Fasting for Spiritual Health and Growth

Focus 40  Day 26

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that
offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
—Psalm 139:23–24 NLT

About every six months or so, my doctor sends me for some blood tests as part of my regularly
scheduled check-up. I have a family history of heart disease and diabetes, so it’s important to keep a
close watch on my test results over time in order to catch any potential problem early before it
becomes a more serious issue. The special thing about these particular tests is that I have to skip
breakfast because they require me to fast for at least twelve hours prior to the tests in order to get
accurate results. I can’t even have my morning coffee, because if I have had anything to eat or drink,
the levels will be determined by what I have just consumed. If a nonfasting level is high, that might
not mean anything at all. But if a fasting level is abnormally high, that means something is almost
definitely wrong. More tests are ordered, my diet and exercise regimen may be altered, and perhaps
medications are prescribed or adjusted to correct the problem.

In his book A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer, John Piper says, “Fasting
is a way of revealing to ourselves and confessing to our God what is in our hearts.” Our physical
appetites are much easier to understand and satisfy than our spiritual ones, and we have the potential
to become less sensitive to our spiritual appetites when our every physical need is always met.
Fasting is a means of finding out, as Piper says, whether “there are alive within us spiritual appetites
that could satisfy us at a much deeper level than food, and are designed for the honor of God.”

When I first started trying fasting as an approach to God, I was convinced that my display of
will-power would show him how sincere I was about what I wanted and he would then relent to my
desires. Wow, did I misunderstand! As I walked by faith in the discipline of prayer and fasting—just
like my doctor used fasting as a tool to determine a baseline of my physical health—God began to
show me areas in my spiritual life where I was actually hindering his perfect will for me through
unconfessed sin, selfish desires, and unforgiveness. Through fasting, God showed me the many
strongholds that I didn’t even realize still existed in my heart, and he has systematically broken down
those hard places. God has patiently worked his prescription in my life through prayer and fasting to
bring me closer and closer into the center of his perfect will. By intentionally humbling my heart
before the Lord through the experience of fasting, I have become a stronger and healthier Christian
than I ever would have been if I had never fasted.

God, I submit to your loving examination of my heart. Forgive me for all of the areas in which I’ve fallen short, and
help me to earnestly seek your will for me today.

– Mary Nichols, Commissioned Minister, Teays Valley Church of God, Scott Depot, West Virginia

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