Fasting - a small group study

Introduction

If you seek a closer walk with God, consider fasting. Throughout Scripture, fasting refers to abstaining from food, or food and drink, for spiritual purposes. Fasting is more than a diet adjustment; it involves spiritual intensity and intercession. Fasting should always be accompanied with prayer, meditation, and Bible study.

We should never be motivated by the mistaken idea that our fasting will move God to do what we want. Even if we wanted to, we could never manipulate God. The purpose of our fasting is to move us closer to God and to seek his will in our lives.

One of the greatest spiritual benefits of fasting is becoming more aware of our own inadequacies and God’s adequacy; becoming more aware of our own failings and his self-sufficiency. The purpose of all disciplines, including fasting, is to change us so that we may become more Christ-like. Fasting helps us to listen to what God wants us to be and do.

The list of biblical personages who fasted reads like a Who’s Who of Scripture. For example: Moses the lawgiver, David the king, Elijah the prophet, Esther the queen, Daniel the advisor to kings, Anna the prophetess, Paul the apostle, and Jesus Christ the incarnate Son.

A word of caution: Before anyone attempts to go on a fast, please consult your physician if you have health problems such as diabetes, kidney disorders, or other serious conditions. The normal spiritual fast is going without food for a period of time during which you ingest only liquids (water and/or juice). The duration can be one day or several days. Some Christians fast on juice or water up to a week. The absolute fast is abstaining from both food and water. The duration shouldn’t exceed one or two days unless you have discussed absolute fasting ahead of time with your doctor.

1st key passage: Matthew 6:16-18

Does Jesus command fasting, or does he only comment on how to fast properly? What should we do and how should we look when fasting? Why?

One key to fasting is motivation. What are the differences in motivation between truly seeking God and fasting to gain power or admiration?

2nd key passage: Matthew 9:14-15

Did Jesus expect his disciples to fast after he was gone?

It is said that fasting brings us closer to God. Could this be one of the reasons Jesus said his disciples would fast after he would no longer be with them? What are other reasons?

Fasting is not an end in itself; it is a means by which we can worship the Lord and submit ourselves in humility to Him. We don’t make God love us any more than He already does if we fast, or if we fast longer. Fasting invites God into the problem. Then in the strength of God, victory is possible.

– Elmer L. Towns

3rd key passage: Isaiah 58:3-10

In this passage, Isaiah tells us that the Jews were fasting, but God was not answering their requests. Why not? What kind of fast does God want?

When people turn from mistreating others, to helping them with their needs, does that in itself count as fasting? Are we to obey when we fast, obey before we fast, or obey instead of fasting?

Is fasting a way to get God to answer our prayers? Will fasting solve our problems? Will it lead to more effective evangelism? Does it solve humanitarian problems? What does God promise to do if his people fast in the right way? Will we gain power over sin?

Some may wish to share how God has answered their prayers when they were fasting for his intervention.

Fasting reminds us that we are sustained “by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Food does not sustain us; God sustains us.

– Richard J. Foster

When we fast and pour our heart out to God, it’s been said that he gives us His “eyes” to see the situation or the problem as it really exists. How is this beneficial to us?

During the fast, why is it helpful to read various portions of Scripture that may apply to our situation and then meditate on them?

Challenge for growth

The next time you feel the need to fast for any spiritual reason, please consider these benefits that fasting produces: 1) spiritual examination and introspection; 2) spiritual confession; 3) spiritual intercession. In what way does fasting help us pray for others?

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