By Sloan Milliken
While he was on the earth, the Lord Jesus knew that his disciples would one day be a people who fast. He also knew that, done rightly, fasting wouldn’t be a discipline born out of duty, tradition, or any other external pressure. The ancient practice would become a new thing, with a new motivation.
The disciples of John the Baptist didn’t know this when they asked Jesus about fasting. They had been watching the Lord’s disciples closely for a while, and they noticed a trend in their eating habits—they ate all the time! Since many Jews serious about their faith would fast twice a week, they approached Jesus about what they had observed. The Lord’s reply was classic: “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast” (Matt. 9:15).
Simply put, fasting today is all about the bridegroom. I must confess I have lacked that perspective. I can get caught up in a performance mentality of thinking that I need to fast because I “should.” Even when I fast wanting the reward spoken of in Matthew 6, I am missing out on part of what is available, for Jesus is madly in love with his people, and fasting is one way to respond to his love by setting aside food and other things in desire for him.
Fasting is not just about one-on-one intimacy with Jesus, though. It is also a mighty weapon to use to hasten his return. Jesus said his disciples would fast once he was “taken from them,” but he also promised he would come back! The scripture clearly says, however, that he won’t return until “his bride has made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7). I believe that one way, perhaps even the main way, the bride works to become ready is by proclaiming the Kingdom in every corner of the world so every tribe and tongue can come in. In love for Jesus and desiring him to be known, we can fast and pray for the salvation of our neighbors and the nations, preparing the way for him to return and rule the earth forever.
The Kingdom rarely advances in power without fasting and prayer. Acts 13 tells us about the time five men decided to meet together to fast and minister to God. From that prayer meeting, the Holy Spirit sent out Barnabas and Paul, and they turned the world upside down. Similarly, but more recently, a woman in India with a fervent heart for Jesus decided to fast and pray every Friday until one of her five sons was called into ministry. Three years later, her youngest came home and announced God had called him to be an evangelist. He later founded Gospel for Asia, a frontier missions group that has sent out hundreds of indigenous missionaries who are winning the unreached for Jesus. Those are just two testimonies among millions, and God is inviting us into our own.
I hope this issue will inspire and equip you to examine the practice of fasting and the role it can play in your life and ministry. Working to get it to print has done that for me. I have been reminded that in the story of redemption, each of us has a part to play, and it is a blessing to fast and pray.
May the Lamb of God receive the reward of his suffering,