“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.
Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.
Someone at our congregation requested a lesson on fasting, so I am doing some studying on that. Fasting, as I’m sure many know is the abstaining from food or other things for a period of time. People do it for all kinds of reasons: dietary, emotional, spiritual, etc.
We see that in the Old Testament, the Jews were commanded by God to fast one day a year, on the day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:29). But for the Christian there is no command for us on when to fast or for how long to fast. However, as we can observe in the passages above, Jesus said there would be a time for His disciples to fast.
- Jesus assumed we would fast. In Matthew 6, He says, “When you fast…,” and in Matthew 9 He said, “Then they will fast.” It’s clear that Jesus knew that fasting would be part of our walk with Him.
- He gave us instructions on our attitude/heart as we fast. This is a very powerful and intimate thing a Christian does with God, but it can really be turned into an attention / glory seeking practice, as it did for many in Jesus’ day. Jesus would rather you have a full tummy and a humble heart, than an empty stomach and a vain, attention-seeking heart.
- We can see that this is a private, individual decision between Jesus and me. There is no mandated time for Christians to fast, although we see Christians fasting in the New Testament. This is something you decide for you. Again, it’s between you and God only. Church leaders cannot decide this for you.
- Another point to make is that we see the churches practicing fasting and prayer when it came time to appoint leaders for the churches. It doesn’t seem like it was mandated, but we see the brethren fasting and praying before putting people into certain places of authority. It shows the seriousness of the matter, doesn’t it?
Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.
This is a start. More will probably come later.