By Allen White
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. Matthew 6:16-18
The purpose of fasting is to devote meal times to pray and to depend on God to sustain us. In this, our hope is to better discern God’s will for us and to draw closer to Him.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ day resorted to fasting for show. They would show up in public looking as pathetic and miserable as they possibly could as a sign of their extreme devotion to God by fasting. Some, apparently, were impressed by this show of piety. God wasn’t impressed.
Jesus said that fasting for the sake of public opinion was self-rewarding. If their aim was to connect with God in a meaningful way, then it was self-defeating. Fasting for pity or piety got them nowhere with God. They were missing the point.
Fasting helps believers uniquely focus on God. By devoting concentrated time to God through prayer and relying on God for our well-being brings another dimension to our relationship with God. During a fast, we realize how little food we need to survive and in the process, come to understand what little else we really need to be happy and meaningfully connected to God.
By denying our physical bodies, we place the priority on our spirit rather than on the flesh. Anything that we can do to curtail the influence of the flesh, the better off we are.
If you’ve never fasted, then a Noon to Noon fast might be a good place to start. You eat breakfast, then start fasting at lunchtime. You spend lunch, dinner and breakfast the next day in prayer. You break the fast at lunch the second day.
Many people will still drink liquids during that time. The key is devoting yourself to God in prayer. Don’t get caught up with what you should or should not try to put in a blender.
There are other types of fasts. Some practice media fasts where they unplug themselves from email, internet, cable and cell phones for a given period. These constant inputs in our lives can cause us to ignore the people who are with us, like our families. The noise level in our lives can also cause us to miss hearing God’s voice.
So, when you fast, put on a happy face. Don’t advertise that you’re fasting. Impress them with your kindness rather than your fasting.
If you have a health condition that could be affected by not eating, check with your doctor before you begin a fast.