Hunger and thirst are God-given desires crafted into the very essence of who we are. We experience hunger physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We humans can hunger for many things: significance, companionship, adventure, entertainment. Certainly, we all hunger for food and water.
If God designed us to hunger for food, then why would He ever ask us to abstain from it? Jesus exampled and taught fasting as an expected discipline in the Christian life. He said in Matthew 6:16, “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites . . .” (Matthew 6:16, ESV). Jesus didn’t say, “if you fast,” but “when you fast.”
Let’s consider a few benefits of fasting:
- Fasting is an invitation for more in our lives, more time with God, more time in His Word, more alignment with Him, more strength for our trials, more wisdom, more . . . .
- Fasting, when connected to extra time in prayer and in the Word of God, increases my awareness of God. When I fast, I choose to hunger physically to increase my spiritual hunger. Doing without something as elemental as food reminds me of how strong my natural flesh is and just how much I need God.
- By praying more during a fast, we focus on God in a significant way, asking for His presence and truth. Our hearts are then open to a deeper devotion to Him. (Without this focus on God, fasting is merely a diet). Just as spending more time with someone we care about while giving them our undivided attention can help deepen our love for them, so it is with pressing in to have more time with God, while temporarily giving up food and other pastimes.
- Fasting humbles us and increases our appetite for Him. Our spiritual cravings grow as we pursue God. As we seek God’s face during our fasts, we open our hearts for His correction and instruction. Repentance and humility align us with God, positioning us to hear from Him more clearly and obey Him.
- Spiritual discipline and self-control (a fruit of the Spirit), when exercised in one area of life, tend to increase in other areas as well. Our roots grow deeper, and our lives can be more fruitful.
Fasting is an opportunity, a sweet invitation from God to set aside food and distractions and draw in close to Him, listening for His quiet whisper, reading His Word with fresh eyes. May you find a deeper intimacy and a greater strength in Him as you choose to fast in 2019.
KAY BURNETT is National Women's Ministries Director for the General Council of the Assemblies of God.