If we humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord, He will lift us up (James 4:10). One way that we humble ourselves is by fasting. David said, “I humbled my soul with fasting” (Psalm 35:13). Our bodily appetites are so demanding. The spirit is willing, “but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41b) Realizing the weakness of the flesh, we must rely totally upon the Spirit of God to strengthen us to do God’s work (Acts 1:8; Ephesians 3:16).
Fasting as God directs helps us to maintain our course and freshen our priorities. In the Old Testament, it seems that when things “got hot” for Israel, it wasn’t long before they entered into a fast (Nehemiah 9:1; Esther 4:3). Scripture records one time when they fasted for the purpose of seeking God’s way for them (Ezra 8:21). Oh, how deeply we need the power of Jesus in our lives! Many times this power comes when we determine to quiet the flesh and feed the spirit.
Notice in our text for today that Jesus said, “When you fast,…” not if you fast. How often one fasts, as well as the kind of fast, is a personal thing. However, I would encourage each of you to seek God in prayer about the matter of fasting in order that you might draw closer to Jesus. The Pharisees fasted the wrong way – to display how holy they were. Jesus instructs us in the proper way to fast.
In some cases, prayer and fasting are necessary to see results (Mark 9:14-29). David, when he fasted, described it as a personal form of chastening (Psalm 69:10a). Obviously, at times his fasts went on for a period of time, inasmuch as he became weak (Psalm 109:24). But notice also how fasting and ministering to the Lord are connected and result in Spirit-led service (Acts 13:1-5). Interestingly enough, Scripture indicates that fasting can be from things other than food (1 Corinthians 7:5).
Prayer with fasting is to have godly purpose. Take note of the fast that is written about in Isaiah 58:4-7. There is a value in fasting, a rekindling of the spirit. We all need the Lord to show us what He requires of us individually in this area.
May we, as He leads, turn to Him with fasting (Joel 2:12), and serve Him faithfully.