When You Fast
When you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who sees everything (and He) will reward you. Matthew 6:17,18 NLT
In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus speaks about three spiritual disciplines and does not use the word if, but instead chooses the word when. Jesus was saying these aspects of our faith journey are not optional but are assumed disciplines for the man or woman who will become His follower and disciple.
v2 when you give to someone in need… v3 when you give to someone in need… v5 when you pray... v6 when you pray… v7 when you pray… v16 when you fast... v17 when you fast...
Giving, praying, and fasting are all faith steps where we believe that “Your Father, who sees everything, will reward you” (v18). All three are choices to sacrifice and live at an intentional deficit in order for God to make up the difference in our lives. Worship that “costs nothing” (see 2 Sam. 24:18-25) is shallow and/or suspect. Giving, prayer, and fasting are all pieces of worship that cost you something. Serving and worshiping God without cost is easy. When it does cost me, it’s a way of showing a measure of the depth of my love for God, Who gave everything for me.
Giving is creating a hole or gap in our finances or possessions.
Prayer is sacrificing our time and investing it in God’s Presence.
Fasting is living on empty stomachs, so God can fill our spirits.
In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus gives some very specific guidelines about fasting when He said “Don’t make it obvious, (don’t) try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire (you) for fasting, put oil on your head and wash your face.”
Jesus’ reference to put oil on our heads and wash our faces is a totally brand new thought for the New Covenant as compared to the centuries of fasting that we see in the Old Testament, where fasting usually comes with the command to put on sackcloth and ashes. Jesus is saying that fasting should bring with it a deep connectedness to God, which will produce love, joy, and peace.
The basic heart of Jesus’ teaching is for no one to notice that we are fasting, except God, and He will reward us for what happens in private. This doesn’t mean that no one can know about your time of fasting. It would be virtually impossible to hide this fact from your spouse, parents, children, or co-workers. And there are times when a whole group of people fast together as one group. This happened a lot in the Bible, and maybe this season of fasting you are in now is a time when your whole church is fasting.
The point of Jesus’ “Don’t tell anybody” teaching is aimed at the heart and not necessarily in the details. He is saying that we should not call attention to ourselves—don’t fast in an effort to be admired by others. To pray is to pursue God, to give is to bless others, and to fast is to discipline yourself. But the impact of hypocrisy is to destroy the integrity of these sacrifices to God by turning each one into a moment of self-display or patting yourself on the back. We must choose Jesus, and Him alone, as our audience.
PRAY THIS OUT LOUD
Jesus, I choose You as my audience for this season of fasting and prayer. My heart is set on you. I’m not doing this to impress anyone. As I intentionally live on an empty stomach, I’m believing for You to fill my spirit with Your Holy Spirit and for this season to be marked by inner peace and outward joy!
What verse or phrase from today’s Scripture reading was the most meaningful to me? What key truths or observations stand out to me in today’s story of fasting?
This is reproduced from Griffin, Chris. Fasting For Breakthrough: A 21-Day Biblical Roadmap for Fasting and Prayer (p. 45). BookBaby. Kindle Edition.