“was it for Me that you fasted, for Me?” This soul-piercing question in Zechariah 7:5 (AMP) lept off the page and stabbed my heart. These nine words question my motives for a weekly fast. There are so many reasons for fasting in the fitness realm. We might do intermittent fasting to lose weight or a green smoothie fast to detox. Fasting has many health benefits, from reducing insulin resistance to fighting inflammation to improving brain function, so it’s no wonder fasting is popular among those of us who value our well-being. But, for us as believers, the question remains, “who are we fasting for?”
It’s not sinful to fast for health, but we must be honest about our motivation. And when I say we, I confess that I mean me. In my teen years, I developed a disordered eating pattern. I would binge on whatever foods I craved and then fast for 24-48 hours. That practice helped me lose 20lbs in three weeks as part of my preparation for a beauty pageant at age 16. Although I’ve not “dieted” that way for several decades, I face conviction now and then over my reasons for fasting.
There are many spiritual reasons to fast, a few of which include;
- when combined with prayer, it serves as a form of worship (Luke 2:37)
- fasting aids in discernment with spiritual matters (Acts 14:23)
- to petition God for clarity, strength, and protection before taking a significant risk (Esther 4:16)
When You Fast
In Matthew 6, the phrase “when you” is found three times.
- When you give (Matthew 6:2)
- When you pray (Matthew 6:5)
- When you fast (Matthew 6:16)
It’s not a matter of if we should fast, but when. So when should we fast? Like giving and praying, fasting is an act of worship that needs to be practiced regularly. Each one of us has a timetable and schedule to consider. I fast once a week. For many years, Wednesday was my day to fast. But for the past three months, I’ve fasted on Sundays. However, this week I made the switch to Tuesday. The day of the week is not nearly as important as the discipline of fasting itself. The Bible says, “when you fast,” not “if you fast.”
We know why God might call us to fast, and we know that He expects us to fast. But the most important question to keep in mind is still, “Who are we fasting for?” Ultimately, it’s not for our benefit but His. We fast to know Him more intimately and make Him known to others with our lives.
When was the last time you fasted? What are your motives for fasting? Take time to sit with God and ask Him for clarity regarding fasting. Lean in closely and listen to His voice on this matter.
Father God, our bodies belong to You. As we fast, may hunger drive us deeper into the Word for authentic bread that heals, instructs, and fills our souls. May we keep You at the forefront of each spiritual practice we undertake. May we fast for You with reverence in our hearts and praise on our lips. In Jesus’ holy and precious name, we pray, Amen.