When You Fast...
Café Menu for Friday, October 3, 2014
Today’s Special is: Why should we fast?
Carefully prepared just for you by your friend, Katie Harmon
And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Matthew 6:16-18 ESV
Today I am fasting.
The (self-imposed) rules: No solid food from sunup to sundown.
It’s not fun.
Why am I doing this? What good does being hungry do anyone? How does denying myself food bring me closer to God? Is this spiritually helpful at all?
I have asked myself all these questions and more today and it’s not even noon yet. I’m not exactly a rookie either. I’ve been doing this every Monday since June. You’d think it would get easier.
Now, I am no expert on fasting. Far from it, in fact, but as Yom Kippur (the Jewish holiday of atonement and fasting) approaches, I thought I might just share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned from my fasting experience.
Jesus expects us to fast.
In Matthew 16:16 Jesus says, When you fast… The rest of that verse is talking about not being a hypocrite, but it’s that first part that struck me – WHEN you fast, not IF you fast. Jesus is telling us how to fast. He used the same phrasing when instructing us how to pray (the Lord’s Prayer). To Him fasting, like prayer, is a given.
Fasting brings focus.
I have found that the immediate benefit of fasting is that it is a sharp reminder of the reason you’re fasting. I began fasting and praying (for the two are always linked) in preparation for beginning grad school. I was burdened to pray that I keep my eyes on Christ and remember my mission in obtaining higher education. Every time I'd feel a pang of hunger throughout the day, I would say a quiet prayer that God would be my vision over the coming years. Fasting keeps our prayers centered.
Fasting is good practice.
Most of us live in a world where we are not denied much. There is no real reason for us to be without. Our own security and comfort are top priority. But Jesus says, Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me (Matt. 16:24). I’m not saying fasting was the type of sacrifice He was talking about here, but at some point, we may be called to deny ourselves much more than solid food one day a week. If we can’t give up a little, how shall we give up a lot?
Obedience needs no explanation.
I have listed some benefits of fasting, but in all my searching I have yet to find a verse (Old Testament or New) with a clear cut reason for why God commands us to give [ourselves] to fasting and prayer (I Cor. 7:5)… but He does. I did find, however, numerous verses saying, “keep my covenant” (Exodus 19:5), do the things I command you (John 15:14), and whoever has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is who loves me (John 14:21).
We are to be Christ-like.
And Christ fasted. Jesus prayed and fasted 40 days in preparation for his three years of ministry. He took it seriously. Shouldn’t we?
I strongly encourage you to study up on fasting or Yom Kippur, especially if you haven’t before. Then consider fasting yourself. Start small. It doesn’t have to be big. It doesn’t even have to be food. Give something up. You’ll get a lot in return.
Thank You for the perfect example Your life was. Thank You for showing us how we should live, how we should pray, how we should fast. Help us, God, to know You better, love You more.
© 2014 by Katie Harmon. All rights reserved.