What Fasting Can Do For You
Food tastes good! It’s not that I didn’t already know that. It’s just that I especially appreciate the taste having just completed a 21 day season of ‘liquid-only’ fasting. Every year, I encourage my church family to do some type of fasting and praying to begin the year. This year, our focus as on this 21 day period of time.
Some people ask, ‘why is this so important?’ and also, ‘how can you go for that long a period of time without eating?’ Let me address question #2 first.
I did not start out with a 21 day fast. For me, I began with a 24 hour fast. The first few attempts at that, I failed and ended up eating by lunchtime. Eventually, I succeeded. Then I tried three days. Eventually, I lasted an entire week. Just like a long-distance runner develops stamina, and learns to read the reactions of their own body – so it is with fasting and prayer. Now let’s answer the ‘why’ question.
#1 – IT ELEVATES MY SENSES
Denying yourself food will make you sense hunger. But it also makes you feel everything more acutely. The morning shower feels much warmer and invigorating. Cold feels colder. Smells are much more pungent. And in my spirit – I can sense the activity of the Holy Spirit much more clearly as well.
#2 – IT WIPES AWAY THE FOG
This heightened sensitivity clarifies my vision. It’s like turning on the defroster in my car to defog the car windshield. All of the sudden, I can see clearer where I am going and what God wants to do in my life. As a spiritual leader, who is responsible for leading others – this is incredibly important for me in order to lead well.
#3 – IT STRENGTHS MY RESOLVE
This weekend I had a conversation with Johannes Amritzer about this very topic. He said, ‘a long fast strengthens my will because if I can say ‘no’ to food for this length of time, then I can certainly say ‘no’ to all other types of sin and distraction. It builds a confidence that I can overcome.
#4 – IT CRUCIFIES MY FLESH
Another way of saying this is that my self-centered nature is dealt a death blow. Dying to self is not something you do for just 21 days. It has to become a lifestyle. Anytime, however, you aggressively kill your own selfishness, you are then able to make great spiritual progress.
#5 – IT INCREASES MY INTENSITY
People always tell me, “I love to hear you preach when you are fasting! Your passion levels are clearly increased.’ It’s not even something that I am totally aware of – and yet there is an obvious sense of authority and push in preaching and in prayer during a fast.
#6 – IT ESTABLISHES AN INTIMACY
The combination of the extra time in prayer and the other factors listed above – bring about a very sweet sense of closeness with God. When you go to pray – you step right into the presence of God and feel this wide open heaven. This is the most prized of all of the benefits. Being close to the Almighty. Feeling his pleasure. Hearing his voice. Wow, Wow, Wow! There is nothing quite like it.
#7 – IT INVITES A HARVEST
Hebrews 12 teaches us that God’s discipline in our life, while not pleasant at the moment, brings about a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who are trained by it. Self-discipline can bring a similar harvest in your life. As we sow to please the Spirit and choose to kill the flesh, we reap the benefits of righteousness and peace throughout the year.