Let’s face it: fasting is not usually a fun or pleasant experience. It is often accompanied by headaches, bad breath, and weariness of body and mind. Some may romanticize it as a great spiritual experience—and there can certainly be great spiritual experiences associated with it—but for many of us it is not an enjoyable practice in itself.
Why would anyone want to abstain from food? For that matter, why engage in any spiritual discipline? In part, it comes down to the nature of discipline: short term pain/discomfort for long term benefits.
Some of these benefits may come during the time of the fast itself, but in my experience many will come later as a result of the fast.
Fasting out of simple obedience to God is great. But it also helps to know some of the reasons why God would call us to fast in the first place. Here are four spiritual benefits of fasting:
James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” Fasting is one of the ways that we can draw near to God. You can take time that you would normally spend eating and give it to being in the Lord’s presence and reading His Word.
Fasting can also make you more attuned spiritually. It is similar to when you are on an exercise program; working out tends to make you more health-conscious in general. Likewise, when you fast it makes you more aware of spiritual realities and draws your attention to God.
“For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace”
Fasting is a great way to prioritize the spirit over the flesh. When you fast, you are saying that you value the things of the Spirit; that you are not ruled by your body or by the sinful nature. It is a great exercise in self-control.
If you can abstain from food, you can also overcome lust, greed, and other fleshly instincts. Fasting is one of the ways that you can “exercise yourself toward godliness” (1 Timothy 4:7).
Humility is a premium quality in the kingdom of God. And it is up to us to humble ourselves. 1 Peter 5:6 says, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time.” Jesus said this: “And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).
It is our job to humble ourselves before God. If we don’t do it, God will do it for us! How do we humble ourselves? One way is fasting:
“I humbled myself with fasting.”
Fasting is a way of depending on the Lord to a greater degree. You purposefully place yourself in a weakened state, humbling yourself before the Lord, and depending on His grace and power.
Though the ultimate victory was secured by Christ’s finished work on the cross, we live in an age where the spiritual battle is still raging.
When Daniel prayed and fasted it affected the spiritual battle going on in the heavenly realms (see Daniel 10:1-14). When the disciples were not able to cast out a demon Jesus said, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting” (Mark 9:29).
We don’t always see it like this, but fasting is a weapon of warfare against the devil. Sometimes we will not obtain the spiritual breakthrough that we need without focused prayer and fasting. A few years ago I saw an outbreak of healing and deliverance happen after a period of fasting. I don’t fully understand this, but fasting can bring a release of God’s power and push back the enemy.
Whether you desire to grow closer to the Lord, need God’s direction, or need to gain spiritual victory over the flesh and devil, fasting might be the key ingredient for your breakthrough!