There are two categories of fasting: A proclaimed fast (Joel 1:14) and a personal fast—as Jesus described in Matthew 6.

First of all, I want to make this point clear. You do not fast to impress God. Some people think that if they fast long enough, it will influence Him to do something for them. To punish yourself does not impress the Lord. It will only make you very, very hungry! Fasting changes you, not God.

Sometimes situations arise in which you need divine direction. A proclaimed fast is for the purpose of bringing believers into a place of hearing from God. When you find out how to pray about the situation, you can then move in the same area of faith in one accord. In fact, you can read about a personal fast in 2 Chronicles 20:1-6.

The main reason that a proclaimed fast brings results is that it causes the people's minds to go in one direction. That direction is toward God. They drop all other things and center their attention on Him. This brings His manifested presence in their midst.

While these believers were all in one accord, it says in the Word, "Then upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, came the Spirit of the Lord in the midst of the congregation" (v. 14).

Did you notice that the Spirit of God did not come on Jehoshaphat? He was the leader. Thank God somebody in the congregation was sensitive to the Holy Spirit. "And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God's" (2 Chron. 20:15).

Imagine how good that sounded to their ears! The Holy Ghost spoke. That is what they were seeking!

This will work in our day. Here is a New Testament example. Acts 13:1-2 says, "Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers.... As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them." That assignment brought into being two-thirds of the New Testament. What an important day! Those men did not realize the magnitude of God's plan. They were simply being obedient.

The Holy Ghost spoke in the midst of a group of ordinary men. They were fasting and praying and ministering unto the Lord. This set into motion something that absolutely changed the world!

In that kind of atmosphere, God is given the opportunity to speak. A proclaimed fast is valuable and effective because it causes unity and singleness of purpose. It is the same principle as the prayer of agreement or united prayer. It produces power.

They received their instructions from God. They laid their hands on Saul and Barnabas and sent them forth. The results of their ministry were astounding!

In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus spoke of the personal fast. "Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." Jesus really put the responsibility on you and me here. He did not say, "if you fast," He said "when you fast."

Rewards for personal fasting are on two different levels. One is from the admiration of men. They say, "Oh, can he fast. Oh, I wish I could do that. Don't you know he's spiritual." Jesus said not to be a hypocrite and look sad, making it obvious to men that you are fasting!

An open reward comes from God when you fast in secret. You can believe for this reward when you go into the fast. Be specific about its purpose. If you believe for the reward from the onset, the pressure of your physical body will lessen. Remembering the results and the reward being obtained makes fasting easier.

Fasting in the New Testament is not for chastisement.

To chastise means to instruct. "For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth..." (Heb. 12:6). He uses His Word to teach you.

New Testament and Old Testament repentance are two different things. Old Testament repentance meant to be sorry to the point of self-infliction or mourning. Under the new covenant, the word "repentance" means "to completely turn around, to change your mind."

If you are a born-again Christian, God will not chastise you through physical punishment. He will instruct you spiritually (Heb. 12:9). Jesus said, "...The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63). He will use His Word.

How did Peter strike the men's hearts on the Day of Pentecost? With the words he preached. They were anointed, Holy Ghost-filled words that pricked their hearts. The Bible says that the Word of God is good for reproof and correction (2 Tim. 3:16). In the literal Hebrew, Isaiah 53:5 says He bore our chastisement by punishment. You never ever have to be punished by God. He deals with you through His Word!

Punishment is not in God's order of things for His family. He is available to lead you and care for you. His desire is to abundantly supply your every need according to His riches in glory.

With these things in mind, I want to study Isaiah 58. God explains the kind of fast to which He is calling the Body of Christ. He said, "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?" (v. 6).

We have been delivered from the power of darkness through the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus. The price has been paid. If there is any oppressive yoke, the believer can and should be free of it. This is the fast that God has chosen: to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free and to break every enslaving yoke (Isaiah 58:6). You can fast to set your whole congregation free of Satan's oppression. God calls us to fast to bring the spirit of man into ascendancy over the flesh. This enhances intercession and sets the captives free!

