Why Do You Want to Fast?
At BCC, we think of fasting in the same way we think of praise and worship. Sometimes our joy overflows in songs of praise. Sometimes our singing leads us into joy. So when our soul overflows with grief, repentance, and a humble desire to know God intimately, we may choose to begin a fast, but far more often, we need to choose to fast in order to lead ourselves into humility—to fight our pride and reject the ways we usually cope with our feelings.
There are many ways to fast, but the first step we must take is to declare our purpose. Fasting cannot be done casually. There isn’t any spiritual benefit in simply denying ourselves food. Going through the motions just makes us hungry.
Reasons for Fasting
What are godly reasons for fasting? In his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney gives us these ten reasons:
- To strengthen prayer,
- To seek God’s guidance,
- To express grief,
- To seek deliverance or protection,
- To express repentance and the return to God,
- To humble oneself before God,
- To express concern for the work of God,
- To minister to the needs of others,
- To overcome temptation and dedicate yourself to God,
- To express love and worship to God.
Throughout the Bible, we see people fast for a variety of reasons:
- To be like Jesus (Matt. 4:1–17; Luke 4:1–13)
- To obtain spiritual purity (Isa. 58:5–7)
- To repent from sins (Jon. 3:8; Neh. 1:4, 9:1–3; 1 Sam. 14:24)
- To influence God (2 Sam. 12:16–23)
- To mourn for the dead (1 Sam. 31:13; 2 Sam. 1:12)
- To request God’s help in times of crisis and calamity (Ezra 8:21–23; Neh. 1:4–11)
- To strengthen prayer (Matt. 17:21; Mark 9:17–29; Acts 10:30; 1 Cor. 7:5)
None of these purposes amounts to arm-twisting God to do what we want. Who could do that? God is not a genie who will grant us whatever we wish. Our reasons for fasting are for our own humility. By denying ourselves for a time, we provoke ourselves to rely more on the Almighty. In fasting:
- We pray more intently.
- We become more receptive to God’s guidance.
- We lean more on Scripture to hear his voice.
- We demonstrate our grief and honest repentance.
- We physically declare that we need God to survive.
- We yearn to sense spiritual reality more than the physical world.
- We prepare to love others better than ourselves.
Fasting is a spiritual discipline Jesus has given us as a way of fulfilling his commandment to love him with all of our heart, mind, and strength.