Matthew 6:16-18 — How to Fast (Week 14)
PLEASE READ: Matthew 6:16-18
Fasting has been a ritual religious practice for centuries among Jews — long before Christianity was ever founded. What’s more, is that nearly every religion practices it to some degree.
What is it about fasting that opens the portal of heaven and makes our prayers heard? And what kind of fasting does God truly desire?
These are all worthy questions very deserving of an answer.
Christ recognized that many fasted in their pursuit of God and answered prayers. However, as Christ reveals, much of that fasting was not honored by God. But why? In this post we will discover the kind of fasting God truly desires and to which He responds.
Although we hear a lot about fasting, not many truly understand its inherent spiritual power, which is mysterious. There are many types of fasts, and people fast for many reasons. Fasting is often implemented to achieve breakthrough in a stubborn area, or to obtain from God what has otherwise eluded us. The motivations to fast are, therefore, often accompanied by two primary things: desperation and urgency.
We see fasting practiced in the Bible by Moses, David, Daniel, Jesus Christ, and the Apostles. Christ taught His disciples that fasting is the only way to obtain breakthrough from particular demonic strongholds. If you carefully consider these individuals, you will find the fasting demonstrated by them on every occasion mentioned involved intense spiritual warfare against satanic principalities and powers that raged against people, nations, and even future generations.
Fasting opens the portals of heaven where spiritual powers are active and reside. Therefore, if we’re going to fast, we need to be doing it correctly. Otherwise, we could find ourselves engaged in a war absent of God’s blessing and participation.
God’s Chosen Fast
Although we see the power of fasting demonstrated by many of our spiritual forefathers, we need to understand that fasting is not a spiritual practice to take lightly. Even those of other religions herald its inherent power. Fasting, when done properly, needs to be initiated by God, led of the Spirit, and practiced with wisdom and discretion. The boundaries of any particular fast can be very different. But if we’re merely starving our bodies while our hearts are feasting upon our own desires, we have accomplished nothing.
God explains the distinct power and purpose of fasting for us here:
Is it such a fast that I have chosen? A day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD? Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out into thy house? When thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall by thy rereward,” (Isaiah 58:5-8, KJV).
And that is not all… God promises that if we put away accusations, speaking vanities, and relieve the afflicted soul, He will hear us, guide us, and make us spiritually ‘fat’. He says we will be springs of water that do not fail (see Isaiah 58 entire chapter).
When we follow God’s ordained fast, we will obtain from Him what we seek for ourselves — but only once we’ve granted it to others.
Rending the Heart
God weighs the motivations of our hearts. His primary interest is in how we treat others — and why we treat them the way we do. The chosen fast is one that focuses upon the heart’s intimate desires versus anothers intimate needs. They are often juxtaposed.
Fasting, for the Jew, often meant an outward display of rending garments while dwelling in ashes and sackcloth, and starving the body. In the very least, those who fasted let it be known in their countenance and their lack of hygiene. These pious displays were very demonstrative and were intended for the public. However, such acts did nothing to move the heart and hand of the LORD. These flagrant shows did not impress Him. The true fast is one that secretly rends the heart in humility before God while maintaining a public display of physical integrity and spiritual dignity.
If we starve our body without rending our heart we accomplish nothing.
Like the other spiritual disciplines of prayer and giving, again Christ makes it clear that our fasting should be done in “secret”. An outward physical display is both fruitless and powerless. These are clandestine matters that are sacred with God. They should not gain the attention of men.
Breaking & Release
God’s supernatural power is released in a divinely executed fast.
He makes it clear that His power is very specific: to break the yoke, release the oppressed, and to loose the bands of wickedness. These are spiritual heavyweights that we cannot accomplish ourselves. They require spiritual power and might beyond our natural capacity or human understanding. They require divine intervention that only God can perform on our behalf.
So what does God ask us to do? He tells us to engage in those very acts that break the yoke, release the oppressed, and loose the bands of wickedness. He tells us to feed the hungry and house the poor. He tells us to stop pointing our fingers, making accusations, and rendering evil. In other words: begin pouring out and extending what we have. Starve the soul of itself. That is the fast God requires of us. Although we may forego food, He commands us to starve our souls of anything that would cause others pain, lack, or bondage. We are called to bring relief, render aid, and commit to help. Our bodies as well as our souls must be fully present and active in any particular fast, if it is to be effective.
If we are to be released, we must release. If we are to be set free, we must set free. If we are to be loosed from the bands of wickedness, we must cease from binding others with wickedness ourselves.
God is not interested in the personal starvation of your body if you’re going to engage in activities and practices that defile your heart and mind, or speak and do things that defile and bind the lives of others. God is not interested in a public display that garners sympathy and attention, when you have no sympathy or attention for the lives of those around you who are hurting.
No one should ever suspect you to be fasting.
The only attention you should have is from heaven.
You will know your fast is successful when you see God breaking the yoke, setting the oppressed free, and undoing the bands of wickedness.
Christ Jesus says the Father will reward you when you fast in secret. He will make you ‘fat’ spiritually, and His light will break through your darkness.
His goal is that we become “restorers” with Him; active participants in setting others free, if we are to be set free ourselves.
That is the fast He has chosen.
Cheers & Shalom,
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