Fasting – putting to death the flesh to be made alive in the Spirit; “it acknowledges human frailty before God and appeals to His mercy,” (NKJ, commentary).
“So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.” (Acts 5:41-42)
Esther 4:16 – “…fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day.”
I used to think that fasting was a way to show God (and man) how serious I was about my petitions, supplications, and needs. It was all about exercising my will power and my ability to control this body that constantly seeks to have its way. Also, God would see me suffer and be pleased with my sacrifice of food, pleasure, and time; and He would want to give me what I ask. Even when I read about Esther’s fast, I interpreted the story as her way to catch the king’s attention; maybe she had put a few pounds on and fasting made her and her maids a little leaner and more attractive.
How is it that even when trying to obey God’s word to fast that I can get this all wrong? My carnal mind overshadows even the desire to draw nearer through faith to a gracious God. Instead of a fast that is pleasing to God, I’ve made it into a diet or a prideful act to display the illusion of piety. There was a moment of clarity when I realized these things some years ago, so I discontinued the practice of fasting.
Maybe it is in light of life changes recently, but the subject of fasting, as mentioned in Esther’s story of redemption for the Jewish people, has come back to my attention. How might I obey God by fasting?
I read that fasting is a spiritual discipline. Okay, that may seem obvious, but it helps me to separate spiritual from earthly matters. Therefore, fasting is for seeking God’s face, not His hand filled with riches. So should I pray and fast to win the lottery? I think not, yet I have fasted, hoping that my financial needs would be met. Also, we should have a broken, repentant, and contrite spirit when fasting; and even the body, the facial expressions, and our conversation about fasting are regulated by God’s command.
Matthew 6:16, 17 – “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance…But 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.”
What fasting then reveals is the condition of my heart. By humbling myself, (that does not mean weighing myself each day, mildly protesting my self-imposed fast by whining at the dinner table, or thumping my chest with satisfaction at the end of day two or three for a job well done), I can block out the noise of the world’s influence on my prayers.
And that is just the beginning of entering into a fast. The breakthrough comes with increased faith in prayer that our Lord Jesus Christ has heard from Heaven and will answer our prayers, not because we deserve to be heard, but because we are able to hear. Quiet my soul, dear Lord, I am listening.