“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they already have their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that your fasting will not be seen by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.” – Matthew 6:16-18 (NIV)
The Command to Fast: Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:16-18 are a direct command to His followers, emphasizing the importance of fasting as a spiritual discipline. Just like prayer, fasting is a way to connect with God on a deeper level, seeking His presence, wisdom, and guidance. Let’s delve into this powerful Scripture to uncover the profound truths it holds about prayer and fasting.
- Fasting with a Pure Heart: In these verses, Jesus warns against fasting for the sake of appearances, to gain the approval or admiration of others. Instead, He encourages us to fast with a pure heart, seeking God’s approval alone. This reminds us that our motives behind fasting should be driven by a sincere desire to grow in our relationship with God, not to impress others or seek their praise.
- Maintaining a Joyful Spirit: Jesus advises us to anoint our heads and wash our faces while fasting, so that our physical appearance doesn’t reflect the spiritual discipline we’re practicing. This teaches us not to wear our spirituality as a badge of honor but to maintain a joyful spirit throughout our fasting. It’s a reminder that even in our sacrifices, we can find joy and peace in God’s presence.
- The Promise of Reward: The most encouraging aspect of this Scripture is the promise of reward from our Heavenly Father. When we fast in secret, seeking His face and His approval alone, God sees our efforts and rewards us accordingly. These rewards may come in various forms, such as spiritual growth, answered prayers, and a deeper intimacy with God.
So, how can we apply these principles to our lives today?
- Examine Your Motives: Before embarking on a fast, take time to examine your motives. Ensure that your fasting is not driven by the desire for human approval but by a genuine longing to draw closer to God.
- Maintain a Joyful Heart: Regardless of the circumstances or challenges you face during your fast, maintain a joyful spirit. Remember that your fasting is between you and God, and His presence can fill you with an abiding sense of joy.
- Seek God in Secret: Embrace the beauty of seeking God in the secret place of prayer and fasting. Set aside specific times for private communion with Him, away from the distractions of the world.
Prayer and fasting are powerful tools that allow us to deepen our relationship with God, seeking His face with sincerity and humility. In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus reminds us of the importance of fasting with the right motives, maintaining a joyful spirit, and seeking our Heavenly Father in secret. As we apply these principles to our lives, we can experience the incredible rewards of a closer walk with God. Let us be encouraged to embrace the discipline of prayer and fasting as we journey toward a more profound and intimate connection with our loving Creator.