When researching exactly what I was going to write about this, I discovered some interesting answers why people fast. Losing weight came up, but I can assure you that is not the correct answer. Some of the better answers included, getting close to God, denying your body and focussing on God, spending time with God that you would have used for something else. Now I have no issues with these answers, in fact I tend to agree with them, but I believe that there is more to it than this. In order to try and explain why I fast, let me tell you a story, try and imagine it as you read it.
Imagine that you’re driving a car, you have no idea where you’re going, so you’re relying on the other people in the car to direct you on an epic road trip. The first person in the car, is in the passenger seat. They are loud, self opinionated, selfish and needy. The second person is in the back, they are soft-spoken, wise, patient, and they want what is best for all the occupants of the car. You set off on your trip. All you can hear is the person in the passenger seat, barking instructions at you. They have no regard for anyone but themselves, whatever they want, will be shouted as instructions to you. After a while, you realise that the person in the front seat is only looking out for themselves, so you stop the car and get your passengers to swap places. You now have the soft-spoken, wise unselfish person in the front seat. The loud, selfish, needy person has been relegated to the back. The only problem is that the loud person can still be heard above the soft-spoken person. Yes, you hear some more of what the wise person is telling you, but the loud person will not shut up long enough for you to get some really useful directions. Eventually you turn around and shout, “Will you just shut up for 5 minutes so that I can hear the other person speak!”. You are then able to hear the wise person for a few minutes, gathering valuable information as to where to go. The ironic thing about this, is that the wise person is looking out for you all. If he gives the directions, ALL of the occupants of the car get to experience the ride, and enjoy the destination. The loud mouthed person is actually better off listening to the wise person, but they will never admit that!
I assume that you are all one step ahead of me and know where I am going with this. You (as the driver) represents your soul (mind, emotions, feelings), the loud person represents your body (flesh, selfish desires) and the soft-spoken person represents your spirit. Our spirit is the part of us that has been made new, and is seen righteous by God. Our spirit is the part that communicates with God. Before we are saved, we have our body in the front seat, we only listen to our selfish desires. Then we realise that there is more to life, so we give our lives to Jesus, thus switching our body with our spirit. We are now supposed to listen to our spirit, as the mind is the one who decides where we should go. The mind is in control, it will listen to the spirit or the body, the choice is ours. Very often as Christians, we have our spirit in the front seat, but we often can’t hear it over or bodies shouting out from the back seat. We either stop the car and revert the positions back, or we carry on listening to our bodies, who are happy to continue directing us from the back seat. We need to tell our bodies to shut up every now and then, in order to hear our spirit. That also helps the body to learn that they are no longer in charge. This gets easier the more we do it, but it is very difficult to start. Our whole being will be better off if we listen to the spirit, but we still tend to want to listen to the body. This is how we are conditioned. We need to renew our mind (Romans 12:2). We need to be following the Holy Spirit, who speaks to our spirit, as He lives in us. Does this make sense?
This is why we fast and do other spiritual disciplines, to keep training our body to take second place to our spirit, and to the voice of God.
This is an ongoing practice. Our mind is a powerful tool, we need to make sure that it is fighting for us (in line with God’s Word) and not against us (in line with our sinful desires). This is why it is important to combine fasting with prayer, it is no good telling your body to keep quite for a while and then listening to nothing, we need to be focusing on what God is saying while our body is having a time-out. Have you ever wondered why Jesus told the disciples that they could only get the demon out with prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21 NKJV)? This is not because prayer and fasting removes the demon, but prayer and fasting builds faith and removes unbelief. It is the faith (or lack of unbelief) which enables us to remove demons, but it is the prayer and fasting that builds the faith and removes the unbelief. It is the prayer and fasting that helps us to renew our mind. We need to re-train our mind to listen to our spirit and what God is telling us, rather than our body and selfish desires.
I hope that this has given you a fresh desire to make the most of any time of prayer and fasting!