The Purpose of Fasting

One of the most misunderstood topics in the body of Christ is fasting.  There are numerous reasons for this.  These reasons include lack of teaching on the topic and even worse, wrong teaching about why to fast.  My goal in this goal in this article is to provide a clear, biblical reasoning for why Jesus expects us to fast.

Before we go further, you might be asking, does Jesus expect us to fast?  Yes!  In Matthew 6:17-18 Jesus said:

17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

I want you to notice Jesus said, when you fast and not if you fast.  Jesus’s expectation is that every one of His followers will fast from time to time.  The benefit of this fast is when we do it with the right motives then our Father in heaven will reward us openly.  This benefit is awesome, but it is not the main purpose of fasting. So why doe we fast?

The main reason Jesus wants us to fast is to discipline our flesh so we are more sensitive to the Holy Spirit in us.  A great example of this is the story of the healing of the epileptic boy recorded in Mark 9 and Matthew 17.  In this story a man brings his son to Jesus’s disciples and asks them to pray for him because he is plagued by a demon that is causing the boy to have epilepsy and throw himself into fire and water.  After Jesus healed the boy, His disciples came to Him and asked why they could not cast the demon and out and heal the child.   Look Jesus’s response in Matthew 17:

19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

Jesus told the disciples the reason they couldn’t cast the demon out of the boy was because of their unbelief.  He then told them this kind (of unbelief) only goes out by prayer and fasting.  Many people have misinterpreted this verse to think that there are certain kinds of demons that only leave because of our prayer and fasting.  They think they must fast to gain more power than the devil.  This is not true.  Part of our rights as Christians is that we have authority to cast out demons – see Mark 16:17.  Our fasting doesn’t gain us more power over the devil or more favor with God.  What our fasting does is teaches our flesh to be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit and the word of God.  

In Mark 9, Mark records the demon made the boy convulse when he was brought to Jesus.  The boy also convulsed when Jesus prayed for him.  These convulsions had the potential to communicate to Jesus’s flesh about how hopeless the situation was and that His prayer didn’t work.  The difference between Jesus and the disciples is Jesus wasn’t moved by what He saw.  Jesus walked by faith and not sight so even when a demon manifested, Jesus maintained His faith and eventually saw the breakthrough He was believing for.  

Jesus’s teaching to His disciples on prayer and fasting was an invitation to a lifestyle of continual breakthrough.  This is an invitation He extends to us today.  This only happens, however, when we are more sensitive to the Holy Spirit in us than we are to our flesh and the world around us.  When we fast, we make our body do something it doesn’t want to do and it will often scream with  hunger pains or some other kind of reasoning as to why we must eat.  This means fasting is not initially very glorious.  When we press into God in prayer when our body is screaming it is dying because of a lack of food, we gain an ability by the spirit to not eat.  We learn the Holy Spirit in us is stronger than our flesh and this increases our faith, which is very glorious!  We are able to use this increased faith to receive the promises of God that He has made to us by His grace!

I hope this article has encouraged you and provided more insight about why we fast!  If you would like to learn more, check out this teaching I did at Grace Life Church.

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