March 29, 2021
Why We Should Fast
Having been brought up Roman Catholic, fasting was a part of my Lenten education: no meat on Fridays and no sweets for Lent. I didn’t take it very seriously though. It seemed more like a good idea than a directive from God. However, when I came to Christ, I noted the many references in both the Old and New Testaments which indicate that fasting is much more than an antiquated suggestion.
“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” (Matthew 6:16-18, ESV).
For me, the most important word in these verses is “when.” Twice Jesus tells us “when” we fast ─ not “if” ─ but “when.” Jesus assumes that we will fast. And why wouldn‘t he? He fasted for 40 days in the desert. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments we see that our spiritual elders fasted and prayed. There are several reasons why.
We are promised a reward from Christ himself when we fast. Whether in heaven or on earth, we are promised God’s favor, but only if we fast for the right reasons and in the right way. In order for our fast to be pleasing to God, we must do it with total humility. Through fasting we can receive guidance and wisdom. Good examples are Nehemiah who fasted and prayed before initiating the rebuilding of Jerusalem's wall (Nehemiah 1:4) and Paul and Barnabas who prayed and fasted for the appointed elders of the early churches (Acts 14:23). Anna was in the temple fasting and praying, waiting for the coming of the Lord (Luke 2:36-38) and Esther fasted and prayed for three days along with all the Jews before her audience with King Xerxes (Esther 4:15-17). Additionally, more and more research today reveals the health benefits of fasting. The Lord gave us fasting so that we might worship and better know him and his plan for our lives as well as to keep us healthy. He promised us a reward for fasting and expects that we will do so.
Lord, help me to fast, to grow closer to you and not be a slave to my desires and appetites. Help me grow to know you better and more deeply, and to fast in a way that is a form of worship and pleasing to you. Amen.