In Matthew 6:16 Jesus said, “When you fast.” Not if you fast but when you fast. Jesus expected his followers to fast. Moses fasted, David fasted, Paul fasted. And Jesus fasted too. Christian leaders throughout history have fasted. Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Finney, Edwards, Moody and many more all fasted. Fasting is always done in connection with prayer. Fasting without prayer is a form of dieting, it becomes a spiritual practice when it is combined with prayer.

There can be wrong motivations for fasting. Some fast to try and earn blessings from God. They think if they sacrifice food God will grant them extra blessings. Others fast as a substitute for obedience. Isaiah tells us that if we fast and yet don’t act right God will not hear and answer our prayers.

Some fast to impress other people, they want it to be known they are fasting. They think others will find them godly or pious if they know they are giving up food. And still others fast out of religious observance. They treat it like other spiritual practices (taking communion, tithing) that are done because Christ followers are supposed to do them, rather than fasting out of devotion and commitment to God.

There are powerful benefits to fasting. Fasting shows we are putting God first by denying ourselves food. It is an act that deepens our commitment to Christ. Fasting creates a greater hunger for God to work. Devoting time to prayer and fasting results in an unwavering desire to see God move above all else. Fasting brings about a laser-like spiritual focus.

The result is an intensified prayer concentration that is unlike anything else. Fasting injects us with a new energy in prayer. It solidifies in us a greater determination to seek God through prayer. And fasting opens us up to the Spirit’s working in our lives. We transcend simple natural desires and move into a new place spiritually.

This should create a healthy motivation in you to fast and pray. If it seems intimidating to go without eating start small. Try fasting for one day. You will be hungry and you will feel bad. This is your body rebelling against your agreed upon contract – you feed it and it will make you feel well.

Your body will also begin the process of riding itself of toxins, which is very healthy. The longer you fast the more clean your body will become and the better you will ultimately feel. Of course, if you have a medical condition or are on prescription drugs you should consult your doctor before beginning a fast.

I am fasting as I write this. I have fasted for over thirty years from one day to twenty. The positive spiritual impact it has had on my life is immeasurable. If you want to grow spiritually and reach levels you have never reached before try fasting and praying. There is a reason Jesus expects us to do it.

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