TARPON SPRINGS–Danny Bennett, and his wife Karen, are devoted to the spiritual discipline of fasting, having practice it one day a week for the past 15 years. As he sought to instill the benefits of the biblical exercise within his congregation, the campus pastor of Calvary Church – East Lake in Tarpon Springs led 70 members through the Daniel Fast program this past October.
“Prayer and fasting are biblical,” said Bennett. “It’s how God accomplishes His work through us.”
Like Bennett, hundreds of Florida Baptists practice some form of fasting. These faithful followers report great blessings from God in response to their sacrifice.
“Fasting keeps us focused on prayer,” Bennett added. “Hunger pains remind you to pray! When we pray and are grateful to God in our prayers, we will receive God’s peace [which will] ‘guard’ our hearts and minds. This is how we can overcome worry and doubt.”
Fasting in biblical terms is generally inclusive of prayer. As found in Joel 2:12-13 and Matt. 6:16, Christians are instructed to fast so they may reap the benefits of abstaining from physical desires while simultaneously diving into prayer.
Sherrie Anderson, prayer ministry director at Exciting Central Tampa Baptist Church, said their church members are encouraged to fast. Participants are advised to support one another and are provided biblical guides complete with a fasting matrix and prayer/Bible study for 21 days.
“Fasting brings on spiritual renewal and gives us guidance as we reach out to the Holy Spirit,” Anderson said. “It strengthens our prayers, provides healing and helps us to resolve problems we’ve been dealing with for a long time.
“One [member] whose finances were tight, received thousands of dollars from a former employer,” Anderson said. Unbeknownst to the member, the money had been in an account overseas since the 80’s and she was contacted during her fasting to begin drawing from the account.
Hal Kitchings, senior pastor at 5th Ave. Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, preached a sermon series on prayer, that included fasting, for the entire month of January. “Churches will occasionally fast cooperatively for a reason,” he said.
“It usually helps unify the fellowship in focusing on a deep need in the church. It may even be for clarity on a major decision, like relocating. I’ve never heard of a church doing so and saying, ‘Wow, that was a waste.’ God blesses sacrifice every time,” explained Kitchings.
Bennett said the couple fast for their children, church and community. He offered a few of the results that he attributes to fasting—-his children are blessed and have personal relationships with God and salvation; the church is thriving, expanding to a brand-new facility, and is accepted by their community; and students are being baptized through the ministry.
“All these things are because of prayer and fasting,” Bennett said. “God honors our sacrifices; he is a God who requires a sacrifice. We all will sacrifice for the things we love or are passionate about.”