The Men of Ninevah

By Francis Frangipane

There are many types of fasts. If you have ever gone on an extended fast, you know it can be a life-changing experience. The sinful king of Nineveh along with the nobles and all the people of his nation fasted completely from food and water. The Lord heard the sincerity in their repentance and spared their nation, making them an example of how prayer, coupled with fasting, touched the heart of God (Jonah 3; Luke 11:32).

A fast can be a powerful tool to help stimulate revival or, conversely, it can degrade into a religious exercise that has almost no spiritual significance. The Pharisees fasted twice a week but did so to be seen of men. Their fast became a thing of religious pride. It was completely without spiritual value.

Examples of True Fasts
At its essence, the purpose of a fast is to help us reach our spiritual destination faster, hence the name fast. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Matt. 5:6). The goal of our hunger is for righteousness to prevail, either in us personally or in our family, church, city or nation. Fasting takes us there faster.

Yet we must not allow our fast to become a form of self-inflicted punishment. Fasting is not about "severe treatment of the body" (Col. 2:20-23). In truth, a fast is a gift of grace -- an opportunity to engage the Lord in an extended time of desire. During the time you would have nourished your body, nourish yourself spiritually instead. Draw closer to the Lord. Read the Word of God, memorize Scriptures, or pray for yourself and others.

Isaiah 58 tells us that a fast can also be a time to show God's love to others. The Lord says,

"Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke? Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him?" ---Isaiah 58:6-7

Therefore, when you are fasting from food, consider also ways to help the disadvantaged and hurting. You might even devote your food money to a relief agency who gives care to suffering people in destitute places.

Men of Ninevah
Going back to our opening reference: the king of Nineveh. He led his people into a three day, complete fast. I wouldn’t recommend such a fast, yet this king probably felt he was likely to die anyway because of the decadence of his city. So he abandoned himself and appealed to God in hope that divine mercy might replace God’s judgments.

Jesus Himself praised the Ninevites as an example of the breakthroughs that can endure when people get serious with God.

Friends, we need a breakthrough in America, and some breakthroughs will never come without prayer and fasting. Will we stand with the men of Nineveh?


Adapted from Francis Frangipane's book, Spiritual Discernment and the Mind of Christ, available at www.arrowbookstore.com.