By Vance Drum

On Sunday, the Sunset pastor continued our theme, “Drawing Near to God,” with a message, “Prayer and … Fasting?” The text was from Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:16: “When you fast….”

Did you ever read anything in the Bible that you wondered: I don’t know about that — that’s not something I like to do.

When Jesus comes into your life, his purpose is not to tweak us but to transform us. He doesn’t want to patch up our old life; he wants to create in us a whole new life.

A message on fasting may be new, but fasting is in the Bible, and fasting will help us draw near to God.

The pastor made three points: (1) What is Fasting? (2) Why Fast? (3) How to Fast.

(1) What is Fasting? Jesus said, “When you fast….” Jesus assumed that his disciples would sometimes fast. He didn’t say if you fast, but when you fast.

So, what is fasting? Fasting means to abstain from something that you normally do. For the most part in Scripture, fasting means to abstain from eating food for a period of time. The Bible doesn’t say how long to fast, or what to fast.

(2) Why Fast? There are at least five biblical reasons given for fasting.

(a) Spiritual Warfare. After Jesus was baptized (Matthew 4), “he was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and nights, he was hungry.”

Why did Jesus do that? Jesus was about to do battle with the evil one, and he needed extra power to do it.

Sometimes we need extra spiritual power from God. Fasting is part of God’s design to give us that strength.

In fasting, we experience the reality that our spirit may get the victory over our flesh, and not the other way around.

(b) To Save a Nation. When Queen Esther went in to see the king, to plead that her people the Jews be saved from an unchangeable decree the king had signed to have the Jews destroyed, she sent a message to her uncle Mordecai (Esther 4:16):

“Gather all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” The king received his queen and her plea; the Jews were saved. Fasting and prayer helped saved the nation.

(c) When Repenting of Sin. The king of Nineveh decreed (Jonah 3:7): “Do not let any man or beast, herd of flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink…. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.”

America has plenty of evil and violence to repent of with prayer and fasting.

Check out Intercessors for America online, which promotes a monthly First Friday fast for our country.

(d) Praying for Guidance. The early church fasted when they selected and sent missionaries (Acts 13:2-3): “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul….’ So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.”

When you’re seeking God’s direction for your life, family and church, fast and pray about it.

(e) Praying for Leaders. Acts 14:23: “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord.”

(3) How to Fast. V16: “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites to…to show men they are fasting [but] wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men, but only to your Father who will reward you.”

Fasting with prayer is heavy artillery. Our lives, and America, needs spiritual power. God will bless your prayer and fasting.

“Save us and help us with your right hand, that those you love may be delivered.”  [Psalm 108:6]

May the Lord help and bless you this week — our prayer for you from your friends at Sunset Christian Church.