Scripture | Nehemiah 1:4
“When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”
Fasting is not an easy topic to teach or preach about in today’s “me” culture. There are few people who really want to hear about denying one’s self for any purpose. We live in a time when we want it our way; today and please don’t ask me to wait. In his book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald S. Whitney elaborated on this when he said, “Christians in a gluttonous, denial-less, self-indulgent society may struggle to accept and to begin the practice of fasting.” Regardless of how it may appear, as believers, we have a responsibility to fast.
During one of Jesus’ infamous teaching moments, He taught about some pressing issues of His time which included: the Law; heart issues; adultery; marriage; making vows; going beyond what was expected; loving enemies; pleasing God; prayer; worrying; serving God; judging others and of course fasting. Jesus was not one to mince words. Jesus said, “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” (Matthew 6:16-18). Jesus referred to the religious leaders of His time as hypocrites. These people were more concerned about external appearances than anything else.
Jesus implied that as Christians, there will be times when we all will fast. Jesus said, “When you fast” not “if you fast”. Fasting for Christians should always be God-centered, not self-centered. If the purpose of our fasting is not God-centered, then we are being like the hypocrites that Jesus rebuked. Everything we do should ultimately be for the glory of God.
Lord, as we resolve ourselves to fast and pray, we first repent for being self-centered and for thinking only of our needs and desires. Father, we ask that You will create in us a clean heart, and renew a steadfast spirit within us. Do not cast us away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from us. Lord we ask that You be glorified in our bodies, which is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Amen. .