Do I Really Have To?
“And I set my face to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications.”
During the 40 days of Lent there is a lot written about fasting. Many of God's people practice fasting during this season in order to deepen their spirituality. Giving up food is common, and usually the first thing that comes to mind regarding fasting. Oftentimes, people fast by giving up one of their favorite drinks or a favorite food, such as specialty coffee drinks or cake, ice cream, or pie.
Fasting was mandatory once a year for the Jewish people on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:32). The Pharisees voluntarily fasted twice a week to impress the people with their “holiness”. In the book titled, “My Utmost For His Highest” by Oswald Chambers, he stated: “The real fasting of the preacher is not from food, but rather from eloquence, from impressiveness and exquisite diction, from everything that might hinder the gospel of God being presented. The preacher is there as the representative of God...”.
In the Book of Matthew, Jesus said: “And when you fast, don't make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, who try to look pale and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I assure you that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair, and wash your face. Then no one will suspect you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in secret. And your Father, who knows all secrets, will you reward you.“ (Matthew 6:16-18).
Jesus was telling the people to go about their normal daily routine when they fasted. So during this season, how does a godly person go about their life and fast without making a show of it? This decision is a holy decision. Listen to Him carefully, and let Him lead you.
There are many ways to be wise in fasting besides giving up specialty drinks or a favorite food. Two examples of wise fasting are: (1) you can fast from busyness by drawing close to God. Spend an allotted quiet time to pray and engage in fellowship with the Lord. “Go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father secretly.” (2) You can fast from criticism, gossip, or judging others. “If you are wise and understand God's ways, live a life of steady goodness so that only good deeds will pour forth.” during this season of fasting.
God's people ought to go “comb your hair and wash your face” because there are many reasons why fasting is spiritually rewarding. Jesus condemned the wrong kind of fasting such as the Pharisees were doing. However, He suggested there is wise fasting. He admired acts of self-sacrifice (wise fasting), when it is done quietly and sincerely.
William Barclay stated: “If we practiced a wise fasting, no pleasure would become a chain, and no habit would come to rule our lives.”
Lord God, thank You for allowing us to set our face towards You in prayer. Help us to be wise in fasting. Amen.
~ Ann Brock Ludington