happen when you fast and I have personally experienced the power of fasting in my life! But please don’t misunderstand me…fasting isn’t some quick magic way of getting God to answer prayers and having Him do what you want Him to do in your life. What I do hope is to help you get a better understanding of fasting especially if you have never done a biblical fast before.
Fasting is one of the spiritual disciplines of Christianity. Spiritual disciplines are practices which we, as Christians, use to draw ourselves into a stronger relationship with Christ. Other spiritual disciplines include prayer, studying God’s word, worship, among others.
The biblical definition of “fasting” is the voluntary abstinence from food for spiritual purposes.
The noun translated “fast” or “a fasting” is tsom in the Hebrew and nesteia in the Greek language. It means going without food. The literal Hebrew translation would be “not to eat.” The literal Greek means “no food.”
I know that some people may go without television, movies, or other things and they call it “fasting”. I’m not necessarily opposed to that definition of fasting…fasting does imply that we are giving up one thing in order to replace it with something else, and spiritually speaking, we specifically replace it with prayer and time in God’s word.
When you fast, you are denying yourself something that you believe you must have… and therefore, to stay consistent with the biblical definition and for the purposes of this blog, I will say fasting is voluntarily abstaining from food.
I recently heard a pastor preach that biblical fasting is a discipline of voluntarily denying oneself of food in order to increase time with God…not only the amount of time spent, but the quality of time. It isn’t a diet…it is time with God…it is a God encounter!
Even though there are physical benefits to fasting, this is not the purpose of biblical fasting. The goal of fasting is to have a personal encounter with the living God, to draw closer to Him, and to regain spiritual focus.
Have you ever done a biblical fast?
I am certainly not an expert on fasting but I have had some amazing and powerful fasting experiences in the last 12 years. I have been a part of a number of fasts since becoming a Christian…some corporately with my church and with others…and many alone by myself.
I have fasted for my family, myself, friends and for others behalf. I have fasted personally for breakthroughs, answered prayers, wisdom and revelation, guidance and direction, and thankfulness. I have fasted one meal to all meals….24 hours to 7 days. I actually know a few people who have done a 40 day fast too!!! (I wouldn’t expect anyone to do that unless the Lord has put that on your heart…and so far He hasn’t for me!)
The greatest thing I have learned through fasting is that I go into it with a certain purpose and come out with a greater revelation, understanding, and hunger for God.
You see it isn’t wrong to go in with a specific purpose like for instance, a breakthrough, but I realized through my fasting experiences the importance of seeking God’s face and not just His hand. What I mean by that is seeking God for who he is…developing a greater hunger and desire to know him intimately…and not just for what he can give me ie. a breakthrough.
Our motives are very important with spiritual disciplines such as fasting. The Lord knows truly what is in our hearts and therefore, we shouldn’t look at fasting in a legalistic manner. We shouldn’t be prideful and shouldn’t brag or boast about our fast. We shouldn’t tell everyone and portray that we are a victim suffering.
And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. Matthew 6:16 NLT
Side note…I also find it interesting that Jesus said in this scripture “when” you fast not “if” you fast. Hmmmm….
I believe that as Christians, Jesus would like us to participate in this spiritual discipline of fasting. In the Old Testament, the Jews were commanded by Law to fast on certain occasions, but today fasting should be seen as a privilege and not a law…there is no command given to how often or how long we should fast …like prayer, it should not be done legalistically, but should be seen as a privilege.
So, what does the bible say about fasting and how does it benefit us? According to Isaiah 58, the following is a list of benefits…
2) Healing and Wholeness
4) The presence of God’s glory
5) Answered Prayers
6) Continual guidance
10) Work that endures
11) Raising up future generations
There are many reasons and examples of people fasting in the bible as well. I have included just some of them here…
1) David-fasted for his unborn son(1 Samuel 12:15-20)
2) Ezra- fasted for safety and protection (Ezra 8:21-23)
3) Daniel- fasted for God’s wisdom and guidance (Daniel 1:12)
4) Esther- fasted for courage and wisdom (Esther 4:3,15-16)
5) King Jehoshaphat- fasted for deliverance from opposing armies(2Chronicles 20:1-5)
6) Elijah- fasted 40 days for spiritual recuperation and preparation (1 Kings 19:1-9)
7) Moses- fasted 40 days for spiritual revelation (Exodus 34:27-28)
8) Jesus- fasted 40 days for ministry preparation (Matthew 4:2)
9) Paul & Barnabas- fasted for God’s guidance with the appointment of elders (Acts 14:23)
A biblical fast is not…
about our comfort.
about shedding a few lbs. (like many of us women think in the back of our minds!).
a diet or a toxic cleanse (although there are health benefits.)
about not eating food and going about our day…business as usual.
a means for comparison/ competition with another person.
about being legalistic.
A biblical fast is…
about our motives.
having a greater a hunger for God.
seeking God’s face, not His hand.
There many different types of fasts…different reasons to fast….different ways to fast…different lengths of time to fast.
So practically, what do we need to do to prepare for a fast? It is very important to establish your goals and guidelines before you fast. Pray, seek the Lord, and see what he puts on your heart.
Why are you fasting?
Are you abstaining from all food or certain types of food?
Are you fasting from one meal or all meals, etc?
How many days will you fast? One day, 2 days etc.
Do you have a set time and place to meet God to pray and read the bible?
Before you embark on any fast or extended fast, it important to consult your physician. Also, if you have certain medical conditions that don’t allow you to abstain from food, you can fast from other things that you believe you must have in your life.
If you have never fasted before it is important that you start small…fasting is a bit like physical exercise, you want to train yourself…don’t jump into a 40 day fast and even a 7 Day fast with no training…you wouldn’t try to run a marathon with no training. Start by fasting one meal, then two, then do a 24hr fast.
One of my heart’s greatest desire is that you would draw closer in intimacy with God. And to see the power and amazing blessings of fasting! I guarantee you that fasting…and a lifestyle of regularly fasting…will change you! Because really…how can you encounter our living God, our sovereign almighty God, and not be changed?
1) Do you need to draw closer to God? Or regain your focus on Him?
2) Do you need to strengthen your relationship with God?
3) Do you want a greater hunger for God?
4) Have you ever done a biblical fast?
1) Establish your spiritual goals and guidelines for your fast. Pray and see what the Lord puts on your heart.
2) Determine the nature of the fast. Abstaining from solid food, specific foods, etc.
3) Determine the length of the fast. One day? 2 or 3 meals? Longer?
4) Establish a time and place to meet with God in prayer and reading the bible.