Do you want the Biblical benefits of fasting? It would be so unfortunate to give up food and drink for a time, but STILL not get the spiritual results God purposed or the benefits we find in scripture. We have to make sure we’re fasting the BIBLE way. Today we’re going to look at HOW TO FAST and HOW NOT TO FAST.
Fasting: DO NOT eat or drink.
Fasting is choosing to give up eating and drinking for a time for a spiritual purpose, goal, or need for ourselves or others. We can give up things as a sacrifice, but check out this post for more information about the Biblical definition of a fast. In the Bible, there is no set time you have to fast – it could be a couple hours, a day, or a few days – but make sure you give up food and drink as you focus on God.
DO fast unto God. DO NOT fast to appear unto men.
Fasting and praying is about God, not our reputation. If we, with the right motives, fast “unto thy Father which is in secret… thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (Matt. 6:18). Don’t tell people about your fast; just like with your alms (giving) and prayer in Matthew 6, fasting is between you and God.
DO NOT be like the hypocrites.
The hypocrites in scripture put on a sad countenance and disfigured their faces in order to highlight for people that they were fasting (Matt. 6:16) or to appear spiritual. Some would even put ashes on their faces so people could see their tears. God didn’t honor or bless their fast. Don’t fast to be seen or to convince others you have a relationship with God.
DO anoint your head and wash your face.
Nobody should be able to look at you and see you’re fasting, so anoint your head and wash your face (Matt. 6:17). Get ready for your day, brush your teeth, and ask God for His strength so you can get through the day not looking like you’re fasting. If you have to deal with people, your fast should not negatively shape how you deal with them.
DO NOT fast just for yourself.
Many people fast because they want something from God for themselves but so many fasts in the Bible were about more than just self. David even fasted for those who wronged him when they were sick (Psa. 35:11-14). Make sure to fast and pray for others. Zechariah 7:1-14 shows that God’s people fasted and mourned for SEVENTY YEARS and God refused to respond to their fast because they were only concerned about themselves. They wasted years and missed meals being selfish. We have to love, care, and prefer others to fast the right way. When we look out for others, God looks out for us.
DO give and help someone in need.
When God ignored the 70 years of fasting in Zechariah 7, He told them, “Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother: And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart” (Zech. 7:9-10). The people did the fast but they ignored the cries of those in need (v. 11), so God refused to hear their cry (v. 13) or bless their fast.
To do it the way God intended, we must take the time to intentionally give, help, and be a blessing to the hungry, poor, naked, afflicted, and our family when we fast (Isa. 58:7-11). Make time to donate food, clothes, or resources to those who need it. We can’t be selfish and please God. To love and serve God, we must love and serve people.
DO dedicate the time to God.
In scripture, God told them to sanctify a fast, because a fast is a time that should be set aside to God, focused on Him. Even if you have work or school, make sure you have the right focus (Eph. 6:5-8; Col. 3:22-24) and use any extra time for something spiritual. Spend time praying, crying out, studying, and seeking God so as you get yourself out of the way, you get more of God.
DO NOT find pleasure during your fast.
In Isaiah 58, they fasted the wrong way and God didn’t see or acknowledge their sacrifice. Part of the problem was “in the day of your fast ye find pleasure and exact all your labours” (Isa. 58:3). They were fasting but doing what they wanted including mistreating people. If we want to fast the right way, we must “honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words” (Isa. 58:13). It’s not a time for “speaking vanity” (Isa. 58:9), but a solemn time focused on the Spirit. Set aside your distractions and desires so you can dedicate the fast day to God.
DO NOT fast for the wrong reasons.
When it comes to fasting, God’s purpose and the Biblical benefits are spiritual and unselfish. In Isaiah 58:4, God said, “Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.” They missed the whole point! Fasting is not about arguing, fighting, getting people back, or asking God to hear our self-absorbed voices. He cares about our mindset and motives, not just checking off fasting and prayer on our to-do lists. Make sure you’re fasting for the right reasons.
Let’s build our relationship with God by fasting and praying the Bible way so we can get the Bible results. Share your thoughts in the comments below!