Matthew 6:16-18 And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
These verses say, “WHEN you fast,” not “IF you fast.”
Personally, I see fasting as a time to remind my flesh to stay crucified, dead, and buried where it belongs. I like regularly taking a day and doing a fast where my flesh doesn’t get to tell me what to do. I think fasting can also be a reminder that we only need Jesus, that we’re not to let anything else become needful in our lives.
Some people will say that fasting is to give you more time for prayer. I don’t think any mom of young children finds that true!
What does the Bible say about why we might fast?
Ezra 8:21-23 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.
For what reasons did they fast?
One of the reasons was to humble themselves. Combine fasting to humble yourself with the verse below.
2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
My favorite fasting verses actually are about how just fasting to humble yourself isn’t going to get your prayers heard! What do the following verses say? You could go read the whole chapter. I’ll give portions here.
Isaiah 58: 3-4, 6-9 Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it? Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure,… Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight…Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness,…to let the oppressed go free,…? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? Then shall your…healing spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’
I included some of the promises, but there is more to the chapter. What is the point of the Isaiah 58 passage?
We don’t earn our salvation. You can’t fast to earn the answers to your prayers. You don’t get points for fasting or for doing a severe type of fast. God’s not going to listen just because you are fasting. God’s going to listen because of your right heart before Him. The feeding the hungry and such things also aren’t earning answers to prayer. They aren’t earning God’s attention. They are the expression of a life given over to God. That’s God’s righteous living in action. God’s heart is so pleased with one who is devoted to Him and who receives His love and pours it out to others. When they call to Him, God says, “Here I am!” Isn’t that the relationship you want with God?
Fast, yes, but more important is the heart behind it. Fast to honor God.
How do you fast? There is nothing prescribed in the Bible. You have to decide that with God. In the Bible it only talks about food and water, but God can call you to give up other things as well. I would only ask you to decide in prayer and then stick with your decision. Write it down. Don’t justify why you need to have this or that on the day of your fast. God meets your needs, and we only need Jesus anyway. If He calls you to it, you can walk in it and trust Him to take care of you. My husband has gone 40 days without food. I have not! If you are having trouble fasting because you are addicted to caffeine or sugar or some other such thing, maybe it’s time to ask God to help you hate the thing you are addicted to. Make the choice to get rid of it and let Him help you. We don’t want to need anything. If we feel we need something, then it has power over our decisions.
Lesson Point: Fasting is something expected of Christians.
Challenge Question: If you have never fasted, pray and choose a time and method. Do it! Thank God for it and ask His blessing on it.