When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Matthew 6:16-18
When was the last time you spent a day, an afternoon, or even a week, denying yourself food so that you could concentrate on spiritual things?
Sounds crazy, right? But it was something Jesus expected of his followers. That means YOU. He said, "When you fast..." Not "if" but "when". Jesus wants you to fast. So what does that look like and why is it important?
Fasting is not punishing ourselves or manipulating God. It is denying ourselves something we don't need to pursue something better. It's a time to focus on the spiritual instead of the physical (although if you fast from food, your physical will remind you it's there quite often at first.)
Jesus did this quite often in the New Testament, retreating at times for prayer and solitude with God. I think it's safe to say that if it was good for Jesus it's good for us too. The most famous time that Jesus fasted is found in Matthew 4 when He fasted for 40 days and was tempted by Satan.
Now, don't panic. I'm not encouraging you to start a 40 day fast. No. It's a good idea to start simple. Fast for a day. Or even one meal. Take the time that you would be eating and devote it to prayer and reading God's Word. If you feel you need to fast for longer, then set a time and let your close family know what you are doing (not to be seen, but so they can support you through it).
One more thing...Fasting doesn't just mean food, although that's what most of us automatically assume. You can fast from other things like books, technology, coffee/soda, news or any number of other things that you find maybe helpful.
Lastly, fasting brings your focus back to what God is doing in your life. That's why Jesus emphasized that this is between you and God. He wants to speak to you, answer your questions, show you what decision to make, give you advice about your kids, give you wisdom, peace, and more.
When we deny ourselves something in pursuit of God, God will show up.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:13
So what do you need to fast about? Is there a big decision you have to make about a job, move, or purchase? Is there a relationship that you don't know how to navigate? Do you want to know what area of growth you need to focus on next? Is there an attitude that needs to change?
Whatever it is, spend some time fasting. Deny yourself and pursue God with all your heart. You will find Him.
God, help me to follow your expectation that I will spend time in fasting and prayer with you. Show me what it is I need to give up so that I can focus on pursuing you with all my heart. Thank you for showing up. I love you. Amen.