Scripture Text: Isaiah 58:1-12
Memory Verse: “Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning.” Joel 2:12
Lesson Aim: To gain an understanding of fasting, its purpose and power.
It is time to fast! Learning to fast is one of the keys to successful Christian living, but in our society, the thought of depriving oneself of any indulgence seems ridiculous. Sometimes the mere mentioning of the word causes something to quiver inside of us. As noted by the late Dr. Bill Bright, “Fasting is the most powerful spiritual discipline of all the Christian disciplines.”1 Fasting addresses our self-serving attitude the most directly.
Fasting is the voluntary abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. Fasting may seem unfamiliar and frightening to some people, but fasting was regularly practiced by God’s people throughout the Bible. Fasting is also an accepted practice in most other world religions, for example, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism.
Fasting is a biblical way to truly humble yourself in the sight of God (Psalm 35:13; Ezra 8:21). Throughout Scripture, God requires His people to humble themselves before Him. Fasting will humble us under the mighty hand of God (1 Peter 5:6) and position us to deny the carnal for the spiritual.
The late Derek Prince put it this way, “… the essential nature of fasting is renouncing the natural to invoke the supernatural. The most natural thing for us to do is to eat. When we give up eating, we are deliberately turning away from the natural by turning to God and to the supernatural. This has deep significance.”2
Fasting enables the Holy Spirit to reveal your true spiritual condition, resulting in brokenness, repentance, and a transformed life. The Holy Spirit will quicken the Word of God in your heart and His truth will become more meaningful to you!
Through fasting, you can transform your prayer life into a richer and more personal experience. The dynamic personal revival in your own life will make you a channel of revival to others.
There are a number of different fasts in the Bible, e.g., (1) the absolute fast, i.e., no food/no water as in the case of Esther (Esther 4:16) or the city of Nineveh (Jonah 3:7); (2) the supernatural absolute fast as with Moses (Deuteronomy 9:9); (3) the Daniel fasts (see Daniel 1:12, 10:3). In terms of the length of fasts, Biblical examples include one day (as in the Day of Atonement), three days, 10 days, 21 days and 40 days, but please note that fasting is about the condition of the heart, not the number of days.
As preparation for special time with God, you want to examine your heart for any unconfessed sin. Confess not only the obvious ones, but the less obvious ones, too—sins of commission as well as sins of omission, e.g., spiritual indifference, worldly-mindedness, low priority for God, poor relationships. If you need to ask forgiveness or forgive others, do that, too.
When you fast, you want to refrain from secular media and entertainment (TV, movies, novels, comics, etc.). Couples should also refrain from sex (1 Corinthians 7:5). You will want to schedule your time so that you can spend more time with God in fellowship, worship, and adoration. The more you read and meditate upon His Word, the greater your effectiveness will be in prayer and the more meaningful your fast will be.
Interact with God’s Word:
- Draw a line to match the following fast(er)s with their
Esther. 1 day
Moses 3 days absolute
Daniel 40 days absolute
Day of Atonement 10 days
- Why did the people of Nineveh fast and what were the results? Jonah 3
- What can we learn from Isaiah 58:1-7 about our fasting being acceptable to the Lord?
- How did Jesus advise His disciples about fasting? Matthew 6:16-18
- We encourage believers to make fasting a part of their personal spiritual discipline, but there is a time for corporate fasting. Why is it important that God’s people as a group (congregation, community or nation) fast together? Joel 2:12-19