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
Fasting has been a major emphasis in the lives of many of the great spiritual leaders throughout history. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist denomination, fasted every Wednesday and Friday and required all of his clergy to do the same. Effective ministers of God from the apostle Paul to Martin Luther to John Calvin made it a continual part of their walks with God. None of those men had a “formula fast” that was the only “right” way. Fasting is about the condition of the heart, not the number of days.
The most important consideration in fasting is your motive. Sam Storm writes ‘If at any point, while fasting, you find yourself thinking, “God will love me more…God will surely be impressed with me now!” get in your car and go eat a McDonald’s Quarterpounder! If you are the least way tempted to believe, “God will bless me more…He will have no choice but to regard my righteousness!” go eat the biggest greasiest pizza you can find! If it crosses your mind, “I’m better than others who don’t fast, and I sure hope they recognize it as clearly as I do!” go to an all-you-can-eat!’
Why are you fasting? Fasting must always have a spiritual purpose – a God-centered purpose, not a self-centered one. Thoughts of food or anything else we have given up must prompt thoughts for God. They must not distract us, but instead, remind us of our purpose. Rather than focusing the mind on these things, we should use the desire to eat as a reminder to pray and to reconsider our purpose.
Why are you fasting? Is for any other reason than humbling self, seeking God and getting your heart right with Him? Here are several things you can do to prepare your heart.
- Confess every sin that the Holy Spirit brings to your remembrance and accept God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9).
- Seek forgiveness from all whom you have offended, and forgive all who have hurt you (Mark 11:25; Luke 11:4; 17:3,4).
- Surrender your life fully to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Master; refuse to obey your worldly nature (Romans 12:1,2).
- Meditate on the attributes of God, His love, sovereignty, power, wisdom, faithfulness, grace, compassion, and others (Psalm 48:9,10; 103:1-8, 11-13).
- Begin your time of fasting and prayer with an expectant heart (Hebrews 11:6).
- Do not underestimate spiritual opposition. Satan sometimes intensifies the natural battle between body and spirit (Galatians 5:16,17).