Key Verses: “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
The law no longer requires fasting for the New Testament believers; it is nevertheless recommended. The Bible does not specifically command believers to spend time in prayer and fasting; it does, however, assume that we are already doing it. We can see clearly in Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus doesn’t even imagine that the believer would not fast, but says ‘when you fast.’ He takes it for granted that this would be part of a believer’s life.
For many, fasting means abstaining from food, but this is only one element of fasting. The purpose of Biblical fasting should be to take our eyes off the things of this world and focus our thoughts on God. In our modern day, this could just as much be television, the newspaper, the gym or dare I even say social media and youtube.
It is important to make something clear, as some people confuse this matter, Biblical fasting is not a method of punishing our bodies, and it is not a “dieting method” either (As the goal of some is to lose weight over lent, as in a new year’s resolution). We are not to spend time in prayer and fasting to focus on self, but rather to gain a deeper fellowship with God. In the prophet Isaiah’s time, the people grumbled that they had fasted, yet God did not answer in the way they wanted (Isaiah 58:3-4). Isaiah responded by proclaiming that the external show of fasting and prayer, without the proper heart attitude, was futile (Isaiah 58:5-9).
We see in scripture quite clearly that fasting is a biblical way to truly humble yourself in the sight of God (Psalm 35:13; Ezra 8:21). King David said, “I humble myself through fasting.” By taking our eyes off the things of this world through prayer and biblical fasting, we can focus better on Christ.