When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done 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 need 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. Fasting is not 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. Fasting is also 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 (Psalm 35:13; 69:10). Sometimes fasting is done in conjunction with repentance (1 Kings 21:27; Nehemiah 1:4, 9:1). Sometimes it is done to prepare for ministry (Acts 13:2-3; 14:23). Sometimes it is done to prepare us during a time of special need (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. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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