Many people across our nation are entering into a 40-day "Daniel" fast starting today, eating no meats or "pleasant food" from March 1st to April 9th. The Lord has given us an invitation to focus our prayers on Matthew 9:38, asking the "Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest", specifically to the college campuses of our nation.
I've been examining my own motives for entering into this fast, specifically related to the posture of my heart and the expectation I have for it. I've come to this major conclusion:
Fasting itself is not what moves God's heart. Our humility in fasting is what does.
The difference is subtle but very significant, and the way we respond to that statement sets us up for either great gratitude or great offense towards the Lord. I feel like I've always approached fasting as a "tool in the spiritual warfare toolbelt" to affect change on the earth. With this mindset, I slowly and subtly became religious about my fasting much like the Pharisees were, believing that if I broke a fast that I was letting God or my fellow intercessors down. He wouldn't move with as much power because I had "failed". The accusation about not fasting as "intensely" as others also was a constant condemnation. The lie I heard from the enemy was: "you're more spiritual and you shift more things in the heavens if you do a water fast instead of a Daniel fast". But I am slowly beginning to realize why fasting is so important to the life of a believer. It all boils down to one word alone:
There are several things I've been thinking about that have changed my mindset on fasting. First, fasting is not an instrument given to us to force God's hand to move. Biblically, fasting is always connected with mourning, either for sin (Daniel 10, Joel 2), for the great purpose of "missing" Jesus (Matthew 9:14-17), or simply to embrace weakness that He may become greater (John the Baptist). Fasting never earns anything before God. Daniel is our great example. He fasted and was "mourning for three full weeks" (Daniel 10:2), and the angel was sent to him from the moment he set his heart in mourning, not after he had completed his fast. The great purpose of every fast we see any man or woman entering into in the Bible is ultimately humility.
Second, fasting is not part of some divine formula for power or a way for the church to obtain great victory in the world. Looking at the life of Jesus brings much clarity. His 40-day fast in the wilderness was not part of a divine plan to give Him the power to start His ministry. He was God - He didn't need to fast to force the Father to anoint Him. His fast was about the demonstration of God's humility in Him as a human. His humility is what ultimately redeemed men to God (Philippians 2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 8:9), and His invitation to follow Him into the depths of humility was His perpetual message (Matthew 5-7, Mark 8:34, Mark 10:21).
Third, corporate fasting disconnected from humility does not make God move more. Somehow we have this false idea in our heads that if 5000 people are fasting that God "does more" than if only 50 people were fasting. Because fasting alone does not force God's hand of power to move, this can never be the case. The conviction of the Holy Spirit that comes when the gospel is preached and hearts are turned to God in repentance comes from the recognition of our weakness and denying the strength and the pride of man, not the "success" of our last 40-day fast.
As we embrace the weakness of fasting, we're boldly proclaiming to God "I am weak! I am nothing! I have no power to affect anything or do anything. I am willing to be used by You to touch the nations of the earth, and I want to do it Your way. I will voluntarily take up the cross and embrace humility. I love your ways and I agree with what you want to do. Have mercy on me!"
Entering into fasting for the sake of humility alone helps guard our hearts against offense towards God. We've missed the whole point of fasting if we somehow think that God is going to answer our prayers because of our "success" on a fast. At the end of the day, we will not stand before God with a self-centered, prideful heart saying "look what we did God, we got hundreds of campuses to fast with us, and we shaped the destiny of our nation. We established your kingdom there." Instead we'll say "wow God, we skipped meals to connect us with our need for You, and we mourned and realized we had nothing good apart from You. We have no power to do anything, but we were willing vessels and prayed to be your witnesses that make mature disciples, and You filled us with confidence and boldness to speak the truth of the Gospel. And though we were persecuted and things got difficult for us at the end, You are such a good leader, and things are way better with you here reigning on the Earth!"
Fasting is always about self-denial and humility unto growing in Christlikeness and never a formula or "vending machine" to obtain God's power. Fasting is simply a voluntary discipline we can enter into that helps us to walk the same path Jesus walked.
As we enter into this fast, may we enter it for the sole purposes of humility and taking up our cross, lest we think that somehow God needs our fasting in order to move His hand or He needs our prayer in order to touch the college campuses of our nation. He invites us to fast and pray because He wants us to know His heart as a friend. Fasting escorts us into humility because it's in the lowest place that we actually find Him! As we assume this posture, we can be confident that He will meet us, give us His heart and His burden, and use us in our weakness to touch many people and bring them into the hope of the coming Kingdom - simply because He is a good Father and will never deny the broken and contrite heart of His children.
“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart— These, O God, You will not despise.”
(Psalms 51:17 NKJV)