The leaders at Southside Bible Fellowship are calling for a church-wide fast from (Monday) March 26th through our Concert of Prayer (4-6pm) on Sunday April 1st. Directly after our Concert of Prayer we will collectively break our fast with a meal of soup and bread. Please keep reading to consider your options…
“I humbled my soul with fasting” (Psalm 35:13b)
In Psalm 35 King David is crying out in agonized intercession to be rescued from his enemies. Part of David’s prayer is that he has bowed-down his soul with fasting. It is widely accepted that our soul consists of our intellect, will, and emotions. According to Matthew 6, Isaiah 58, and Psalm 35 the overall objective of fasting is to humble our soul (or to cause our intellect, will, and emotions to bow down) so that the desires and the purposes of God can become more prominent! When we deny our appetites and soulish longings and turn to the Lord through worship, Christian meditation, supplication, and intercession there is a supernatural grace released upon us to see God’s heart and will. The idea is to set aside regular times during a fast in order to seek the Lord and cry out for His kingdom to increase and for His will to be done – IN us and THROUGH us.
Matthew 6 describes and instructs us in three primary spiritual disciplines. The chapter opens by encouraging us not to practice our “acts of righteousness” publicly; and if we do, we shall have no reward from our Father in heaven. The three spiritual disciplines are giving, prayer (we are to pray secretly, sincerely, and specifically), and fasting.
Isaiah 58 is probably the best and most concise instruction on the spiritual discipline of fasting in the Bible. Verse six lists the four reasons for fasting: “To loosen the bonds of wickedness,” “To undo the bands of the yoke,” “To let the oppressed go free,” and to “break every yoke.” Verses 8-14 contain some amazing promises concerning the fruits, or benefits, of fasting.
A simple definition for fasting would be voluntary abstinence of our appetites and our soulish longings for spiritual reasons. The Bible speaks of it not as an option but as an expected and regularly practiced spiritual discipline. The following are some of the purposes for fasting; these also convey some of the benefits of fasting:
1. Fasting will sharpen our focus in prayer. (After we get beyond the initial discomfort caused by our various addictions such as coffee, sugar, etc.)
2. Fasting will cause us to be more sensitive to God’s guidance in our lives.
3. Fasting is a sign of humble repentance and expressing to God our desire to be responsively obedient to His will and direction for our lives – both individually and as a church.
4. It was common in biblical times to fast when the need for protection and/or deliverance was great. An excellent example is when Queen Esther called for her people to fast with her when she appealed to the king to spare the Jews (see Esther 4:16).
5. As David articulated in Psalm 35, fasting can be an expression of simple humility before God.
6. Fasting, or the servant-leaders calling for a fast, can be the result of God’s people seeing a need and expressing their concern. When Nehemiah heard about the great distress, reproach, and the broken down walls in Jerusalem the Bible tells us that he sat down and wept and mourned for days, and then fasted and prayed until the Lord revealed His plans (see Nehemiah 1:3-4).
7. When Jesus fasted for forty days in the wilderness after His baptism He was strengthened spiritually against the strong temptations of Satan. In fact, in Luke 4:14 it says that, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit” (emphasis added).
8. Fasting can be simply an act of worship and adoration with no other purpose than to ascribe glory and honor to God.
There are many different ways to fast. We can fast food and just drink water or juice, we can eat vegetables and/or fruit only (this has been called a “Daniel Fast,” see Daniel 1:8-17), we can choose not to eat any sugar or carbohydrates, we can fast one or two meals a day, we can fast from sun-up to sun-down. Paul encourages married couples to occasionally fast sexual intercourse, “that you may devote yourselves to prayer…” (1 Corinthians 7:5). We can fast television or the internet and pray instead! Before we fast it is important to seek the Lord regarding what would be appropriate.
We are in a season of transition at Southside Bible Fellowship. There are several excellent reasons for us to embark on a corporate fast: Over the last 2-3 years there has been relational tearing and woundedness. We want to fast and ask God to show us how to specifically engage in the ministry of reconciliation with those who have been hurt. We want to identify and “own” our past dysfunctions as a church — and repent and forsake them. We want to fast and ask God to once again visit us with salvations. We want to fast for a fresh understanding of what it means to delight in God – as well as what it means for God to delight in us. In addition, prayerfully consider any supplemental personal and family needs so that you will fast with a strong sense of God’s heart – asking for His “kingdom to come and His will to be done” IN you and THROUGH you. May the Lord strengthen you and encourage you through a mighty demonstration of His power and might!!