Have You Ever Tried
the Spiritual Discipline of Fasting?
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, 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 men 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)
In its simplest form, fasting is denying oneself for a specific period of time something that one enjoys. It can be as varied as food or television, movies or the newspaper, chocolate or chewing gum, shopping or hunting, sweet tea or cookies or whatever you enjoy most! When it is something we enjoy quite often we are continuously reminded to pray and seek God’s glory. The purpose behind fasting is to draw attention in prayer to the Most High God every time our thoughts turn to crave that which we are fasting from. Fasting also provides extra time for prayer, teaches self-discipline, helps us to subdue corrupt desires, reminds us that we can live with a lot less, and helps us to reflect upon and appreciate the abundant provisions from God’s hand. Fasting is also a practice that helps us to reach towards higher duties.
-A J. Gordon
Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:23-25)
I think it interesting that Jesus does not begin this lesson with, “If you fast,” but “When you fast.” The Israelites were commanded to fast once a year on the Day of Atonement. Scripture is full of examples of fasting. David, Queen Esther, Jesus himself, Paul and Barnabas, and many others all fasted and prayed. We see this discipline embraced oftentimes prior to major decisions, people seeking to know the will of God or to gain strength for the duty ahead.
Jesus criticizes those fasting for show. When we perform acts for man’s approval, the pay is always worldly in measure. We need not expect heaven’s recompense. Fasting requires contrition and humiliation of soul.
(2 Timothy 2:15)
We are not told how often we are to fast nor directed how to manage a private fast. It is as the Holy Spirit who directs us as He leads us in our hearts. However, we are to remember that when we fast, it is to approve ourselves to God.
Take It to Heart
“Let this be a warning to me, O Lord. Set thou a guard before my eyes, ears, and other faculties, lest the world again should enter through these avenues of the heart: if the spark be not speedily extinguished, it will soon break out into a flame: thus sin is of a progressive nature, and its venom spreads very quickly and very wide, unless it be stopped and opposed in time. Watch, therefore, over this unsteady heart of mine, O thou Keeper of Israel; that as soon as it begins to wander from thee, I may be alarmed to flee from sin as from a serpent. Give me grace to look upon every hour as my last; so that being ever wisely upon my guard I may meet thee with joy when my time is run out, whenever it shall please thee to call me hence.” (K. H. Von Bogatzky)