“And whenever you are fasting, do not look gloomy and sour and dreary like the hypocrites, for they put on a dismal countenance, that their fasting may be apparent to and seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full already. But when you fast, perfume your head and wash your face, So that your fasting may not be noticed by men but by your Father, Who sees in secret; and your Father, Who sees in secret, will reward you in the open.”Matthew 6:16-18 amp
I can distinctly recall two separate times when I fasted in high school. The first time, my motives were pure but I went about it as one who bowed down “his head like a bulrush and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him.” (Isa. 58:5) I remember telling my friends, a bit boastfully, that I was fasting. By the end of that lunch period, I had given in and broken my fast.
Why was I doing it? While I don’t remember my exact motive, I do know that first time I did it as more of a work. Obviously my heart was not being filled with the bread of life as it should’ve been.
The second time that I remember, I told no one. I merely went about my day and when my friends asked why I wasn’t eating, I used the excuse that I was leaving early that day and would eat then. They accepted it and we all moved on. I don’t think I even determined before that day to fast, I just woke up and somewhere along my morning I felt like God was calling me to draw closer to Him through fasting. So I did. The only people who knew I was fasting were my parents and I only told them because they asked if I wanted to grab something to eat before hitting the road.
That weekend, God was able to work through me and speak a word to someone who needed it.
The Point of Fasting
When we fast, we’re not just giving something up. We need to be feeding our hearts with God. Fasting is about us making more room for God, not Him making more room for us. It’s about freeing ourselves up so that He can fill us more.
While fasting food is the most common practice, it doesn’t have to be the only thing you give up. The thing about fasting with food is that it forces us to focus more on something else than the feeling of being hungry, otherwise we’ll give in. Whatever we give up should guide us to put our focus on God. It’s a reminder in and of itself to look to God instead of to whatever we’re fasting.
I think of King David when he fasted as his son was dying. Why did he fast? To show repentance but also to align his heart with God’s.
When we fast, we should be aligning our hearts with the Father’s. We should be seeking out His Word and His Will, actively seeking His face and His heart. David was a man after God’s own heart. This doesn’t mean he just found loving-favor with God, it means he actively pursued God’s heart.
What takes your focus during the day? I challenge you to lay it aside and actively seek God’s face, to align your heart with His.
Why Should We Fast in Secret?
The minute I opened my mouth and told my friends about my fast, my focus shifted. It was no longer about seeking God but presenting a holy picture to those around me. Because I was no longer focused on God, I gave into the temptation that was presented to me. True, I wanted to be a good and righteous influence to my friends, but that ended up backfiring on me. That might not always happen, but even had it not backfired, my focus became the praise of man and that’s exactly what I would’ve received.
Does that mean we shouldn’t tell anybody if we’re fasting? No. I ended up telling my parents and they supported me in my fast. Esther told Mordecai and instructed the other Jews in Susa to fast with her. She told the people who would support her. I told the people who needed to know so that they could support me. No one else ever knew of the preparation that I did that day, but they did see the work that God chose to do through me.
Fasting really is a private thing simply because it’s a matter of the heart. It’s a matter between you and God. Bringing the wrong people into it could threaten where your focus should be. If you want the praise of man then that may be what you gain, but it will be the only true thing you gain. It’s better to keep it between you and God.
Have you fasted before? What did you gain from it?
What Should We Fast?
When looking at what to fast, we should look at what takes up our time. What keeps us from actively seeking God’s heart? What do we focus on most during the day? What are we addicted to?
If food is what will be the most effective to fast for you, if it is the best reminder to focus more on God, then go with food. However, it doesn’t always have to be food. It could be your phone, social media, a hobby, anything that takes up a significant amount of time or something you’ve become addicted to.
Are you addicted to reading? Lay down the book and pick up the Book and instead of reading your favorite passages or stories, ask God where He wants you to read. Pray over what you’ve read.
Are you addicted to getting ahead in the corporate world? I even suggest taking a day off and spending the day with God. If taking a whole day off isn’t possible, then instead of staying late or going in early, spend that time with God.
Only you and God know what would be most effective for you in a fast. Ask Him to show you what takes you away from time with Him. Remember, the point is to align your heart with God, to make more room for Him.