VI. DO NOT FAST LIGHTLY
Since the meaning of fasting is so serious, I would advise you, brothers and sisters, not to fast lightly. We cannot find in the Gospels that the Lord Jesus frequently fasted. Never consider fasting a trifling matter. Only the hypocritical Pharisees would say that they fasted twice a week. They considered fasting very common. In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah severely rebuked such fasting. God does not accept such fasting in prayer. Do not regard fasting as a religious form, nor treat it as a superstitious requirement. The fasting in prayer which God accepts occurs when one receives a commission from God which is very great. Because he loves God and cares so much for His purpose, he is willing to give up his right to legitimate enjoyment. He also is willing to struggle for that commission to the death. In that instance, such a person would spontaneously fast.
VII. FASTING IS NECESSARY
On the one hand, a Christian should not fast lightly, but on the other hand, he needs to fast. If a Christian has never fasted, there is certainly something wrong with him. Either God has never committed any matter to him, or he has refused God’s commission. If you have never sensed that there is a great responsibility coming from God to you, it simply means that you have never indicated to God with a firm attitude that you want His will and want to stand on His side. You regard the things of God as unimportant. Whether the gospel is preached or not, and whether or not sinners are saved are of no consequence to you. After all, you have already prayed for them. So after your prayer, you are still able to eat and drink in merriment. Brothers and sisters, if such is your attitude, you are indeed a poor Christian! You do not care at all whether or not the church is in desolation. You care never to miss a meal. Since you do not have the life-and-death attitude toward the things of God, this proves that your Christian life is very lacking. If you would care a little for God’s heart, the burden for the gospel would press upon you, and you would struggle in life and death. You would pray, “O God, the gospel must be powerful. You must save some, otherwise I can’t eat or drink.” This is what it means to fast and pray. You may also be so concerned for the House of God that you can say to God, “ O God, it is all right for me to die, but it is not all right for the church to be in such a desolate state. Unless You solve the problem of the desolation of the church, I would rather die.” I can tell you, brothers and sisters, at this point you will surely fast. It is an awful thing if God’s children have never had such an experience, for it proves that they do not care for God’s purpose or sense how fierce God’s enemy is. So, what does fasting mean? Fasting means that you care very much for God’s purpose, and you deeply sense the fierceness of God’s enemy. Such sensation presses and compels you to such an extent that you simply cannot eat, drink, and be merry like other men, but that you must fast.
VIII. THE TEST FOR FASTING
Now we come to the test for fasting. How do you know that you need to fast? This is determined by whether or not you feel hungry when you do not eat. If when you do not eat you feel hungry and desire food, it proves you should not have fasted. If you do not feel hungry when you do not eat or thirsty when you do not drink, then you ought to fast. Sometimes the brothers and sisters would say, “Let us all fast!” But having fasted only that morning, at eleven o’clock someone may say, “Oh, I am really hungry.” Let me tell you, your fasting that morning was wrong, and you should not have done it. All who truly fast will not feel hungry. Suppose one day a sister who is a widow should lose her only son. Undoubtedly, she could go without eating for three days without feeling hungry. Others might be concerned for her, and say, “Sister, you have not eaten for three days. How can this be?” She would say, “I am not hungry at all. I simply cannot take food.”
Therefore, while fasting, if the brothers and sisters feel hungry, it is better for them to go quickly and get something to eat than to be hypocritical and sin against God. You should fast because you are so fully occupied with the problem and burden that at that moment you have no appetite and feel there is no room in you for food. Therefore, whether you should fast depends on whether you feel hungry. If you feel hungry, then do not fast; other wise, fast.
(Lessons on Prayer, Chapter 19, by Witness Lee)