“So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.”
– Ezra 8:23
What a great short verse. “We fasted and implored our God for this.” We set aside food to seek God, to implore him, asking for his help, and God listened to our entreaty. As you think about this verse, I want to encourage you to seriously consider what fasting might look like in your life over the coming days, especially here at the beginning of a year. How are you going to regularly and periodically fast? What I mean by those two words, “regularly” and “periodically…” When Jesus says in Matthew 6, when he is teaching about fasting, he says, “When you fast,” in the same chapter, he says, “When you pray and when you give,” fasting should be as automatic, as assumed as giving is in the Christian life and as praying is in the Christian life.
Feasting on God’s Grace and Love
Fasting really is feasting on the grace and the love and the mercy and the provision and the word of God.
But, I wonder if that’s actually true for most Christians. This is not something we talk about a lot in many churches, and it’s to our detriment. Fasting is a biblical discipline that Jesus calls us to and gives us instructions for, to put aside food. The acronym we use in the church I pastor is F-A-S-T. F, focus on God.
This is not about other people thinking you are spiritual or doing this for any other means than to focus more on God by A, abstaining from food. So, focus on God, abstain from food. Set aside food. And instead of eating, say, “More than I want food, God, I want you. More than I need food, I need you, your help, your wisdom, your direction, your mercy.” And sort of set aside food and substitute, so this is the S in FAST, substitute the time that you would normally eat with extended, concentrated time in prayer and in the word and feasting on God during that time.
Ezra 8:23 Reminds Us that Fasting is Not Just Missing a Meal
It’s not just missing a meal. I mean, sometimes, we get so busy we miss meals. That’s not fasting. Substitute the time that you would normally eat with extra devotion to prayer and the word, and imploring God to use language from Ezra chapter eight. And then, T… So F, focus on God. A, abstain from food. S, substitute that time that you’d be eating with prayer in the word. And then, T, taste and see that the Lord is good. Discover what David writes in Psalm 63. “God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you. And I am satisfied in you more than I am with the richest of foods.”
Ezra 8:23 Teaches Us that Fasting is for Feasting on God’s Word
Fasting really is feasting on the grace and the love and the mercy and the provision and the word of God. It’s our food. It’s our daily bread. Fasting is a physical expression of all of those spiritual realities. I want to encourage you. Regularly, what is that going to look like in your life to fast on a regular basis, and then, periodically, to set aside some time to have extended fasting for maybe more than just a meal or a day for a couple of days? And to do that whenever you are facing a big decision, or you are struggling with a particular sin you just can’t seem to overcome, or when you just need an extra measure of grace and help in a situation like they were facing in Ezra 8.
As we come up on those kinds of circumstances and struggles with sin and struggles with decision making and just struggles in whatever it might be, for that to be a time that our first trigger would be, “I need to fast. I need to set aside some time outside of my regular plan for fasting, to spend some extended time in fasting,” just like we see in Ezra and Nehemiah and Esther and all throughout the Bible. I’ve talked a lot more than I normally do on this podcast before we pray, but I just want to encourage you to fast regularly and periodically. Some kind of regular pattern of fasting, and then when you’re walking through certain things for it to be an impulse of yours to set aside time to fast.
A Prayer for the Discipline of Fasting
God help us. We pray to be faithful in fasting and in participating in this spiritual discipline, this physical discipline. God, that we would indeed taste and see that you are better than even the most basic things we need in this world. Food. You are better than anything this world has to offer, and we want and we need you more than we need food in our bodies. Teach us to fast we pray, and draw us closer to yourself as we do. May we fast and implore you, and may you listen to are entreaties, just like you did in Ezra 8:23 in Jesus’ name. Amen.