The Practice and Purpose of Fasting

And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 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. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Matthew 6:16-18
by Chris Miller

In Matthew 6, Jesus doesn’t say if you fast, but rather when you fast. It’s assumed that Christians would include fasting as a regular part of their spiritual lives.

And while fasting is demonstrated throughout the Bible, there isn’t a definitive, prescriptive passage on exactly how to do it. Simply put, fasting is an purposeful abstaining from something pleasurable, usually food. Christian fasting uniquely sacrifices food for a period of time with the expressed need for God. To repent, to feel His presence in hardship, for His guidance, to conform ourselves to Jesus, and to see His power manifested.
In 1 Samuel 7, Samuel called Israel to fasting as they confessed and repented of their sins. Later in chapter 31, the people fasted in grief as King Saul and his sons were killed. In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast through all Judah to seek help from the Lord as the great multitude were coming to attack. In the New Testament, Jesus fasts for 40 days before beginning his public ministry in Matthew 4, and Paul and Barnabas fasted while appointing elders in Acts 14.

There are more examples throughout the Bible, but in all these scenarios fasting shows a intensified humbleness, need, and desire for God. John Piper writes “Fasting is a physical exclamation point at the end of our pleas to God.” It’s not simply depriving yourself, but reaching out to God to make Himself known in your life or situation.

Redemption Church is calling it's people to prayer and fasting this year as we seek to reach the people in our lives with the gospel. Our weekly time of fasting begins after dinner Tuesday night and lasts until dinner on Wednesday. On Wednesday morning, we replace breakfast with a personal time of prayer, and at noon, we pray together via Zoom. Then through the week, we’re committing to inviting people into our life, bringing people to church, initiating conversations, and sharing the gospel. We long for the people around us to see the hope we have and the salvation they need in Christ.

We do all of this with a godly ambition for His glory. We seek to make Jesus known and realize only God can save. So as physical exclamation point at the end of our pleas, we dedicate ourselves to a weekly time of prayer and fasting. Yet even when accompanied with fasting, some prayers in the Bible are not answered. But as we humble ourselves, invite Jesus into our lives, and proclaim the gospel–regardless of the results–we have hearts that are completely His.