Biblical fasting is always about abstaining from food — not refraining from activities such as using Facebook or watching television. Biblical fasting means refraining from all food or certain foods for a spiritual purpose for a limited period of time. The Hebrew word for “fast” is tsôwm (twoom), which means “to cover the mouth.” The Greek word for fast is nēstěuō (nace-tyoo-o), which means “to abstain from food.”
A fast is a highly focused period of time when we examine our lives and seek to align ourselves with the ways of God. We do this by separating ourselves from our typical patterns and routines and entering a spiritual experience for a given time.
Fasting is a spiritual discipline and the practice has tenets that we want to follow so we can be assured a successful experience.
Fasting is temporary, which means it’s doable. Even lifelong meat lovers can practice the Daniel Fast and go without meat for just twenty-one days. Setting aside a specific and limited amount of time for fasting sharpens our focus on God. We then can enter more deeply into His truths. As we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit and purpose ourselves to learn from Him, our Father is able to minister to us as His precious children.
The spiritual power we experience through fasting is a mystery.
In the Bible, the term “mystery” refers specifically to insights and truths we understand only when God reveals them directly to our spirit. When we fast, we fully surrender ourselves to God — spirit, soul, and body. We submit our will to God, follow a set of guidelines about food, and open our hearts to this mystery. God miraculously uses our submission to strengthen us, empower us, fill us, and change us. We get a taste of what Jesus meant when He said, “You are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20). When we fast we focus more of our attention on God through prayer and study.
One can pray without fasting…but you cannot fast authentically without praying.
Without this spiritual dimension, a twenty-one-day partial fast like the Daniel Fast would be no different than a typical diet. But since this is first a spiritual experience — made to draw us closer to God — we aren’t dieting. Instead, we are placing ourselves into holy submission.
On a diet, we might occasionally cheat or fail to keep the promises we made to ourselves. But a fast is different. Because when we fast, we are partnering with God for a spiritual outcome. We are expecting Him to impact our lives, so we maintain our commitment to Him. Here’s another difference: When God’s Spirit empowers our spirit, we experience His support and become steadfast in our commitment. Suddenly we have the power and the desire to say no to things not allowed on the fast. Our motivation to succeed becomes so much stronger than the temptation to drink a can of soda or eat a slice of pizza. This new-found discipline is part of the powerful mystery of fasting.
For many, the demands of everyday life are so packed with activities, responsibilities, and to-do lists that feeling overwhelmed is normal. With so many pressures, few have time to feed their soul. The result is spiritual and emotional starvation — a deep inner hunger for peace, rest, and security. And this hunger is pervasive. At every age, in every walk of life, too many of us are starving for the nourishment that only God can provide.
When we fast, we come to the Lord’s table and feast on His love, care, and wisdom. We change our behavior. We slow our pace. We focus intently on spiritual matters and enjoy what our souls are truly hungry for — Jesus, the Bread of Life.
Unfortunately, too many of us try to satisfy our hunger with the spiritual equivalent of “fast food” — self-defeating behaviors, relationships that have more to do with feeding carnal hunger than the longing of the soul. Author and pastor John Piper writes, “Do you have a hunger for God? If we don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because we have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because we have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Our soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great. If we are full of what the world offers, then perhaps a fast might express, or even increase, our soul’s appetite for God. Between the dangers of self-denial and self-indulgence is the path of pleasant pain called fasting.”
Truly, the call deep within us beckons not for physical food or pleasures. What our souls are truly hungry for is the Bread of Life — the Lord — who said, “People do not live by bread alone” (Matthew 4:4). And Jesus responds to our hunger with this invitation:
Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. — Matthew 11:28–29
Excerpted with permission from The Daniel Cure: The Daniel Fast Way To Vibrant Health by Susan Gregory & Richard J Bloomer, PhD, copyright Zondervan.
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HAPPY NEW YEAR from all of us at Devotionals Daily and FaithGateway! Are you starting off the New Year with a goal for a “new you”? Consider fasting as a great way to start — both spiritually and physically. Have you experienced supernatural rest, satisfaction, closeness with God, and spiritual nourishment from fasting? What have you uniquely learned while fasting? Come share your story about fasting with us on our blog. We would love to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily