"Is this not the fast I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free;
And that you break every yoke?"
What needs to be surrendered in your life to experience freedom? What do you need to "fast" from?
Fasting, or going with out food for a period, has long been an important tool that people have used to increase their prayer life, strengthen their spirit, increase spiritual discipline, and to grow closer to God. Prophets and Kings, mystics and ascetics all fasted, although it is not something that is meant simply for the spiritual elite. It is noteworthy that in the sermon on the mount, Jesus gives instructions on fasting, prefaced by the phrase "when you fast" (Matt 6:16). It seemed that it was not necessary to tell these spiritual seekers who were present with him of their need to fast, rather they simply needed instructions on entering into a fast with the right heart.
For many, it is the remnants of the past clinging to us that we need deliverance from.
The Lord also speaks to us on this subject through the prophet Isaiah. In chapter 58, we see that fasting is actually something given us by God, a gift that is meant to help us grow closer to Him, allowing Him room in our hearts and minds to heal us, to "undo the heavy burdens" and to free us from that which binds us...addictions, regret, shame, pride, anger. and many other things. He makes Himself available to us, to repair the damage that has been done to us, and that we have done to ourselves, and fasting is a way that we make time and space for Him to work in our hearts and minds - healing, renewing, restoring. "Behold, I make all things new." (Revelation 21:5)
In its purest form, fasting consists of going without food for a period, and if this is something that you have never done, I would strongly encourage you to make time to fast and pray. "Then your healing shall spring forth speedily." (Isaiah 58:8). Reflecting on Isaiah 58 during a time of fasting can help us focus, and God will use this time mightily if we let Him. Starting with a 24 hour water-only fast, and spending much of that time seeking the Lord can be a great start. Sometimes, though, its things other than food that we need to be separated from for a period. For example, depending on how we engage, social media can be a horribly negative influence on our hearts and minds. Moreover, much of the media that many people consume today is full of deeply dark themes that can influence us more than we realize. Binge-watching through streaming services can amplify this effect.
It can also be people. Perhaps the Lord wants you to let certain people go for awhile, trusting Him for the outcomes. To the parent of a prodigal: What might happen if you choose to let go of your fear, worry, and regret, and trust God with your son/daughter? Pray for them. Let them go, and let God bring them back. "Fast" from your regrets, affirming your trust in God. What about a troubled marriage? Many know what it is to be mired in the mud and muck and despair of a broken marriage. Unable to get traction or move forward in any meaningful way, both partners revert to old patterns that keep them mired. Can you "fast" from this? Can you let go of your hurts, your right to be right, and lay your marriage, your spouse, even your own heart before the Father? Let Him heal him/her, and in the "letting," let yourself be healed. God can even use time apart to to bring true unity and renewal.
It is the Father's joy to redeem our pain, and from it to bring renewal and restoration, to create beauty from ashes, joy from mourning.
For many, it is the remnants of the past clinging to us that we need deliverance from. Regret can be a pretty horrible thing. It can also be terribly limiting, as our hurts, wounds, and regrets can effectively tether us to the worst parts of our past. Those memories, and our reactions to them, are dragged along behind us, forcing us to relive them, and informing our mindset and behaviors in the present. This is bondage. Therapy can help us cope with it. Medication can hide it. There is hope for more, however. The Father desires His children to be truly free from it, healed and walking in newness of life. In fact, this is an important part of the "abundant life" that Jesus offers (John 10:10).
He will heal you from the regrets and shame that keep you bound. Jesus earned for us the right, not only to be redeemed from the eternal consequence of sin, but also the right to walk in redemption and fullness of life now. It is the Father's joy to redeem our pain, and from it to bring renewal and restoration, to create beauty from ashes, joy from mourning. Will you let Him do this? Partner with the Father by creating time and space for the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts. Fasting from toxic media, toxic thoughts, toxic patterns. Miss a meal or two and spend that time with Him, He is waiting for you. He has chosen this time to free you from your bondage. He has chosen this as a way of releasing you from your burdens. He has chosen this to free you.
Partner with Him in this..
For further reading:
"The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives" by Dallas Willard is an excellent treatment of the role of fasting and other disciplines in spiritual formation.
"Beautiful People Don't Just Happen: How God Redeems Regret, Hurt, and Fear in the Making of Better Humans" by Scott Sauls is a beautiful discussion of lived redemption. Highly recommended