Fasting and breakthrough
I can only imagine
What my eyes would see
When your face is before me
I can only imagine
I can only imagine
– I Can Only Imagine – Mercy Me
Some churches in Jamaica have a day set aside for a fasting service. For many it has become a ritual, with some people going to the services, but not abstaining from food.
It has become so common that many new converts are not aware of the importance of engaging in fasting. The Bible recounts that Jesus officially started his ministry after ending 40 days of fasting, in the Judaean desert.
But what is fasting and how relevant is it in Christian living?
For answers, Family & Religion reached out to Rev Dr Zebulah Aiken of the Miracle Tabernacle Free Town Church of God of Prophecy for her views. She said fasting is abstinence from food or drink with the motive being to seek the Lord through self-denial.
“There is a reason prayer is associated with fasting, although some persons abstain from food for the allotted time, but do not engage in prayer. If a breakthrough for a particular problem is being sought, then there should be sessions of intense prayer and meditation,” Aiken said.
Aiken explained that people can fast for a variety of reasons. Many want breakthroughs for defeating illnesses or to have their dreams realised, while some fast to get a better understanding of God’s purpose for their lives or for spiritual strength. She recalled that after coming out of his fasting, Jesus was strengthened to resist temptation.
“Similarly, as Christians, there are times when some regrouping and energising will have to be done. The many cares and ministries that some Christians are involved in can burn you out, and there will be times when refocusing will be needed,” Aiken said.
However, for those who don’t see the need to engage in fasting, Aiken said it is not something that’s mandatory. For her, the church cannot force any believer to go on fasting, as it is something that’s all up to the individual.
“Jesus set an example in fasting, so we know it is a good practice to keep. It will be the difference to those who get stronger and enjoy more breakthroughs in their walk with God,” she said.
Citing an example in Matthew 17:17-21 where Jesus’ disciples could not cast out an evil spirit … something He effortlessly did before telling them they failed because of their unbelief. He said that particular problem needed something extra – prayer and fasting.
It is for this reason, Aiken said, believers should know when their particular situation needs more than just a casual prayer, as some things in their life call for what Jesus told his disciples.
Aiken added that some Christians believe they cannot fast as they have to go to work, or that they have to be at church. Brushing those excuses aside, she said fasting is not restricted to a particular location. Prayer doesn’t have to be loud, or for everyone to notice.
“It’s all about strategy. Do your work. Almost everyone has the Bible on their phones, read a chapter, breathe a word at intervals during your fast until the hour you assigned for it has passed,” she suggested.
For some believers with health issues or who must take medications, Aiken said she would encourage them to go on a partial fast, as in having light meals and drinking a lot of water.
“There are many different types of fasting. For us, every January we encourage our members to do a 21-day, no-meat, no-sugar fast, with guidelines on Bible reading and meditation. But there are others who set their own hours and duration. The important thing should be to get a closer walk with God and building our spiritual lives,” said Aiken.
She said fasting is a powerful thing, and when believers realise the power and the results that can be achieved through exercising their faith and self-denial, they will see growth in their walk with God.