I want to ask you about fasting. I want to do a fast of two days, but i find when i do this, satan attacks me with disgusting and foreign, immoral and perverse ideas. I now understand that fasting involves a kind of spiritual combat and i understand now why this happens. It has often caused me in fear to abandon the fast and to resume regular eating habits. In your eyes and if you were me, would you continue the fast? Should i press on regardless of the attacks satan makes and therby gain spiritual strength, or should i flee and return to eating? I very much appreciate your response, and im very upset about this because its been stopping me from fasting and i feel like it may simply be satans way of stopping me from progressing spiritually and it has been working. Can you please give me an answer and maybe explain to me the innerworkings of this issue, im interested to learn more and would like to increase in this virtue?
Fasting throughout the Old and New Testament has far less to do with the stopping of eating and more to do with setting aside time for pious prayer or devotion to worship and meditation on God. When fasting is done for “show” or for increasing my “standing before God”. It is, in fact, not acceptable to God at all. Isaiah 58:3-4 condemns fasting when the admiration of man is sought by this action. It says: ‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’ Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.” Jesus in like manor suggests that fasting in sackcloth and ashes in not appropriate in His, Our Savior’s, presence. Jesus also spoke about fasting but did not give His disciples rules about fasting, how often or for what purpose. (See Matthew 6:16-18; 9:14-15).
In Matthew 4:2 we find that Jesus, Himself fasted. He fasted for forty days and nights in preparation for the inauguration of His public ministry. (After this fasting we are told that he was “tempted by Satan” while in the desert.)
Also in the New Testament we find the Early Church fasting but only in times of solemn prayer. In Acts 13:2-3 we read: “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.” There are no individual examples of solitary disciples fasting. However, one can assume that this probably did occur as it was part of the “normal practice for the pious Jew” at the time and the Apostles and Disciples did continue many of the traditional pious practices.
With this as a back round, I would address your fasting question in this way. The purpose of fasting in the Old and New Testament was to spend time in communion with God by prayer and meditation. The act of not eating actually provided the opportunity more than actually being part of the prayer, meditation or devotion. Unlike today, meal preparation took an enormous amount of a persons day. If a person was to forgo eating they would literally have hours to devote to prayer. With microwaves, stoves, refrigeration, fast-food etc. if we stop eating and devote that saved time to special prayer…..it could allow for perhaps 30 minutes of prayer, meditation and devotion to God.
My suggestion is that you “fast” from something that takes a significant amount of time from your ability to “sit and wait upon the Lord” in devotion, meditation and prayer. Perhaps fasting from the TV for two days and spending that time in prayer and study would be more appropriate giving up eating. Maybe you should fast from the internet or video games. If you devote the time you would have devoted to something that is self-serving or self-gratifying–as eating is–and you instead devote that time to prayer, study and meditation in devotion to God that would be a more edifying “fast” than giving up food. Satan is trying to focus you on the hunger, but fasting is not about hunger. Fasting is about communing with your Lord and Savior in prayer and meditation.
All spiritual growth comes from our use of God’s Word. Study, prayer, and meditation enhanced by increasing your time spent in devotion to God is “fasting” which will strengthen you for the spiritual battles of daily living. “Fasting” from that which consumes your time, as meal preparation did in the ancient past, allows the opportunity for that spiritual growth.