“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen" Isaiah 58:6a
There is a wrong kind of fasting. The Prophet Isaiah calls Israel out. The Lord is clear. He is not impresses with our religiosity. He is not impressed by our supposed sacrifice. He is not impressed when we pray and fast and yet we live the opposite way.
Jesus clearly called out the hypocrites. “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full." Matthew 6:16.
But make not mistake. There is a fast that God does indeed choose. The start of any time of extended fasting is to ask God to choose for you. Jesus was the supreme example for authentic fasting. He was lead into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit to fast. Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
This may seem simple. But sometimes it is hard to hear. What is the Holy Spirit saying? Where is he telling you to go? Every year we consecrate a season of fasting and prayer for our congregation. But within that season, it is of utmost importance to ask the Lord, what would you have me to do?
My tendency is to go to the extreme. I want to declare all out war on my flesh. I want to experience the presence and power of God to my fullest capacity. Perhaps you tendency is to go the extreme as well. And I have found that at times, God has taken me to the extreme. He has wanted to stretch me and take me places farther than I ever thought possible. But sometimes I have fasted way to far and beyond what the Holy Spirit is leading me to do.
Perhaps your tendency is the opposite. Perhaps you have never let hunger be an escort to a deeper relationship with God and greater focus on pursuing his presence in your life. Other religions fast. But the spirit of their fast is not the same. Even health experts and dietitians recommend "fasting" for physical benefits. And yet many believers in Western Civilization have for long forgotten the great spiritual discipline of fasting. We mistakenly believe that God of all comfort would desire for us to stay in a comfort zone. Suffering could never be in the will of our God.... especially a chosen suffering.
Whatever your tendency, be sure of this: The Holy Spirit is able to lead you into a time of fasting. It is not you flesh that would desire you to put on hold your meals so that in their place you can wait on God to a greater degree. It is not the enemy that would want you to turn off your TV and internet and spend that extra time in prayer and the word. It is not the world that will celebrate your mourning and a hear that cries out to God for a city lost and on its way to destruction. But if you sense any urge to fast in a Biblical way... my guess is that it is the Holy Spirit calling you.. "Come."
My friend Arthur Guice, pastor of Spirit of Liberty Church of God, recently gave me a great illustration on fasting and prayer. There is two major standards for electricity. There is 220 volts of power and 120 volts of power. Fasting is for God to change you and give you a greater capacity in your life for his power to flow through you. It is almost as if God has already supplied all the power we need but often our connection is corrupted. There is a short circuit of sin and wrong motives in our hearts. There is hinderances in our understanding of Truth that distorts our perspective of God. We may not put God in box, but we put a box of limits around what we thing God could do through our own lives. God is wanting to change us and expand our capacity for his Holy Spirit to lead us and direct us and show his power in our lives.
Fasting is not for you to get a hold of God but for God to get a hold of you. And fasting is not for you to manipulate God into doing what you want, but God getting your heart to match his heart so your prayers are aligned in the will of God.
TO FAST OR NOT TO FAST. Would you pray. Would you ask the Holy Spirit to lead you as far as the length of your fast and the type of fast. God has chosen a fast. And the Holy Spirit is more than capable to lead you into that fast. When you have a strong sense of what he is calling you to do, write it down and make a commitment to follow through. Choose a fast lead by the Holy Spirit!