There are also personal, spiritual rewards. Isaiah 58:8 says, "Then [when you have fasted] shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily...." What is the light of God? "The entrance of thy words giveth light..." (Ps. 119:130). You begin to receive things from the light of God's Word. He will reveal His Word to you. You have confidence in the Word when you have revelation knowledge of it.

Fasting helps you to tune into the spirit realm where healing and all of your inheritance already belong to you. Fasting will shut down the influences of the five physical senses so that you can walk in the spirit. Your healing, your victory, your strength, your faith, the power of God are all in the spirit. You fast so that you can walk in the spirit and enjoy your inheritance.

This is what Jesus meant when the disciples came to Him and said, "...why could not we cast him [the devil] out?" (Mark 9:28). Jesus did not say, "Because you haven't fasted." He said, "Because of your unbelief" (Mark 9:19). He had already given them the power to cast him out (Luke 10:19). They had been letting their flesh rule them. They were not fasting and praying and meditating on what Jesus had told them.

Jesus separated Himself to pray and fast regularly. He could minister to the people in faith. He stayed tapped into His power source - the Holy Spirit. He lived in obedience to God. A fasted life, which is fasting and praying, and spending time in the Word, and ministering to the Lord will keep you in a position to receive from God.

Take the time to get before God. Separate yourself from the things of the world and fast. I am talking about fasting with rewards. Jesus said the Father would reward you.

Sometimes the only reward that I seek in a fast is the deliverance of a friend, a situation that needs correcting or God's anointing to minister more effectively. I fast and expect the anointing of God to operate.

A man living a fasted life lays things aside just to be with God. Once I fasted my newspaper. I had been spending anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour reading it every day. For one week I laid it aside to read the Word of God instead. Years have come and gone and I have not gone back to it. God honored that fast.

If you really want to enjoy life and break completely out of the ordinary, begin to live the high life of which Jesus spoke. He said, If you will lose your life for My sake, you'll find it (Matt. 10:39). The Greek text says, "If you'll give up that low life, you will find the high life." This is one of the ways you shed the low life. The high life in the realm of the spirit is more than exciting! It is not just a religion full of "do's" and "don'ts."

As you begin to live the fasted life, the power in the spirit will begin to work for you. You will be building your foundation on God. A fasted life is one that feeds on the Word of God all of the time and separates itself to God. It is a life consecrated and dedicated to Him.

Here is a five-step checklist for fasting. Put yourself in a position to receive from God spiritually. You can take these steps and order your thinking by them.

(1) Decide the purpose of the fast.

(2) Proclaim the fast before the Lord.

3) Believe you receive the reward (Matt. 6;18) - before the fast. The reward will probably be related to the first step. The purpose of the fast will have a great deal to do with the rewards involved. If you are fasting for revelation knowledge, the reward would be receiving the knowledge you desire.

(4) Minister to the Lord. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Col. 3:16). These scriptures will tell you how to minister to the Lord. One of the best things you can do is to read the Psalms. You minister to the Lord by speaking of His mighty works. When you begin to praise and minister to Him, He will get involved with you! You need to fellowship with Him. He needs to hear praise and thanksgiving.

(5) Minister to others. Always minister to others after the fast! You need to use the spiritual power within you to meet the needs of people. If you fast according to the Word of God, you will be spiritually built up. Minister to others during the fast only as you are led of the Father to do so.

Living the fasted life will cause you to produce the fruit of the Spirit according to Galatians 5:22. These come forth from the reborn human spirit. The Holy Spirit is certainly all these things but He is not in you to bear fruit. He is in you to teach you how to bear fruit. He is your teacher, your intercessor, your standby, your helper. He gives you the power - you bear the fruit.

Galatians 5:22-23 says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering [patience], gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." These are spiritual forces. Proverbs 4:20-23 says, "My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings, Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."

One translations says, "Out of it [the heart] flow the forces of life." Not one single force in this list will produce death. Love produces life. Joy is a life-giving force, etc.

Fasting shuts down the influence of the body, so that the spirit man can dominate. As you stay in the Word and in fellowship with God, you will not be flesh-ruled. You will glorify God in your body.

Excerpt permission granted by
Eagle Mountain International Church, Inc.
aka:  Kenneth Copeland Ministries