There are times when we are sometimes called to go beyond our “normal” prayer time and fast. Fasting is when we give up food for a period of time to spend time humbly before God. It is as if we are telling God that hearing from Him is more important than anything, even food. I have seen many different forms of fasting, and I cannot say if one way is better than the other or if there is even one correct way to fast. I have known people that have given up all food for weeks at a time, and I have seen people fast one meal on one day. I have seen fasts where a person has given up one meal a day to spend time in prayer over several weeks, and I have seen fasts where people give up food for an entire day. I believe that when we feel led to fast it can be for many different reasons, which would also result in different types of fasts. We can fast corporately, of which there are several examples in the Bible, or we can be led to fast independently. Either way, I feel that the most important aspect of a fast is the attitude in the heart. Please look up Matthew 6:16-18.
When Jesus taught about fasting, the Jews had to fast once a year on the Day of Atonement; however, some of the Pharisees fasted up to twice a week. Jesus wasn’t condemning the fact that they were fasting; He was speaking against the fact that they were very public about their fasts in order to gain approval. The point of a fast is not to feel holy or to appear more spiritually disciplined to others, it is so that we can humble ourselves before God. When we begin to be public about our fast and tell everyone of our hunger, it takes away the whole idea of humility. Even when we are participating in a corporate fast, we are still to follow Christ’s directions.
Jesus told His disciples to wash their face and put oil on their heads while fasting. That was not a specific instruction that we are to literally put oil on our heads while we are fasting it was an instruction that we are to continue on and look our normal selves while fasting. At that time, one reason that oil was used was for cosmetic purposes. In fact, just today I was watching the news where it was reported that olive oil is still considered one of the best substances to put in the hair. Jesus was telling us that when we are in public, we are not to make a big deal about the fast and we should actually make sure that we are looking good so we don’t draw attention to ourselves. Our greatest growth can come in our private moments with God.
Fasting can be difficult, but it is worth the time of growth with God. Have you participated in a fast? When fasting, have you kept it between you and God?