These are the words of Jesus Himself from Matthew 9:15. He was responding to a question from the disciples of John when they asked, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast oft, but thy disciples fast not? (Matthew 9::14b). Jesus responds with the following: “Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.” (Matthew 9:15).
There are those today who yet don’t see the need to fast and pray regularly because of their misinterpretation of the scripture. Others don’t fast and pray because of the fact that they have not searched the scripture to know the truth of the Word of the Lord. Then there are those who have taken their own interpretation of what fasting really is. They eliminate certain foods, and partake of other foods, and call this fasting. Possibly this came about because of their misinterpretation of what Daniel meant when he refused to eat certain foods from the king’s table.
Daniel 1:8-15 (KJV) says, “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king. Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants. So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.
And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.”
We can plainly see that this is not a fast, but there are those who use it as a fast because their way of interpreting the scripture. This is Daniel’s way of not defiling himself by partaking of the food from the king’s table, because such food had been offered to idols. This is their noble gesture in not being disobedient to their faithfulness in the God of their salvation. They wanted nothing to do with anything which could be interpreted as worshipping other gods. They were determined to remain faithful to God.
In Matthew 6:16-18 (KJV), we read the following, “Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” This is for our guideline when we fast individually. We should never go around bragging about the fact that we are on a fast. Fasting, as well as is praying, should always be a personal gesture with God.
Then, there are times when we do fast corporately, where those who are also fasting along with us know that we are participating in the fast. Such was the fast that Esther called. When we read in Esther 4:15-17, we see the following, “Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer, Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish. So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him.” (KJV) From this we can plainly see that the participants knew of those who were also fasting along with them for this common purpose.
The disciples fasted and prayed before sending others out on a mission for the Lord. When we read in Acts 13:1-3, we see the following, “Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid [their] hands on them, they sent [them] away.” And in Acts 14:23, we read the following, “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.”
Fasting comes from the Greek word nesteuo, meaning to abstain from food. For this purpose, my definition is, the voluntary abstinence from food and drink, in order that the spirit of man may be fed. Fasting and praying are our commitments to God, and not unto man; and are not meant to change the mind of God in any way, but rather it changes us and brings us more in line with the will and commands of God. As we fast and pray, we become more intimately aware of who God is, and more knowledgeable of the ways of God. And as we become knowledgeable of God’s ways, and the more obedient we become, the more willing we will be in doing His Will.
We are living in the “those days” in which Jesus was speaking. Let us become more obedient to the Spirit of God, and more willing to do His will. Let us fast and pray often.
The Annual February Fast is a Corporate fast, and has volunteered participants who abstain from eating and drinking for their specific times of commitment. This does not take us away from fasting on a regular basis. I set aside a time for fasting and prayer continuously, each week in the year. I always have a purpose for fasting and prayer.
Seek the Lord and commit to do likewise.