Fasting is not a command but a privilege. Perhaps the most familiar fast to the Bible student is that of Jesus in the wilderness. He went without food for 40 days. (Matthew 4:1-11) It was assumed by Jesus that his disciples would fast (Matthew 6:16-18). The disciples of John the Baptist engaged in fasting and so did the Pharisees (Matthew 9:14). They questioned why the disciple of Jesus were not fasting. Jesus answered them saying, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, then they will fast.” (Matthew 9:15) They will fast!
And, so they did fast. “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work for which I have called them. So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.” (Acts 13:2-3) Paul and Barnabas went on a mission to appoint elders in each church they had planted and did so “with prayer and fasting, committing them to the Lord.” (Acts 14:23)
Again, while Jesus was with his disciples they did not fast. Other religious groups, namely the Pharisees and the disciples of John the Baptist, thought it strange that Jesus’ disciples did not fast. It is also interesting that Jesus did not push fasting for his disciples. He was okay with them not fasting. It seems however that the death of Jesus would motivate his disciples to fast and he expected them to fast after he died.
A take away from the scriptures shared in this article is that there is a deep spiritual experience that can be found in worshiping the Lord while fasting and praying. James 4:8 states, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” Worshiping, fasting and praying with intentionality will draw God near to us and us near to God. Imagine a long rope with you on one end and God on the other. You both are winding the rope up and as you do you are drawn closer to each other. God is ready to start winding! Are we? AM I?
The circles I run in seldom practice fasting. A statement from Rick Atchley plays in my head as I read these text on the practice of Jesus and those that he said would fast after he was no longer with them: “Is the Book of Acts a collection of exceptions or a collection of examples?” There are other things in the Acts 14 text that are equally outside of our normal practice:
- The Holy Spirit speaking to us
- Experiencing a call from God
- Fasting and praying as we commission missionaries
- Placing hands on those we fast and pray for
Fasting has a long history with the people of God. Read Isaiah 58 to understand what a “true fast” is. What will we do with these truths?
Jim Woodell, Executive Director
www.John 3:17 Ministry.org