March 27, 2021
“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)
Fasting is something of which we hear more and more in the context of diets and eating habits. Fasting has become a part of our daily jargon and thinking. Recently, I have come across innumerable references on the internet on the concept of “interval fasting.” Leaving out a meal or not eating for extended periods gives the stomach and the digestive system a time to rest and recover and allows the metabolism to work effectively. I associate biblical fasting with something I would approach with fear and trepidation. (I’m exaggerating!) However, to simplify, fasting is nothing more than abstinence. Abstinence from something which nourishes and presumably brings pleasure.
If I give up something, abstain therefrom, what is the purpose?
I did a bit of googling and discovered a blog from the NIV Bible website which lists 10 purposes of fasting. (See the link below.)
In addition to these purposes I would submit that there is another purpose to fasting. (There are surely more.) Using the analogy of the interval fasting idea, whether it’s a short or longer fast/abstinence, it is an opportunity to renew, to reset, to recharge, to refocus, to realign, to reaffirm and to recommit. Regardless of what you do, its purpose should be to lead us closer to the Lord. And because it is something which we should do in secret and should keep to ourselves, its purpose should also be to strengthen our intimacy with God.
Dear Lord, I pray that the idea of fasting be something that I welcome rather than fear, that I may see this as an opportunity to realign my priorities in order to focus more clearly on you and your will and to be more open to intimacy with you through the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name. Amen.