We seen yesterday that for the New Testament believer fasting is no longer required by the law, it is nonetheless recommended. The Bible does not specifically command believers to spend time in prayer and fasting. Yet at the same time, prayer and fasting is definitely something we should be doing. Far too often, though, the focus of prayer and fasting is on abstaining from food. Instead, the purpose of Christian fasting should be to take our eyes off the things of this world and focus our thoughts on God. In our day, this could just as much be television, the newspaper, the gym or dare I even say Facebook or Twitter. Fasting in regards to food should always be limited to a set time because not eating for extended periods can be damaging to the body. It is important to make clear, as some people confuse this matter, fasting is not a method of punishing our bodies and it is not be used as a “dieting method” either. We are not to spend time in prayer and fasting in order to lose weight, but rather to gain a deeper fellowship with God.
By taking our eyes off the things of this world through prayer and biblical fasting, we can focus better on Christ. Matthew 6:16-18 declares, “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.”
We can see clearly in the above verse, 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.
We must also remember that spending time in prayer and fasting does not automatically grant the desires of those who fast. Fasting or no fasting, God only promises to answer our prayers when we ask according to His will. 1 John 5:14-15 tells us, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.”
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.” This combined with prayer fulfil the requirements of 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
If you fast, you will find yourself being humbled as I did. You will discover more time to pray and seek God’s face.