As we embark on the season of lent, I'm always confronted with the questions surrounding fasting. When do I fast, how long do I fast, should I give up food or can I give up something else and for how long. Do I fast all-day or is it between a certain time? Between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday is more than 40 days so what days am I to adhere to the fasting principle?
All good and valid questions and I'll deal with those questions during this season of Lent. No matter which way you decide or not to decide to fast, there is one thing that rings true, fasting is life-changing.
Let us begin with the most fascinating and dramatic fast that was modeled out by Jesus Himself as He fasted for forty days as reported by three of the gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Matthew writes; "Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” (Matt. 4:1). It was there that Jesus fasted. One might wonder, why forty days? In the time of Noah, it rained for forty days and forty nights. Moses spent forty days and forty nights fasting on top of Mt. Sinai when he received the Ten Commandments from God. And the Hebrews — God’s chosen people — spent forty years in the desert after they left Egypt. Time and time again, the forty days/nights/years come just before something new. God cleansed the earth of sin before starting a new covenant with Noah. The Hebrew’s long journey in the desert was part punishment (for grumbling and building a golden calf), and part preparation before they entered the Promised Land. While in the desert, they had to depend day-by-day on water from rocks and God’s miraculous bread from heaven — manna. There it is! fasting creates a dependency on God for provisions and strength. That's the true benefit of fasting. The second reason we should fast is it prepares us for spiritual battle. Matthew 4: 2 says; " After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry." Notice the word after. Jesus was preparing for an encounter with Satan and His preparation consisted of fasting and the spiritual battle came after Jesus fasted. Jesus prepared Himself for the ministry He was called to through fasting and praying. If it’s good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for us.