“O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).
Hunger for God. Fasting has a way of helping us really to understand what it means for our souls and flesh to yearn for God (Ps. 63:1). Every time we feel a pang of hunger, we can direct it into a craving for deeper intimacy with the Lord.
Repentance and humility. The only regular fast God required of His people under the Old Covenant was on the Day of Atonement. That day— essentially a prayer retreat on a grand corporate scale—was a day of fasting, repentance, and deep humility. We, too, can benefit when we humble [our souls] with fasting (Ps. 35:13).
Power over temptation. Jesus fortified Himself against temptation with a 40-day fast in the wilderness. Most of us won’t be called to fast for that long (and if we are, we should consult a doctor first); however, fasting is a great way to subject our bodies to our spirits. People who struggle with sins of the flesh may especially benefit from a time of extended prayer combined with fasting.
In Crisis. There are many occasions of crisis in Scripture when people were called to extended prayer combined with fasting (see 2 Chron. 20:1-4; Neh. 1:4; Est. 4:15-16; Dan. 9:3; Jon. 3:6-9).
For wisdom. When Daniel sought to understand a perplexing vision he fasted (Daniel 10). Similarly, when the church in Antioch needed to know who to send out as missionaries, and later who to appoint as elders in the missionary churches, they met together for prayer, worshipping, and fasting (Acts. 13:1-2, 14:23).
Father, there are so many reasons why people in the Bible fasted and prayed, and yet, I can’t seem to “subject my body to my spirit.” Strengthen me to be able to do without physical food in order to gain a deeper intimacy with You. Help me to desire to fast instead of being afraid of doing without the comfort food provides. I know that fasting can give me power over temptation, peace in the midst of crisis, and wisdom when I need understanding. May I long to learn this discipline that Jesus demonstrated in the desert so that Your power might be more fully evident in my life.
–Adapted from Giving Ourselves to Prayer: An Acts 6:4 Primer for Ministry (Chapter 28, Personal Prayer Retreats by Cynthia Bezek). This book is available at prayershop.org. Use the code CONPSP3 at checkout to receive an additional 10% discount.
Praise the sovereign Lord who cares for his sheep (Ezek. 34:11). Thank the Lord for shepherding you, caring for you in his rich pasture (34:14). Confess times of wandering away from the side of the Good Shepherd. Commit yourself to rejoicing in the bounty he provides for you. Ask God to help you be a blessing with the blessings you’ve been given.
Pray that your church’s care-giving and fellowship efforts will be led by faithful shepherds who care for the flock (34:1-10). Ask God to give them compassionate diligence to strengthen the weak, heal the sick, and bind up the injured (34:4).