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Holy Fasting

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People who have willingly chosen to become Jesus disciples are required to partake in the fellowship of Christs sufferings. While we are not meant to nail ourselves on the cross and re-live the suffering by Jesus at Calvary, yet we are asked by God to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. Fasting, from many years even before Christ, was a symbol of a person humbling him or her self to show God that he or she is sincere in seeking Gods blessings. Fasting is serious business, but it can be approached with the wrong motives.

The Holy Bible tells us what false fasting is all about. The Israelites made fasting a ritual and often announced that they were fasting before God. Even though they had done much penance, God was not impressed, as if he didn't

even notice it! God replied through the prophet Isaiah in chapter fifty eight, that He hasn't

noticed them because they were living for themselves even while they were fasting. They kept right on oppressing their workers, even while they were fasting. God asks, what good is fasting when you keep fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get us anywhere with God. They humbled themselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing their heads like a blade of grass in the wind. They dressed in sackcloth and covered themselves with ashes, but all this is unacceptable to God.

God tells them what true fasting is, that is fasting in order to share with the poor and hungry; to stop oppressing workers and start treating them fairly, giving them what they earn; to cover with sackcloth and ashes so that the needy may be given clothes and not to hide from relatives who need help; to stop fighting with one another and free those who are wrongly imprisoned.

The reasons for fasting still remain, as mentioned by God. We fast with only one motive and that is to seek God. If we are fasting to impress people or as a ritual or a test of will-power this has been and will always remain unacceptable to God. He just wont listen to your pleas and requests.

Different Kinds of Fasts

There are various kinds of fasts:

* the absolute fast, which is without water or food and needs to be approached with careful consideration as you are led by the Holy Spirit;

* the normal fast, which is without food for a limited time -- one day up to seven, and sometimes even forty days, but with water or liquids;

* the partial fast, which is a limited diet like going without tea, coffee, delectable fare, non-vegetarian, breakfast, or any of the meals during the day for a period of time; and

* going without sleep for a night, spending it in prayer.

Fasting needs to be accompanied by prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit. If we make an outward show of fasting, expecting sympathy from people around us, then Jesus says that our motives are not right and it is, in fact, hypocritical and motivated by self-interest. We can go about our daily routine without making a show of fasting and have moments of prayer if our schedule is busy. The idea is not to make an issue about personal fasting, whether with lack of food or lack of sleep, but to go about your daily business with a normal attitude. We are called to fast in secret with a desire to hunger for God and His presence in our lives.

Such a selfless attitude enables our prayers to be heard and answered as well. God sees the sincerity of our heart and He is pleased when our motive is simply to do our best to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.

Why Should We Fast

There are many reasons why people fast. We have talked about seeking God in our lives. We fast when we have to make an important decision in our lives. Jesus prayed all night going without sleep when He made a selection of the twelve disciples. He denied Himself the normal desire to sleep. Church leaders fast when there is a disciplinary action that needs to be taken within the Body of Christ in a church.

The example we can give is when Joshua had to identify the person who caused the Israelites to be defeated at Ai, when God had assured them victory. Achans sin was discovered to be the reason. But first Joshua and his fellow-leaders rent their clothes and fasted and wept in prayer before the Lord revealed to them the reason for their defeat.

It is the same today. The Body of Christ suffers defeat at the hands of the devil because of hidden and unconfessed sin when we should be leading victorious lives. When the church leaders fast and pray, that church is strong and is able to minister to the needs not just of the church but of the community at large.

We can fast for the nation just as Esther did. She used her authority to call a fast among all the Jews



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