How can we get close to God—close enough to hear His voice, know His power and presence, “feel His pleasure,” as Eric Liddell put it in the movie, Chariots of Fire?

Have you ever considered fasting? I bet if you have, you’ve never associated it with power! And why should you? What kind of power do we have after we’ve skipped several meals?—I know how weak I feel after skipping a single meal (and if you’ve fasted longer, you know exactly what I’m talking about).

Some people associate fasting with dieting. But the self-control in an effective weight-loss program is not God’s idea of power fasting. To be sure, He wants us to avoid gluttony and other physical excesses, but He also wants something deeper from us, something infinitely more precious and spiritual—a disciplined holy lifestyle that gets us as close to Him as we can get: into His mind, conformed to His will, and after His heart.

Fasting is a critical element of this discipline.

Let me walk you through some Scriptures that will help you see the connection between fasting and getting close to God, and the power He promises to those who seek Him with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.

To begin with, fasting is mentioned over fifty times in Scripture, so we know it’s an important topic. Jesus discussed it in His very first sermon—the Sermon on the Mount:

1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

16 “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

17 “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face  

18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

      — Matthew 6:1, 16-18

Let’s do some observations together. First, notice how Jesus’ statements about fasting begin and end with a common theme—motive. There are apparently two possible motives for fasting, aren’t there? One to be seen by _______ and another to be seen by ________.

Which motive does Jesus command us to choose? ___________And why? What will God do when we act from the right motive? __________________.

What related words begin verses 16 and 17? _________ and __________. And what characteristic of true discipleship follows? ________________________________

Jesus set a great example for us when He fasted for forty days and nights (Matthew 4:2). This was clearly God’s purpose: we’re told He was “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (v. 1). After this long time without food, when Jesus was terribly weakened, the devil tempted Him to use His divine power as Son of God to command stones to become bread.

Couldn’t have come at a worse time, could it? But that’s the devil—malevolent, always looking for our most vulnerable points! Fasts start out pretty easy, but by the end of forty days they’re excruciating. Most of us can’t make it this long, not even close. The devil waited for this worst possible time to pounce—after day forty, when nearness to God and nearness to starvation were at peak levels, battling for dominance.

Nearness to God won out, because Jesus treasured His relationship with His Father far above the physical pleasures of food. He had communed with Him for forty days, and He wasn’t about to break this for a single meal. This intimate closeness to His Father was “worth it,” worth the pain.

How about you? Is any pain, any sacrifice, “worth it”? According to Jesus’ life and example, it is worth it, Beloved—worth it to know God, worth it to be close to Him, as close as we can get.

Learn “Key Principles for Biblical Fasting.”

Kay Arthur

Host, Precepts For Life

Precept Ministries International