FASTING FOR BREAKTHROUGH
At one time or another, all of us know what it is like to have been in need of a breakthrough in some area of our life. Whether it has been a needed breakthrough in our understanding of a certain situation; or financial provision; a health issue; or even a breakthrough for a wayward teenager; and the list goes on! Our normal course of action is prayer, careful consideration, advice from others, more prayer, waiting, etc. Yet there are times when all of these have happened and you’re still no clearer, the problem is still there staring at you, and you are left questioning, “Is there any real victory?” At these times we need a clear word from God and a fresh ‘filling’ (Eph.5: 18) of His presence, his power and his provision.
I want to share with you that in times like these, there are countless stories of people who have entered into extended periods of prayer and fasting that has produced great spiritual results of breakthrough. A relationship that was unloving, suddenly becomes loving; what hadn’t worked before suddenly does work; the job that hadn’t materialized suddenly is there. It seems like fasting helps to ‘kick-start’ the desperate or fervent prayer that is needed for a personal breakthrough. Fasting helps to remove any pretense in prayer, where we are able to clearly say: “God, I can’t do this! I need your help!” We enter in to the fervent, desperate prayer of James 5:16:
“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
Breakthrough & Humility
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6
How many of us know that God’s way is the best way? Of course we do, yet, when we face a problem, instead of humbling ourselves we can tend to try every conceivable idea known to man to deal with it. If this doesn’t work, we can be susceptible to whining, scheming and manipulating ways to change things. I think it really is true that sometimes God has to get us out of the way to get something done.
In the Bible, the act of fasting is often associated with humbling oneself. For example, if pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately. David said, “I humbled myself with fasting” (Psalm 35:13). In fact, the very act of fasting is voluntarily abstaining from food for the purpose of humbling ourselves before God in prayer. It is a visible posturing oneself in weakness, (physical effect of fasting), so that we can rise up strong spiritually. We know that when we see victory spiritually, i.e. God’s victory, it will affect everything else.
Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather together 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.” Est.4:15,16
Queen Esther called for a three day fast, abstaining from both food and water, for all the people of Israel. Going without food is one thing, but to also go without water for three days is probably the limit that anyone can do. They would have been physically weakened; unable to defend themselves, and that was the exact effect of this fast. They humbled themselves in absolute dependence upon God to save them from certain annihilation.
True humility gets God’s attention, 1Pet. 5:5-6. When we are genuinely posturing ourselves this way, in a concerted effort for breakthrough, we will often have the testimony that God’s Power has been made ‘Perfect’ in my weakness! 2Cor.12: 9.
Once we embrace humility in our walk with God, and do not try and use fasting as some meritorious act that seeks to force God’s hand to bless us, I believe that we will see greater and greater breakthroughs in many areas of our lives. Here are a few examples:
Breakthrough for Problems of All Sorts
David Yongi Cho pastors the largest church in the world – over 700,000 members! He and his staff have such a belief in the power of prayer and fasting that they rarely, if ever, counsel people. If someone comes to them with a great problem or urgent need, their standard answer is, “go to Prayer Mountain and fast and pray for three days”. If they return with the problem still unmet, they tell them to go and fast and pray for a week. (Then for ten days/then for forty days.) They do not think it possible that a person would ever return to them again with the problem still!
In the biography of Rees Howells, “God’s Intercessor”, Mr. Howells became burdened for the abuse of the child widows of India who were reduced to live on a handful of rice per day. He felt called to intercede for these unfortunate women, and in doing so, he realized that for breakthrough, he needed to abstain from his normal diet and entered into a kind of ‘fast’ by choosing exist on a diet similar to those he interceded for. He had to leave his home for his mother could not have stood his living on so little. He had one meal of porridge, every other day for ten weeks. He woke daily at 5 a.m. to begin his intercession; carried on his normal day of work in the mines of Wales, and continued his intercession at 5 in the evening. In doing so, he was reminded daily, of the trials of those who he was interceding for. He said, “I would have gone on like that all the days of my life to release those widows of India”, (p. 121 ‘God’s Intercessor’). It was a remarkable testimony of God’s powerful breakthrough that came in 1949 when a new Indian constitution was created with legal changes to protect the inheritance for the benefit of widows.
We will look at corporate fasting in a later e-letter, but, I would like to say that the testimonies that we can testify to ourselves of divine breakthrough through a corporate call to prayer and fasting are amazing. Often, for example, we hear of a person’s healing that has been won through the corporate strength that is attained because of the call of prayer and fasting. (see Mark 9: 29 NKJV.) I believe that fasting helps us to focus one’s energies on the resources available in our great God.
Breakthrough for Clearer Discernment
Those who fast often can experience a greater discernment of good and evil. In fact, it seems to be a major by-product of fasting. God seems to give us an opportunity as we fast to take a look again at our lives and the world around us and to discern what is good and acceptable and what is of God and what isn’t.
It seems like where there has been a concern in making a right choice, things become much clearer. A person’s discernment becomes sharper with things like right and wrong, or what may grieve the Holy Spirit, or possible benefits, or negative consequences. People whom I know have testified that during periods of fasting they are much more able to discern what lines up with God’s grace-filled commandments verses someone’s legalistic interpretation.
Breakthrough in Personal Renewal
Most of us have gone through deep valleys of being spiritually “dry” and we sometimes can feel like we will never get out of it. Fasting helps us to re-focus on God without any distractions and in that place, God meets us as one who says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11: 28.
There are various signs of dryness; one example is when you have become indifferent to the various needs around you, for example, those who are lost and in need of salvation. Fasting helps to awaken in us to where we are spiritually and then, opens the way of repentance. Therefore, we are able to come out of the valley of indifference to the things of God and receive God’s forgiveness and experience His cleansing of our soul and spirit.
An important result of biblical fasting is the renewal of a person’s own prayer-life.
Every time we read of fasting in the Bible it always has spiritual goals in mind. The context is always seeking to bring oneself into a right or more enhanced posture of communication with God. Biblical fasting always occurs together with prayer – Always.
You can pray without fasting, but you cannot fast (Biblically speaking) without praying. (See 2Chron. 20:1-4; Ezr. 8:21; Neh. 9:1-2; Ps. 35:13; Dan. 9:3; Joel 1:14; 2:15-17; Jonah. 3:5-9; Ac. 13:2; 14:23).