“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Joel 2:12, NIV
If we look at the kind of fasting that took place in the Old Testament, it would be easy to assume that the reason for fasting is to gain forgiveness. In the book of Joel, the Israelites had wandered far from God, and their sinfulness had resulted in famine and pestilence in the land. Through the prophet Joel, God called them to repentance, ordering them to declare a sacrificial fast, which along with mourning and weeping, would show God the sincerity of their repentance. In return the prophet said that perhaps God would “turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing” (verse 14, NIV).
Such a fast of repentance is seen in the Old Testament time and again, because under the Old Covenant, man had to rely on his works and sacrifices to avert the wrath of God. But under the New Covenant, we don’t have to fast for forgiveness. Every wrong we have done and will do was forgiven at the cross, and when we accept Christ, we live under the New Covenant of grace and forgiveness!
First Thessalonians 5:9 tells us that “God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (NIV). So then, why do we, as people under the New Covenant, devote ourselves to fasting and prayer?
We don’t have to fast for forgiveness. Every wrong we have done and will do was forgiven at the cross.
As we walk with God, there are times that we feel far from Him or disconnected. Joel’s words resonate with us, even if we live in a context of grace: “return to me with all your heart.” There are times we realize that though we have chosen to follow Jesus, the flame of our love for Him has grown cold.
Your time spent in prayer each day of the fast can result in a new richness, a rewarding connection with the Father. No matter where you are on your journey with Jesus, you can always take a step closer toward Him.
I believe the power of fasting as it relates to prayer is the spiritual atomic bomb that our Lord has given us to destroy the strongholds of evil and usher in a great revival and spiritual harvest around the world. —Bill Bright
Prayer Focus: As we begin this time of prayer and fasting, let’s turn our hearts toward God. Make a commitment to seek Him daily. Pray that your love for Christ will be increased and your passion for Him will be reignited over the next twenty-one days.