Refraining from eating and drinking is an act of worship that is good for your soul
Many of us think of fasting as a spiritual duty to God, depriving ourselves of food and drink for a period of time in order to prove our love for Him. While long-suffering is a part of being human and certainly a part of being Christian, fasting should not be included when we think about “suffering for Christ.”
On the contrary, fasting is less about what we’re giving up and much more about what we’re making room for. When we fast, we exchange what we need to survive for what we need to live—more of God. Here are five spiritual benefits to fasting:
1) A soul cleansing. How often we forget that our bodies are the temple of the Lord—especially when deciding what to eat! Fasting is a great time to remember the spiritual connection we have to our physical bodies. Without the toxins we put in our bodies, we not only give our bodies a break from the digestive process, but we also allow our spirits to be detoxed. Fasting is a faith-move, an expectation we have that God will fill us with His Holy Spirit, just as He promised. But as Christ told His disciples, “[N]o one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins." By fasting, we meditate cleanses the soul and makes it new so we can receive the Holy Spirit and become empowered to live for Christ in a new way.
In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t a good candidate for chemo. I took tamoxifen instead and gave my trouble to God—just as Dr. Peale suggested in his book, "Thought Conditioners". Since then I’ve remained cancer free. -Guideposts Magazine reader
2) A new desire for God. When we acknowledge through fasting that we need God to live, and to live more abundantly, we can begin to desire God in a new way. When we realize we need God more than we need food, we can start to understand what the Psalmist meant when he wrote, “Like the deer that pants after water, my soul longs for You.” God, the sustainer of all life, wants nothing more than a closer connection with us, and through fasting we can quench that new desire for more of Him in our lives.
3) A deeper praise. Because the body does not have to do the work of digestion, it has more energy to focus on other things. In the same vein, since we are not consumed by what we are going to eat next and when, we have more energy to devote to God. While we’re experiencing a new desire for Him through fasting, we should also emit a deeper praise as we think about everything God is to us and all He has done. Once we get caught up in our desire for God and our praise for His mighty acts, we won’t have time to be hungry or count down the hours until our fast is over. We’ll be celebrating the whole time!
4) A sensitivity to God’s voice. The New Testament prophetess Anna is praised in the book of Luke for being a devoted servant to God and His temple. Because she regularly fasted and prayed, she was able to hear the voice of God speak clearly to her the day that Baby Jesus was brought into her temple to be dedicated. She knew He was the Christ and told everyone who would listen about His arrival. When we detox the spirit and become consumed with desire and praise for God, we become sensitive to His voice. Like Anna, when God speaks to us in the midst of chaos, we’ll still be able to pick out His voice and know what He wants us to do because we have trained our ear to hear Him through fasting, prayer, study and praise.
5) A new satisfaction. When you finish your fast, renewed, full of energy, detoxed, with a new desire, a new praise and a sensitivity to God’s voice, you’ll find that the absence of food was small in comparison to what you gained. When Christ’s disciples noticed that He hadn’t eaten all day and tried to get Him to slow down to eat, Christ said, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about….My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.”
Physical food never fully satisfies; in a few hours, you’ll need to eat again. But when you are fed from doing the work of the Lord, you will find a new satisfaction like you’ve never experienced.