I felt it necessary to encourage all of you who have joined us in the fast. The benefits of fasting and prayer are so potent, I want you to know that this is not simple a matter of “being hungry for Jesus” for few days. God is going to do a work in you and through you!
With scripture as our guide, I would like to outline the benefits of fasting and prayer.
The first benefit is readiness for ministry. We see this portrayed in the ministry of Christ.
Matthew 4:1–2 (ESV) Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry…. 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
Before Jesus ever preached or healed anyone, He was prepared and honed for His earthly ministry through an extended (and in many ways supernaturally enabled) fast. He learned to depend on God for His life and strength. When the devil tempted Him, He resisted. In effect, the fasting of Christ chiseled His humanity for the call of God.
You may be feeling the hunger pains right now. Embrace it! You’re doing damage to that self-indulgent part of you called “the flesh”. Right now he’s/she’s angry, upset that you’re not appeasing his/her every desire. In effect, he/she is slowly being weakened. At the same time, through prayer and time in God’s Word, your “spiritual man/woman” is being strengthened. Guess what happens when the flesh gets weaker and the spirit gets stronger? The spirit wins! For many of you, old habits will be broken, bad attitudes will be crushed and overcoming thoughts will finally be overcome with God’s truth. So let the hunger pain come, its a sure sign the battle for YOU is being won in the Lord!
The second benefit is boldness. When Esther knew that her only option was to take the Jew’s case to the King, she grew fearful. Strong words from Mordecai made it clear this was why she was in the position she was in. There could be no turning from her call. But Esther new the decree of the king that any who approached him without being requested faced certain death. In that moment, she called for a fast on behalf of her approach. After the fast, Esther’s fears are subsided and she ends up boldly intervening in the King’s presence to save the Jewish people.
Fasting will do this for you. It will produce Spiritual boldness. You will have strengthened your “inner man” so that you are propelled by the Word of Christ and not impeded by the powers of your present conditions.
The third benefit is clarity of purpose. We see this outlined in the book of Acts. Whenever God wanted to appoint specific people for specific purposes, fasting is happening in the church. Note what happens in Antioch. God launches Paul’s world-wide ministry through the fasting and prayer of the Church:
Acts 13:2 (ESV) While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
Paul would carry this practice forward in the churches he planted first appointing leaders and then fasting and praying over them to fulfill their purpose in the church.
Acts 14:23 (ESV) And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
I’m excited to think about what God may say to you about your purpose. Perhaps some of you will hear specifically what God has called you to do or what area He’s assigned to you. Perhaps some will feel the call to vocational ministry, missions, or some line of work you never thought of that He has prepared specifically for you. Be ready to hear the Holy Spirit in these days!
The fourth benefit is discernment. This is evidenced in the life of Daniel. When Israel was in exile to Babylon, Daniel opened the scriptures and realized God had spoken through Jeremiah that this exile would last 70 years. Daniel then committed to fasting and prayer (Daniel 9:3). During that time Daniel confessed sins of his own and his nation. Then he asked God for action. In that very moment, the angel Gabriel appears:
Daniel 9:21–22 (ESV) while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the first, came to me in swift flight at the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He made me understand, speaking with me and saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding.
Notice the result of his prayers, confession and fasting: “insight and understanding.” Daniel was able to perceive the times in which he lived and also how to live for God in a nation that did not serve Him. I can think of few things more beneficial to God’s people in America right now. We need His wisdom and discerning, insight and understanding as our nation rages against God and itself in so many ways.
The fifth benefit is supernatural power. Jesus taught the disciples this when they could not cast out a demon and He cast it out with ease. When they asked why they were unable, His answer was short and to the point: Mark 9:29 (NKJV) “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.”
Jesus is making a very clear point. You experience a release of supernatural power previously unknown when you fast and pray.
This is not an exhaustive list and there are many more benefits for your walk with Christ when you fast. My hope is to inspire you to keep going!
I would also like to encourage you about the physical benefits of fasting. I put these last because ultimately, this is about our spiritual life. But research has shown that fasting helps our immune system, detoxifies our bodies, lowers blood pressure and moderates cholesterol levels. It’s amazing that this very Biblical act is a benefit to both our Spiritual AND physical life. Once again, God knows what’s best for us and we do well to listen.
Keep seeking God! See you on First Wednesday!