Fasting: “When” Not “If”

(This post was written by Matt James, Video Director)

“When I heard this, I sat down and wept. I mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God-of-Heaven.” Nehemiah 1:4, The Message

Last year I went on a week long liquids only fast after a particularly trying week and in conjunction with a great friend of mine. During that week I was surprised how focused I became, how the trivial became even more trivial. I learned so much just by not eating and focusing that time on God- seeking his face and his will.

Among the things I learned is that I don’t have one stronghold in my life. I have several. Secondly I built those strongholds – they didn’t magically appear in my life and they aren’t going to magically disappear either.

The third, and the most powerful for me, is I need to stop asking God for what I want. Instead I need to thank Him for what I have. I’m surrounded by friends who are there for me. Friends who’ll ask the simple question ‘wanna fast?’ and then they’ll fast with me. I have friends who enjoy spending their time with me and aren’t afraid to let me know when I’m being a jerk.

I can get out and enjoy His creation with a couple of plastic discs and 18 baskets to throw them at. I own a house for goodness sake. I am so blessed that I should find it funny I have anything to complain about.

Now Nehemiah, he had something to complain about. His home city had been sacked and its wall and gate destroyed. His people were in distress. So what does he do? He mourns, fasts and prays.

How does he pray? He doesn’t just whine and moan to God. He begins with praise – praising God for preserving His promise and loving His people. Then Nehemiah gets on his knees and confesses his sin and for the sin of his people – he literally begs God to forgive them.

After the praise and the confession, only after, does Nehemiah remind God of His promise and then, only then, does he go about setting things right with God by bringing his people back to Him. Nehemiah trusts in God to give him the strength and the wisdom to know how to restore his people to God’s grace and favor.

Only after praise and confession does he begin the work.

I had it backwards. I shouldn’t start off by asking God for healing, forgiveness or a new job. First off I’ve got to praise His name. Praise the Most High. Then I’ve got to confess my sins and beg his forgiveness for them, then I followed by reminding God of his word, after that, after, I can ask for His will to be done – if His will is in line with my desires – great! If not? Praise God! I can trust in Him – I have to do what He tells and commands me to do, no matter how impossible or painful it might seem.

I’d encourage everyone to try fasting – deny your flesh and focus your thoughts on the Father during the time you’d be eating.  Pick up a copy of Jentzen Franklin’s book Fasting and follow the plan he has outlined. You’ll be amazed at how close you’ll become to God and how much you’ll learn. After all –  Matthew 6:16 doesn’t say “if you fast”  it says “when you fast…” One little word that makes a huge difference.