Do you know that we can be fasting, and yet God will not acknowledge it? There is a proper and improper way of fasting. If we are to harness the power of fasting, we need to know what the Bible really say about the proper way of fasting. There are plenty of ways that we can fast in vain. The Bible clearly talks about how we should properly fast.
We can fast and still not be pleasing to God. There are plenty of ways that we can fast in vain. The Bible clearly talks about how we should properly fast.
First, let us take a look at what Christ said about how we should fast. Let’s read Matthew 6:16:
“Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that THEY MAY APPEAR TO MEN TO BE FASTING. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”
From this verse we can conclude the following:
- We must not fast to impress other people.
- Fasting is a way to get closer to God and not a way to look more righteous than others.
- We must fast in such a way that people will not be able to know we are fasting. It is not something that we should shout out to the world.
- The reward of our fast comes from God and not from men.
The Prophet Isaiah has something to say about fasting as well. In Isaiah 58, the people asked why God did not recognize their fast. God revealed the answer in verse 3 and 4:
“In fact, in the day of your fast you find pleasure,
And exploit all your laborers.
Indeed you fast for strife and debate,
And to strike with the fist of wickedness.
Isaiah was telling us that fasting is NOTHING if our actions don’t reflect God’s will for our lives. We can fast all we want and yet, if we don’t do what God tells us to do, we will be fasting in futility.
The Israelites at that time fast, but they are still indulging in their pleasure, lust, and sin. In this case, the Israelites didn’t completely abandon their rebellious attitude and idolatrous worship. Thus, it is possible that even if we fast, we are still sinning.
Isaiah added that they continued to exploit their laborers! How true is this for us Christians today?! We might be very diligent in our Christian duties such as prayer and fasting and yet, we lack good works. We are unforgiving to those who have indebted or have wronged us. Instead of forgiving, we “strive with the fist of wickedness.”
Notice as well their bad attitude toward fasting. Their primary motive is to bend God to their will! They fasted so that God will grant them the divine favor and when they did not receive it, they murmur and complain to God! They thought that they could “buy” God’s divine favor by fasting!
So how should we fast in a proper manner? Isaiah continued:
Is it a fast that I have chosen,
A day for a man to afflict his soul?
Is it to bow down his head like a bulrush,
And to spread out sackcloth and ashes?
Would you call this a fast,
And an acceptable day to the Lord?
“Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh? (Isaiah 58:5-7)
These verses can be a mouthful and so let me break it down for you. From these verses we can conclude:
- Fasting involves afflicting our soul. Like what we have already mentioned, we fast by going without food and drink.
- Spreading sackcloth and ashes is a symbol of humility. We need to fast with a humble attitude. Fasting helps us to recognize that we are nothing, that we are COMPLETELY reliant on God. Without food and drink, we get weak and eventually die. Since God is the Source of all blessings, including food and drink, we need to rely on Him for our daily sustenance.
- The pain and discomfort that we feel during our fast don’t give us the “right” to God’s mercy and favor. God will answer our prayers because He is loving, patient, and kind.
- Fasting is primarily done to know God’s will and purpose in our lives. It is done to gain understanding, wisdom, and guidance from God. Along with fasting, we need to ensure that we have the willing heart to obey whatever God has revealed to us.
- Fasting can only be meaningful when we couple it with righteous acts. The Prophet Isaiah listed some of the examples we need to do before, during, and after fasting. He said that we should let loose the bonds of wickedness, let go of the oppressed, feed the hungry, and clothe the naked. In short, we must fast and at the same time, not forget our Christian duties to one another.
Christ and Isaiah both concluded in the same voice. They said that if we are to fast in the proper way, God, who sees us fasting in secret “will reward [us] openly” (Matthew 6:18). Then our “light shall break forth like the morning, [our] healing shall spring forth speedily, and [our] righteousness shall go before [us]; the glory of the Lord shall be [our] rear guard. Then [we] shall call, and the Lord will answer; [we] shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’” (Isaiah 58:8-9).
So fast in the proper way and with the right attitude. Though it may be difficult, the physical and spiritual rewards are great! It will be all worth it!
Develop the habit of fasting
The primary purpose of fasting is to worship God, deny and humble ourselves, draw closer to Him, grow spiritually, and seek His will for our lives. Fasting is a powerful spiritual tool that we should take advantage of as Christians. It is something that we must do on a regular basis.
Devote at least one day in a month for a 24-hour fasting. You can also fast more often than that. Of course, the frequency of your fast depends upon your medical condition as well. But let it not be an excuse for us to forsake this powerful habit of a successful Christian. Let us not forget what God has said through the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:9).