If you have ever gone on an extended fast, you know it can be a life changing experience. There are many types of fasts. The king of Nineveh along with the people of his nation fasted three days from food and water. God heard the sincerity in their repentance and spared their nation, making them an example of the power inherent in fasting and prayer (see Luke 11:32).
A fast can be a powerful tool to help stimulate revival or, conversely, it can degrade into a religious exercise that has almost no spiritual significance. The Pharisees fasted twice a week, but did so to be seen of men. Their fast became a thing of pride. At its essence, the purpose of a fast is to help us reach our spiritual destination faster, hence the name fast. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matthew 5:6). The goal of our hunger is for righteousness to prevail, either in us personally or in our family, church, city or nation. Fasting takes us there faster.
Yet, we must not allow our fast to become a form of self-inflicted punishment. Fasting is not about "severe treatment of the body" (Colossians 2:20-23). During the time you would have nourished your body, nourish your soul instead. Draw closer to the Lord. Read the Word of God, memorize Scriptures or pray for yourself and your loved ones or church.
Isaiah 58 tells us that a fast can also be a time to show God's love to others. The Lord says, "Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him . . .?" (verses 6-7).
Therefore, when you are fasting from food, consider also ways to help the disadvantaged and hurting. You might even devote your food money to a relief agency that is caring for people suffering in destitute places.
The Intercessor's Fast
Perhaps the most life changing fast is the one I urge intercessors to employ. I ask them to take a month and fast from judging. It is interesting to watch their reactions. "What will we think about?" they query. I am only saying do not let your concluding thought end judging a person, rather, let it end in a prayer for mercy.
The instinct to judge, to criticize, is a curse upon the Church, and it brings death upon us as individuals. A curse? Death? Yes, every time we judge, we are simultaneously judged by God, and each time we condemn another, we ourselves are condemned (Matthew 7).
Many Christians will pray, engage in spiritual warfare and rebuke the devil, yet often the enemy they are fighting is not demonic. It is consequential. Life is being measured back to them according to their attitudes toward others. They are under judgment because they are always judging (see Matthew 7:2).
When I say "fast from judging," I do not mean we should abandon discernment. No. But judging people is not discernment. Fault-finding is not a gift of the Spirit. When we see something wrong, instead of only turning critical, we must learn to pray for mercy for that situation. We will still see what is wrong, but we are harnessing our anger and seeking to redeem what is wrong by the power of Christ's love.
Jesus said, "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy" (Matthew 5:7). When we resist the impulse to judge or condemn and, instead, pray for mercy, an amazing thing happens: a door of fresh mercy opens before us. You see, in every moment of every day there are two doors in front of us. One is a door that brings waves of mercy into our lives, while the other door opens to a life full of obstacles and difficulties. How do we enter the mercy door? The key to a life blessed by God's mercy is to give mercy to those around us (See Matthew 18).
There are Christians I know who have not made spiritual progress for years. They attend church, they tithe, yet they maintain a judgmental attitude. They always have something negative to say about others. As such, they position themselves under God's judgment. Their capacity to receive divine mercy is closed because they do not show mercy toward others.
James wrote: "Judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13). It is a sobering verse: judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy.
Are you pondering why your version of Christianity doesn't quite feel like the abundant life Jesus promised? (See John 10.) Perhaps it is because you are too judgmental. The good news, however, is this: mercy triumphs over judgment. If you know you are a sinner and that there are areas wrong in your life, yet you strive to be merciful, God promises He will respond to you as you have responded to others. The areas in your heart that need mercy will find healing in the life God grants to the merciful.
Beloved, ponder the next season of change in your life, perhaps it is time to embrace the mercy fast. Yes, for thirty days, see what changes occur when you fast from judging.
Ministries of Francis Frangipane