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. Matthew 6:18
There are various times throughout scripture that we are given access to someone’s personal time of fasting – Moses, Elijah, David, Daniel. The occasions may have been different, but the motivation was the same. Each time we read about fasting, there is a need to draw closer to God, and this is achieved by putting aside other distractions and focusing on the one thing that matters.
We also see in the bible that fasting is not only for individuals but, at times, for a whole assembly of people. In the book of Joel, we read: “Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning.” In answer to the Lord, Joel called the priests and the people to repentance; “Consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly. Gather the elders and all the inhabitants of the land to the house of the Lord your God, and cry out to the Lord.” This is not only an example of congregational fasting, but of a national fast.
The bible shows us examples of fasting from 1 day to 40 days, and although this discipline will affect our physical being, it is all about our spiritual being. For the struggles that we have are truly not against flesh and blood. As author N.Elkins puts it, ‘our fight is not against other people, it is against the powers that influence people! It is a spiritual battle, and spiritual battles are won in the spirit, through prayer and fasting.’
Fasting primarily meant to refrain from the preparation and eating of food, something that took hours to do, and to use that time in prayer instead. However, in a world of ‘instant’ everything, food no longer takes up that much time, but a lot of other things do. People now spend more time on their phone, tablet or laptop than ever before, and things like social media are literally devouring hours each day and can often divert us from what we should be doing. One of the reasons we fast is ‘that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us’ Ezra 8.
Think about the things that occupy your time and what it is that distracts you from real time with God. My challenge is, for one day, give up something you enjoy, spend the time with the Lord, and let His joy fill you and renew you, and let him speak to you about the things that really matter.