Tag Archives: fasting

2 Kings 7-8; 2 Chronicles 21; Matthew 6

Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Matthew 6:34 [ESV])

This chapter of the New Testament is filled with many things of which we as Christ-followers need to be reminded. This chapter alone would be good subject matter for a week of devotions. Matthew covers the following topics in this chapter:

  • Giving to the poor
  • Prayer
  • Fasting
  • Worry
  • Doing good to others
  • Anxiety
  • Treasures in Heaven

And then he adds the concluding verse. If we focus on those things listed above we will have plenty of things to do to occupy our minds and lives for today. We won’t have time to put more worries in our little worry boxes. We will be so focused on what we need to do today that tomorrow will take care of itself.

How do you spend your days? Do you worry about what’s coming later in the week or next month or year? Do your thoughts go to issues you have no control over or ability to change. In reading through this chapter there is enough to occupy our minds and actions with for today. Let’s begin focusing in the here and now. Tomorrow comes way too soon.

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Nehemiah 1-3; Revelation 5

In late autumn, in the month of Kislev, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes’ reign,[a] I was at the fortress of Susa. Hanani, one of my brothers, came to visit me with some other men who had just arrived from Judah. I asked them about the Jews who had returned there from captivity and about how things were going in Jerusalem.

They said to me, “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”

When I heard this, I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven. (NLT)

Nehemiah was one of the exiled Israelites who lived in Susa. He was the cup bearer to the King which meant he tasted everything the King drank to make sure it had not been poisoned.  He probably had never seen his homeland of Israel or, if he had, it had been a very long time. We are not sure why he did not return to Israel after the decree from Cyrus allowing the exiles to go back, but he had not yet gone.  Yet his heart was deeply touched at the news of the state of his home. So much so he sat down and wept.  He mourned and fasted and prayed at the thought of his beloved City of David being in ruins!

2 In the month of Nisan in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was brought for him, I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.”

I was very much afraid, but I said to the king, “May the king live forever! Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?”

Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.” (NIV)

The king said to me, “What is it you want?”

Nehemiah’s heart was broken! He mourned, and prayed, and fasted for four months.  He called out to the Lord continuously over the brokenness of Israel.  He wanted to do something about it and was relentless in his appeal to God.  Have you ever cried out to God in distress and it became such a focus that was all you could think about?  So much so that it affected your appearance and others started to notice?  Here he was serving the king as he did every day and one day the king noticed his countenance and asked him about what was going on in his life.  I don’t really picture a king taking notice of a servant unless God has been working on that king’s heart.  As Nehemiah continued to fast and pray, not seeing any answer to his prayer, God was at work.

I love Nehemiah’s response to the king. Even though he was afraid, he answered the king but before he made his request he “prayed to the God of heaven”.  He had been praying to be the one to rebuild the city.  He needed the king’s favor.  He needed passes to get to the city, he needed materials, and he had been working out a plan in his head of how he would undertake this God-sized task.  God sent Nehemiah to rebuild the city and had the king help finance it.

Prayer is such an important part of our walk with God. It is how we communicate with Him. It is how we develop intimacy with Him. As we pray and devote time to Him, He reveals Himself to us!   Historically, prayer and fasting seem to be how our country sought answers to direction for our country.  Have you ever seen some of the older films of the founding fathers with their powdered wigs sitting in church fasting and praying?  Or, recently, I was watching “It’s a Beautiful Life” where George Bailey prayed and fasted when the country was at war.  There is a blending of mind, body, and spirit when we fast and pray—an intentionality of true focus on God with the realization that only He can resolve something. Prayer and fasting generally has a specific focus as it did for Nehemiah.

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.

Revelation gives us a picture of what happens to our prayers. It is such a beautiful thought to picture my prayers being presented to God as incense in a golden bowl.  They aren’t lost in the cosmos somewhere, they are presented to God!  Nehemiah’s prayer was heard and answered.  To God be the glory!

