"And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, 'Why could we not cast it out?' So He said to them, 'This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.'" Mark 9:28-29 (NKJV)
I didn't know how to fix it or make it better. I felt helpless, really. Someone close to me was battling a serious illness. One morning I sat in the stillness, just me and my Bible and the sweet presence of God as I prayed for this person. As I did, I felt strongly compelled to fast.
The Hebrew word for fasting is Kana, and it means to subdue or to bring low. It is the scriptural word for either bringing down an enemy in combat or subduing your own soul in an action of humility. Fasting twice a week was a regular practice in the first century. There were minor fasts (from sunrise to sundown) and examples in both the Old and New Testaments of fasting for many meals and even days. Jesus Himself fasted in the wilderness for 40 days.
But how long should I fast? Her treatment was expected to take several months, and that created a dilemma. No one can go without food for that long, nor should they. My Heavenly Father wasn't calling me to be foolish, but to bring low the enemy by waging Kana.
As I dug deeper I discovered that in addition to abstaining from food, Kana was practiced in other ways. Some sat in the "low seats" in the tabernacle as they offered the "high seats" to others. Some gave up simple pleasures. As I studied, I realized that I could fast traditionally, but also creatively throughout my friend's treatment.
Aren't you supposed to be quiet about fasting (Matthew 6:16)? Are you boasting? You might be wondering.
I'm not sharing this to boast, but because I quickly discovered the power behind fasting. When I waged Kana the gaping holes, those where I lacked discipline, were revealed. Some of those discoveries were surprising. Giving up sugar? Not too hard. Giving up complaining? Not a big deal. Giving up TV? Such a struggle that it shocked me.
One week I felt compelled not to abstain from something, but instead to immerse myself in Scripture. As each week passed, I began to invite God in to show me how to fast, and to shine His love in the areas where I needed to abstain so that He could fill them up.
Kana taught me where my strengths lie, and where my weaknesses flourished. It wasn't a legalistic pointing of the heavenly index finger, but an opportunity to take an honest look at where I was bound, and how to grow.
My friend is ending treatment soon, but I have come to embrace the process of Kana. My prayer is that it brings low the enemy as my friend continues to heal, but I know that fasting not only touches Heaven for my friend; it can't help but touch me, too.
Dear Lord, help me hear You more clearly, to bring low the enemy of my soul, and to open the gaps in my life to Your touch. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
What or who might God be calling you to fast for? Write this down.
Commit. Will you fast one meal, one food item, some other personal sacrifice? For how long?
Pray throughout your Kana.
Fasting is not an exercise in abstinence, but in drawing close to your Savior.
Psalm 35:13, "But as for me, when they were sick, My clothing was sackcloth; I humbled myself with fasting; And my prayer would return to my own heart." (NKJV)
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