Jesus expects fasting by Christians to be the norm, not the exception. He said so in Matthew 6:17-18
“But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to fast, but to your Father in secret. And your Father who sees in secret shall reward you openly.”
He said much the same about prayer too, which all Christians take as accepted. But not only is fasting to be the norm, it is to be done privately, in humility and without drawing unnecessary attention to it. Why? Because in Psalm 35:13 we read this line: “I humbled my soul with fastings.” True fasting leads to, or develops, humility in the one who fasts. Thus, when one is fasting, but is openly demonstrating ones pious ‘humility’ at the same time for all to see, one is guilty of ‘false humility’, of hypocrisy. Neither God the Father, nor Jesus the Son, either in heaven or on earth, will accept a hypocrite. In all the spoken words of Jesus, hypocrites are those who received the harshest words of condemnation.
Fasting is important to God, for it demonstrates our choice to be humble before Him. In order for mankind to live, we need to both eat and drink for survival. To willingly go without either food or drink is therefore not natural. It is a choice we make, saying in essence to God, “We humble ourselves before You and seek You, for You mean more to us that food or drink. You Lord, mean more to us than the stuff of earthly life.” When we fast, we are putting God above our innate need to eat and drink; we exalt God to the position in our lives which he deserves.
Let us now read the story of Jesus from the Gospel of Luke starting after He had met with His cousin John the Baptist in the desert and John had baptised Jesus. In Luke 3:21-22 we read:
“And it happened in the baptizing of all the people, Jesus also being baptized, and praying, and the heaven was opened. And the Holy Spirit came down in a bodily shape, like a dove on Him. And a voice came from Heaven, which said, ‘You are My Son, the Beloved; I am delighted in You.’”
The four Books of the Gospel, Mathew, Mark, Luke and John all take similar perspectives of the alighting of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus; that the Spirit of God fell upon Jesus like a dove, and remained upon Jesus and did not leave Him. Once the Holy Spirit had fallen upon Jesus, He was immediately taken by the Holy Spirit into the desert where He fasted for forty days and was tested by Satan. The following Scripture from Luke 4:1-14 describes the scene:
“And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness forty days, being tempted by the Devil. And in those days He ate nothing. And they being ended, He afterward was hungry.
And the Devil said to Him, If you are the Son of God, speak to this stone that it might become bread.
And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word of God.”
And the Devil, leading Him up into a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
And the Devil said to Him, All this power I will give you, and the glory of them; for it has been delivered to me. And I give it to whomever I will.
Therefore if you will worship me, all shall be yours.
And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For it is written,”You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.’”
And he brought Him to Jerusalem and sat Him on a pinnacle of the temple and said to Him, If you are the Son of God, cast yourself down from here.
For it is written, “He shall give His angels charge over You, to keep You; and in their hands they shall bear You up, lest at any time You dash Your foot against a stone.”
And Jesus answering said to him, ‘It has been said, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”
And when the Devil had ended every temptation, he departed from Him for a time.
And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee. And a report went out throughout all the neighbourhood concerning Him.”
In regard to the power of Christian fasting, we need to look closely at two particular verses above, at two lines, the first and the last, which read as follows:
” And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit” and,
“And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit.”
Between the first and last lines of this Scripture, Jesus had fasted forty days in the wilderness from food – and he was hungry. But look. Before Jesus began His fast, Jesus was “FULL of the Spirit.” After His fast, Jesus was “in the POWER of the Spirit.”
This is the result of a Christian fast. This is what a Christian Fast raises up within us – this is what a Christian Fast opens us up to receive and partake of – the Power of the Spirit. Now, let me be clear and frank about this, this does not mean that every fast which a Christian undertakes, or endures, will necessarily lead to this release of the Holy Spirit’s power. We need to remember that God is judging not just what we do, or what we look like on the outside. Matthew 6:17-18 above, makes this clear, as does First Samuel 16:7b “For man looks on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looks on the heart.” Many times we may undertake fasts for purposes which are not aligned with the heart and will of God. We can easily follow others, or follow the Church in a fast which, rather than being spiritually authentic and true, becomes instead a hollow religious ritual. We feel ‘obliged’ to fast, rather than earnestly seeking God in humility. In such cases, God will not listen. There will be no release of the Spirit’s power in us.
Recently, an acquaintance completed an annual 40 day Lent fast with the rest of Church, yet the fast yielded no discernable fruit, despite prayer. A couple of weeks later, a Prophet spoke in a personal message saying to this person: “Fast and Pray, Fast and Pray, Fast and Pray!!” Fourteen days after that message, the changes which had taken place in this person’s life were simply miraculous. Physical healing was self evident for a chronic disfiguring disease; and during personal Bible study time, the Holy Spirit was providing Bible teaching and explanations for difficult Bible passages which previously had only caused confusion, to name but two of the manifestations of the power of the Spirit in the life of this one believer. All this believer did differently, was to take the Fast seriously. In this instance, it did not require a forty-day fast to release God’s power, it took only short partial fasts with the right mind-set; a mind set on God in Fast and in Prayer.
Yes, we can have access to the same power of the Holy Spirit which Jesus received after His fast. But we need to Fast and Pray with the right motives and intent. We need to centre ourselves on Jesus, not on ourselves. We need to have our hearts aligned with the Will of God, then God will empower a willing heart.