Cultivating a Heart of Worship: Foundations
Week Eight: Laying the Foundation – Individual Fasting
“We observe that in the scriptures, fasting almost always is linked with prayer. Without prayer, fasting is not complete fasting; it’s simply going hungry.” – Joseph B. Wirthlin
“We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment.” – Jim Rohn
Q: Have you ever fasted?
Q: What is the longest you have fasted?
Q: Do you fast on a regular basis?
Let’s take a look at Daniel 10:1-12 (NLT) to see a good example of fasting and praying (emphasis added):
“In the third year of the reign of King Cyrus of Persia, Daniel (also known as Belteshazzar) had another vision. He understood that the vision concerned events certain to happen in the future—times of war and great hardship.
When this vision came to me, I, Daniel, had been in mourning for three whole weeks. All that time I had eaten no rich food. No meat or wine crossed my lips, and I used no fragrant lotions until those three weeks had passed.
On April 23, as I was standing on the bank of the great Tigris River, I looked up and saw a man dressed in linen clothing, with a belt of pure gold around his waist. His body looked like a precious gem. His face flashed like lightning, and his eyes flamed like torches. His arms and feet shone like polished bronze, and his voice roared like a vast multitude of people.
Only I, Daniel, saw this vision. The men with me saw nothing, but they were suddenly terrified and ran away to hide. So I was left there all alone to see this amazing vision. My strength left me, my face grew deathly pale, and I felt very weak. Then I heard the man speak, and when I heard the sound of his voice, I fainted and lay there with my face to the ground.
Just then a hand touched me and lifted me, still trembling, to my hands and knees. And the man said to me, “Daniel, you are very precious to God, so listen carefully to what I have to say to you. Stand up, for I have been sent to you.” When he said this to me, I stood up, still trembling.
Then he said, “Don’t be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day you began to pray for understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your request has been heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer.”
In this passage, because he was troubled and mourning over a vision he had, we can see the following about Daniel:
- He abstained from certain foods
- He abstained from certain things
- There was a timeframe associated to his fast
- He humbled himself
- He prayed
- His request was heard
- A spiritual battle took place in the heavens
- His prayer was answered
Fasting is a means of setting aside our own interests to pursue the interests of God. It is a way of physically recognizing and bowing down to the authority of God in our lives. It is a tool we can use to place ourselves under subjection to that authority rather than to our own, for it is His authority which is the source of all power. It is by His word and authority that the heavens and earth were not only created but are sustained. It is within His authority that we live and move and have our being. Fasting is a way of us expressing to Him that His rule is right, and we are seeking to have it established in our lives, often times in a certain situation.
We fast in order to:
- Humble ourselves
Fasting is a way of humbling yourself through the subduing your flesh, placing your spiritual needs above your physical needs.
“God exalts whoever humbles himself. This is a divine principle.” – Watchman Nee (from James 4:10)
Q: What does it mean to humble yourself? What does that look like?
- To empty oneself through submission and obedience to:
- God’s authority
- God’s sovereignty
- God’s word
So that we in turn can be filled with the Holy Spirit and exalted by God
Consider David in 2 Samuel 24:24 when he told Araunah that he would not give to the Lord from that which cost him nothing. When we fast, we are giving to the Lord, giving up our rights to ourselves, and that costs us something. When we tell our flesh that is crying out for that very thing that spiritual food is more important, we are making a sacrifice, and acknowledging our spiritual need above our physical needs. Eating (or in this case selectively eating or not eating) can be an act of worship if we purpose for it to be.
- Increase our Faith
The bible tells us that God will reward us in fasting if we seek Him with the right motives and in a scriptural way. In Matthew 6:17-18, Jesus says:
“When you fast, don’t let it be obvious, but instead, wash your face and groom yourself and realize that your Father in the secret place is the one who is watching all that you do in secret and will continue to reward you openly.”
This scripture also hints at the fact that there is a right way to fast and a wrong way.
Exercise: Take a moment to read and reflect on Isaiah chapter 58:1-12.
Q: How does this change your perception of fasting? What is the Lord speaking to you about it?
SONG: “Consume Me”