Examining Biblical Scripture

Fasting and its Purpose: A look at Isaiah 58

There is power in prayer, and there is power in fasting. But is our key reason for fasting to do miracles or to see prophetically?

FSome people fast for health: to detox or to lose weight. Those who follow Jesus fast, from time to time, to support and empower their prayer lives, using Bible text as a foundation:

“… this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17:21)

An epileptic boy could not be healed by the disciples; yet Jesus removed a demon and the boy was healed. When asked why they could not heal the boy, Jesus said it was only through prayer and fasting that he could have been healed. There is power in prayer, and there is power in fasting. But is our key reason for fasting to do miracles or to see prophetically?

References to the Holy Spirit

The chief purpose for and result of fasting is to stop indulging the flesh and to give over to the Spirit. To be filled with the Spirit and to walk in the Spirit is the goal of any born again believer, just as Jesus was filled by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:15)

Galatians 5: 16-18 says, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts* against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Another time I’ll address the topic of GOD’s Law versus the Grace of GOD. But for now, let us dwell for a moment on the flesh versus the Spirit as related to fasting. *Lust is not only sexual but any desire that puts attention on the fleshly desires we seek to fulfil, including food. The act of fasting from food puts on hold the practice of stuffing our bodies full of edible foodstuffs. I sometimes become aware when I fast of just how food suppresses my connection to or my awareness of the Spirit within me.

The book of Acts is full of accounts of people becoming born again, baptised and filled with the Spirit. At Pentecost they appeared drunk to outsiders, so full of GOD’s Spirit were they (Acts 2). Saul became filled with the Spirit according to GOD’s plan for his life,

“And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 9:17)

So we know that to be filled with the Spirit is of GOD. But is fasting an automatic way of becoming filled with the Spirit.

Isaiah 58 

The examples in Isaiah 58:6-9 are examples, in essence, of what happens when we choose to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh. The result is a flourish of our character growing in the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). In its essence, the fast the LORD has chosen is not works-based, though it could be read as such, but rather demonstrates acts of selflessness instead of fleshly self-centredness.

“Is this not the fast that I have chosen: 

To loose the bonds of wickedness,

And undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,

And that you break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,

And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;

When you see the naked, that you cover him,

And not hide yourself from your own flesh?
Then your light shall break forth like the morning,

Your healing shall spring forth speedily,

And your righteousness shall go before you;

And the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;

You will cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’”

When we do what is loving and kind, we not only fulfil the Ten Commandments, but also the Great Commandment which Jesus uttered,

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:30-31)

And in so doing the fast of Isaiah 58:6-9, we put our fleshly self-centredness aside and give way to the Spirit of GOD. The earlier references in Isaiah 58 are the fleshly attempts to achieve the same result, which of course fail.

As being like Jesus is our goal, and being Spirit-led is a significant part of that, we can discern that the benchmarks of the Spirit operating in our lives are the fruit of the spirit (our visible growth in character) and our lifestyle (spirit-filled rather than carnal).  From Isaiah 58, we discover that to fast GOD’s way — which may not have anything to do with food at all — is a way forward towards walking in the Spirit.

There are many kinds of fasts and many reasons for fasting, but the key is to desire more of GOD and less of ourselves; fasting can be a manifestation of either. Isaiah 58 outlines a way of fasting that encourages us to grow spiritually, which is our key witness and desire. If it follows from that, that we become anointed and empowered for miracles or prophetic insight in our prayers, so be it. But that is not our purpose. Our purpose is to be filled with the Spirt as Jesus was filled with the Spirit. What happens after that is GOD’s will as to how He chooses to use us to reveal Himself.

By Dr Sarah Tun

Dr Sarah Tun began her professional career as a teacher. Years later she became a performing artist and administrator to property development. She felt the Call to write full time in 2004. Dr Sarah has traveled extensively, and lived in New York City (for a year), London England (for a long time) and Hong Kong (briefly) before returning to her home in Ontario, Canada, then to Spain and finally now, has re-settled in her adoptive home of England. She graduated with degrees in Drama, Education and diplomas in Acting and Theology. Most recently she was awarded Honorary Doctor of Ministry and became ordained. Her favourite experience to date has been following her Creator and Lord. She doesn't think Life can get any better! Dr Sarah Tun is author, singer, preacher, writing coach and all-round enthusiast, celebrating and seeking to inspire all of us to quench our thirst for deeper intimacy with God through the Holy Spirit.

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