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.
Fasting is not a topic of many sermons or writings today. It is often misused and misunderstood. Today let me offer a definition of fasting, describe what it is not, and then describe what it is.
Fasting means to do without human desires and needs in order to focus on prayer. Fasting is normally done when we have a particular request or are dealing with a particular circumstance.
Wrong Methods and Motives
Fasting is not to impress others with our “spirituality.” In fact, it is to be done in secret. Don’t tweet or post on Facebook that you are fasting. It is not used as a way to gain favor with God. Remember his love for us is already unconditional. Fasting is not to be done in a mechanical manner. Prayer and meditation are not formulaic. Fasting is not to be done with the expectation of immediate answers or results. And, of course, fasting is not to be done in a situation where it would be detrimental to your health.
Right Methods and Motives
Fasting is always to be done with prayer and meditation (Luke 2:37; Acts 13:2). Doing without physical needs for a time produces humility (Ps. 35:13; 69:10). Sometimes fasting is done in conjunction with repentance (1 Kings 21:27; Neh. 1:4, 9:1). Sometimes it is done to prepare for ministry (Acts 13:2-3; 14:23). And sometimes it is done to prepare us during a period where we have a special request (Ezra 8:21-23; Esther 4).
Fasting is an opportunity to focus on God. It is not a methodical process to get what we want but an act of prayer and worship to better discern what we need.
Father, take me into times of doing without, in order to receive what I need. Help me to understand the process and importance of fasting. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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