The Biblical 40 Day Fast
The concept of fasting for 40 days comes from the example we see in the Bible. Three important men in the Bible were led to do an extended fast – Moses, Elijah, and Jesus.
Surprisingly enough, it was also these two men, Moses and Elijah, who then appear together with Jesus in a pivotal moment in Scripture when Jesus shows the disciples evidence of His divinity (the transfiguration).
There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.Matthew 17:2-3 NIV
Could it be that there exists a correlation between witnessing the glory of God and doing an extended fast?
I believe that as you are led by the Spirit of God in your daily life, His desire is for you to uncover the purpose, the ministry, and the calling for which you were created. If Jesus used this method before He began doing all God called Him to do, who are we not to?
Your fast does not have to be the length of 40 days in order for God to use you or for you to discover your calling; however, I do believe that setting a time apart to be with God, to seek His face, and to trade your physical hunger for your spiritual hunger, will produce uncanny results in your life.
Thinking of doing a 40 Day fast? Here are a few things you should know:
It’s Foundational for Ministry
The Bible says that at the age of 33, after being baptized, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to do an extended fast.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.Matthew 4:1 NIV
During this time, Jesus resisted the constant temptations sent by the devil, until finally, the devil fled.
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the You’re your God and serve Him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.Matthew 4:10-11 NIV
Notice that Jesus did not start His ministry prior to fasting, nor are there any recordings of Him preaching or being used by the Holy Spirit before this fast. However, after these 40 days, Scripture makes it a point to mention that Jesus returns from His fast “in power.”
Then Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news of Him went out through all the surrounding regions.Luke 4:14 NKJV
An extended fast could be what will launch your ministry to the next level; it may even be what causes a breakthrough in your marriage. Be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in your life. Allow Him to lead you and trust that He will, just as He led Jesus.
2. It Provokes a Cleansing
Another amazing correlation we find in Scripture in relation to the number 40 is found in the story of Noah.
God tells Noah He will bring a cleansing on the earth due to the increased wickedness in men’s hearts.
The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time…And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die.Genesis 6:5,7 NKJV
For 40 days and nights, God flooded the earth and “cleansed it of evil” leaving only Noah and his family alive because they had found favor in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8).
In a similar form, when we humble our hearts before the Lord with a time of fasting, God uses this time to expose the evil, ungodliness, and sin that may still remain within us.
You’ll notice that as you fast, the Holy Spirit will show you modes of thinking, behavioral patterns, and even character traits that He desires to change within you – things that for years you have justified and labeled as “normal.”
In these extended fasts our spirit is hypersensitive to what is pleasing to God, and as a result, He is able to do a much deeper cleanse within our hearts.
Don’t be afraid of fasts – you may lose weight, but you’ll gain spiritual weight.
3. It Has to be Led by The Holy Spirit
While anyone can technically venture to do a 40 day fast, it’s important to note that this is the kind of fast that you don’t lead yourself into, the Holy Spirit should.
We see that Moses was led by the Lord to do a 40 day fast.
So, he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.Exodus 34:28 NKJV
Elijah was also given a specific direction before fasting for 40 days and nights.
And the angel of the LORD came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.1 Kings 19:7,8 NKJV
And Jesus was also led into fasting by the Spirit of God.
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be temptedby the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.Matthew 4:1,2 NIV
We should allow God to lead us into this kind of fast due to its length and strain on the body. It can be very dangerous to your health if not directed by God.
4. Expect a Spiritual Battle
When Jesus fasted for 40 days, we see that He faced opposition from the devil. Most people that do an extended fast will tell you the same thing.
Prepare your mind and your soul prior to your fast for whatever emotions may come. You may experience feelings of discouragement, cravings, or a strong desire to give up.
Set your mind up to finish the fast, prior to beginning it.
This is oftentimes people’s biggest downfall in accomplishing a 40 day fast – their lack of mental strength. If God leads you to do this fast, your body will be able to handle it, but the difficulty will be conquering the battle in the mind.
Remember that when the devil attacked Jesus during His fast, it was in His mind and emotions. This is where you must withstand and resolve in your mind, prior to starting, that no matter what may come you’re going all the way.
Allow Christ to strengthen you to not only start but to finish your fast. He is the author and finisher of our faith. Christ is faithful to strengthen you.
“How Can I Know If God Is Leading Me to An Extended Fast?”
This is not the type of idea you conjure up in your mind and are able to follow through with easily unless directed by God.
When God directs you to fast, you will feel a constant prompting or urging on your heart to go for a certain amount of time. The real difference you’ll notice is grace.
When He leads you to fast, His grace will lighten the burden. You will feel supernatural strength from God to accomplish this goal.
When God leads you to fast, His grace will lighten the burden.
During this fast, it’s not just about you trying to reach the finish line. God has goals He desires to accomplish within you during this time. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you, and trust that He will. Don’t guilt-trip yourself into an extended fast. Wait on His direction and allow His grace to carry you through.
A fast is not for me to accomplish a goal but for God to accomplish His goal in me.
And lastly, when you begin, tell your close mentors or friends and allow them to keep you accountable. This will help you in moments of weakness.
May His grace strengthen you as you enter a fast!
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