Oh Father, thank you for hearing our prayers. They can range anywhere from asking for help to find a parking spot to healing a loved one.  They can be praises to You for the beauty of Your nature to asking for the favor of a king to send us to rebuild a city.  We bring You the desires of our hearts and the joys and sorrows of our lives.  I am so thankful to live in this time, after the veil was torn, so we have access to you through Jesus.  He sits at your right hand and intercedes for us.  Our prayers are incense in golden bowls presented to you.  Hear our prayers, oh Lord!  Amen

Cindy (gardnlady)

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Esther 4-6; Acts 5:17-42

Fasting – putting to death the flesh to be made alive in the Spirit; “it acknowledges human frailty before God and appeals to His mercy,” (NKJ, commentary).

“So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41-42)

Esther 4:16 – “…fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day.”

I used to think that fasting was a way to show God (and man) how serious I was about my petitions, supplications, and needs.  It was all about exercising my will power and my ability to control this body that constantly seeks to have its way.  Also, God would see me suffer and be pleased with my sacrifice of food, pleasure, and time; and He would want to give me what I ask.  Even when I read about Esther’s fast, I interpreted the story as her way to catch the king’s attention; maybe she had put a few pounds on and fasting made her and her maids a little leaner and more attractive.

How is it that even when trying to obey God’s word to fast that I can get this all wrong?  My carnal mind overshadows even the desire to draw nearer through faith to a gracious God. Instead of a fast that is pleasing to God, I’ve made it into a diet or a prideful act to display the illusion of piety.  There was a moment of clarity when I realized these things some years ago, so I discontinued the practice of fasting.

Maybe it is in light of life changes recently, but the subject of fasting, as mentioned in Esther’s story of redemption for the Jewish people, has come back to my attention.  How might I obey God by fasting?

I read that fasting is a spiritual discipline. Okay, that may seem obvious, but it helps me to separate spiritual from earthly matters. Therefore, fasting is for seeking God’s face, not His hand filled with riches. So should I pray and fast to win the lottery?  I think not, yet I have fasted, hoping that my financial needs would be met. Also, we should have a broken, repentant, and contrite spirit when fasting; and even the body, the facial expressions, and our conversation about fasting are regulated by God’s command.

Matthew 6:16, 17 – “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance…But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting , but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

What fasting then reveals is the condition of my heart. By humbling myself, (that does not mean weighing myself each day, mildly protesting my self-imposed fast by whining at the dinner table, or thumping my chest with satisfaction at the end of day two or three for a job well done), I can block out the noise of the world’s influence on my prayers.

And that is just the beginning of entering into a fast. The breakthrough comes with increased faith in prayer that our Lord Jesus Christ has heard from Heaven and will answer our prayers, not because we deserve to be heard, but because we are able to hear. Quiet my soul, dear Lord, I am listening.

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Filed under 66 Books, Acts, Bible in a year reading plan, Esther, New Testament, Old Testament

Deut. 29; Ps.119:49-72; Isa. 56; Matt. 4

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him…” Matt 4:1-3

This was Jesus’ preparation for public ministry. In order to prepare himself for the temptation to come, Jesus fasted. That is, He willingly and purposefully placed himself in a weakened state. Sounds like a bad idea, but it was brilliant, it was counter-intuitive.

If I knew temptation was coming, I’d make sure I was well rested and well-fed. I would prepare myself for battle by strengthening myself… in myself.

Jesus prepared for ‘battle’ – temptation in preparation for his public ministry – not by strengthening himself in himself, but by strengthening himself in God the Father. For Jesus, fasting signified surrender to the Father’s will. It was the ultimate act of humility and the only way to prepare for the ministry God had for Him.

Surrender through fasting actually strengthened Him and gave Him the ability to resist the temptation. He was in a sense in His strongest place – fully surrendered to the Father.

I’ve never fasted, at least not that I can remember. And yet as I read this story of tempting and testing, of preparation and perseverance, of victory over Satan, of God’s strength in human weakness – I know I’ve had plenty of reason and opportunity to fast.

The next time I come to the end of myself, when all human wisdom is exhausted, when my knowledge of God and scripture fails to provide what I think I need, or when I am asked to do something I know I cannot do in my own strength… I pray I remember to take my cue’s from Jesus and consider the path of hunger. Maybe in some way fasting will make me acutely aware of my weakness and more aware of God’s strength and His ability to sustain me when I rely on Him.

Paul (guest on 66 books)

Originally published June 24, 2010

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