I have fasted for numerous reasons over the years. Always in conjunction with prayer, I have fasted as an expression of grief (for instance, most recently, for help understanding my Mother’s death), as a petition for protection, for intersession, among others. I think where fasting has had the most dramatic impact has been as part of expressed remorse over sin, and repentance that has led to a changed lifestyle.
First John 1:9 says that if we confess our sins, Christ is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins. But have you ever wondered about the spirit in which confession is to be made? I have sat in church meetings where the same person repeats a litany of past sins over and over again. Drunken binges, unfaithful relationships, jail sentences served, families neglected. After a while, I have wondered, to whom are these people speaking? Are the things being said merely to solicit some reaction from the audience? The only necessary audience to hear our confession is God, and all He requires to bestow forgiveness is genuine recognition for sins committed.
Donald S. Whitney states in his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, “Mere admission is not confession. Christ is dishonored by a frivolous view of confession that does not appreciate how much our sin cost Him.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the WWII Christian martyr, might categorize this kind of confession as “cheap grace,” because confession without at least some real remorse costs us nothing, and makes a mockery of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.
Fasting has not always yielded immediate results in me, nor should we expect that. God will work and reveal in us what He wishes in His time. Having said that, the times I have fasted as an expression of remorse for sins committed, and in repentance, have always been spiritually ‘eye-popping’ experiences. Perhaps it is head knowledge that drives me to fast and pray, but the heart responds quickly to the obedience of the action. Soon, the weight of my transgression is revealed, and I sense the gravity of the broken relationship with God, and those whom I may have sinned against. As I continue to pray, perhaps not all at once, but over time, release comes, usually with tears. What a relief!
Science has never been able to explain the physiological reason for tears. We hate to cry, and hate even more that we seem to have no control over it! It is enough to drive some people away from confession, knowing that giving even a minutia of thought to a wrongdoing will bring out the Kleenex. However, King David understood the value of confession, and tears. Read Psalms 32 and 51. There is nothing, and I mean nothing, like the lifting of the heavy weight of sin from my soul.