Keys to Experiencing God: Fasting and Repentance
Scripture gives us several examples of people who chose to fast and that act of emptying themselves led to prayer and, quite often repentance.
David fasted many times in his life as God transformed him and took him from the obscurity of a shepherd’s life in his father’s fields to the throne of Israel and Judah as the greatest king those nations ever had.
There’s no more graphic example of his fasting than when Nathan confronted King David with his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11 and 12). To briefly summarize, after David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then ordered her husband, Uriah, to the front lines of battle where he was killed, David married her and they had a child. The prophet Nathan came to David to confront him about his sin and to express God’s displeasure about what David had done. David sorrowfully said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan’s response is direct and from the Lord, “the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die” (2 Samuel 12:13–14).
David responded to the Lord’s words by asking God for the child and by fasting (2 Samuel 12:16). He fasted for seven days and on that last day, the child died. Then, David arose, washed and anointed himself, changed his clothes and went to the house of the Lord to worship God.
At this time he also wrote Psalm 51 as a response to this incident, and through it, I think we can learn how fasting and prayer are linked to genuine repentance.
First, when there is true repentance, there will be an open and an unguarded admission. David says, “I have sinned and I have not hidden my sin from You” (Psalm 51:3). His “full confession” opens the door wide for forgiveness and repentance.
Second, David had a heart-felt desire to break from sin (Psalm 51:2). Proverbs 28:13 says, “He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.” Repentance comes from knowing the truth, changing ones mind and walking in the other direction. David chose a clean break from sin that led to repentance.
Third, David’s spirit was one of humility and brokenness (Psalm 51:7). David wasn’t defensive. He didn’t make excuses, blame someone else or be bitter and proud. He bowed before His Lord in humility. He chose to fast, pray and seek repentance. He worshipped. He held himself accountable for what he did.
Fourth, David claimed God’s forgiveness and restoration (Psalm 57:7–12). He wants God to “renew a right spirit.” God can only do that with forgiveness and by restoring us with a “clean heart.”
David fasted, prayed and he repented. He admitted his sin, and God in His mercy forgave and restored him.
When we pray, let’s seek our own hearts. Is God confronting us with any issues where we need to admit we’ve fallen short? Through fasting we can empty ourselves of everything but the Lord and seek a desire to break away from what has us in bondage. Then, through prayer and God’s eternal mercy, we can be forgiven and restored.