The Place of Fasting in Prayer
“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Jesus’ words about fasting represent His invitation to a deeper experience with God. As we place our physical desires under the Spirit’s control, we let go of our grip on the material in order to embrace the spiritual. Reasons for fasting include:
Cleansing from sin. When we let our spiritual guard down, we start thinking as the world does—protecting our rights instead of dying to self, or seeking to accumulate rather than sacrificing. Through these lapses, ungodly attitudes and habits can quietly take up residence in us, and we hardly notice. But God sees. They hinder our fellowship with Him, limit the effectiveness of our service, and erode our joy. Prayer combined with fasting will help us give God our undivided attention as He addresses our areas of sin. We, in turn, will find them grievous and be eager to let them go.
Guidance. God is willing to give us clear direction, but for some things, prayer in conjunction with fasting is more effective. That is how we gain the cleansed mind needed to hear what He is saying and a submitted spirit ready to accept His instructions.
Protection. Through fasting, we gain insight into God’s ways and receive help in identifying unhealthy or dangerous situations. As we submit to His authority and confess our need for protection, the Holy Spirit will give us discernment to make wiser decisions and avoid unnecessary pitfalls.
Fasting coupled with prayer can also bring heightened spiritual awareness and more intimate communion with the Lord. Aren’t these the deepest desires of our heart?