Christians did something from the very beginning that is not generally practiced in Christianity any more. It is the practice of fasting. You can read about how Christ went into the wilderness and fasted for 40 days. During that time, Jesus was tempted by the devil, and he overcame each encounter.
There are even plenty of early Christian writings that mention that church members were fasting. What about us today? The question then is – Should Christians be fasting often? When, Why and How should we go about fasting?
I will not go into the medical details, but there are recent studies that show how beneficial it can be to your health. One study showed that your entire immune system can be rebooted with a three-day fast. My purpose here, is to speak about the spiritual benefits of fasting, not necessarily the physical.
Let’s go back to Christ and his 40 day fast. Christ did this just before beginning his three year ministry. That ministry would culminate with his death on the cross, and then his resurrection and ascension. Obviously, the fast was a way for Jesus to prepare for his ministry. He was doing it in a disciplined way to gain the strength necessary to accomplish his mission on earth. I am not talking about merely giving up a food you really like, such as Oreo cookies for a day. The kind of fast I am talking about is an abstinence from food, and water.
Most people can certainly go without food and water for 24 hours. You eat a simple meal, say Saturday at 5 PM, and then eat your next meal Sunday at 5 PM. If you are older or have other health issues, you may not be able to do this, so don’t put yourself in danger. You might be capable of going without food, but not water, so judge this for yourself. For example, if you don’t drink water for 24 hours, you may have a severe case of constipation that could be a very critical medical issue for you.
As long as I am at it, let me also suggest that a fast for spiritual reasons includes giving up all bodily appetites, so you should also consider abstaining from sex in your marriage (see Exodus 19:15) and other bodily appetites you might identify.
So what then are the spiritual benefits? I already mentioned that Jesus Christ was fasting to be prepared to begin his ministry. We likewise will fast for strength. This can be to overcome an addiction, or just as a kind of “tune-up” in our lives to stay strong against temptations and apostasy. We know there are powers out to destroy us.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” – Ephesians 6:12 NIV
Don’t forget to include plenty of time on your knees and to humble yourself and remove the pride that prevents God from blessing you. Offer up prayers of thanks and worship God. This is also a time to pray for strength, to pray to ask for what you should pray for and to plead with God for the righteous desires of your heart. The combination of fasting and prayer is the “nuclear option” that can act like nothing else you will ever experience in your life to call upon the powers of heaven.
In the New Testament, the apostles were told to go out and perform miracles and heal people. They were actually successful at doing that. But then, they came across a case where they could not heal a man that had been possessed of the devil. They came and asked Christ why. He explained it to them as follows:
“But this kind goes not out but by prayer and fasting.” – Matthew 17:21
There you have it! If you really want to combine your faith and prayers into a potent mixture in your life, you combine these with fasting.
Note: I am not a medical doctor, so please consult a doctor if you really want to know what is safe and healthy for you.