Three ways of expressing our relationship with God are giving, prayer and fasting. When we do these things do we do them seeking to please our heavenly Father or to please men? In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says that if we do these things to be seen by our Father then he will reward us in heaven rather than us receiving our transitory reward on earth (i.e. the praise of men).
Our problem is probably less do we do these things in a showy way – but rather do we do these things at all? It is not giving, prayer or fasting that is being critiqued but our motivations as we do these activities.
Discussion on fasting.
People in the Old Testament fasted when they were in trouble – for example, when defeated or oppressed by one’s enemies in battle
when on a dangerous journey or in the face of sickness and death or
when convicted of sin in response to the reading of God’s Word. There was only one compulsory fast in the Old Testament – the Day of Atonement.
What is fasting? Fasting seems like an accompanying action to prayer – a seeking after God – it expresses grief and conveys a humbling of oneself as one calls/cries out to God. The rationale is that God sees, looks upon and turns his face to the afflicted. A humbling that recognizes that man does not live on bread alone but rather by God’s spoken words.
Should we fast and if so how? It is not a work that makes prayer more effective – fasting in of itself does not make God more inclined to answer our prayers.
Why does God answer our prayers? Because he is our Father by adoption through Jesus Christ. He loves us, he turns is ear toward us and desires to answer our prayers because we are his children.
So why fast? Because fasting is an expression of our hearts. We should fast when we are expressing our distress to the LORD and expressing our need and desire for his Word more than our daily bread. We should fast in trouble – we should fast over habitual sin.
Fasting is a response of a work of the Holy Spirit on our hearts rather than a work offered to God.
Perhaps begin with some short fasts – Sunrise to Sunset.