For example, in Matthew 5:16, he says, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting.”
Not “if you fast.” Not “please think about fasting.” Not even, “A command I give you: fast.”
Simply “when you fast . . . “. Jesus assumes the people hearing his words and following his path will have fasting as part of their living relationship with him.
And then Jesus adds those words that make teaching on or testifying about fasting quite difficult: “do not look somber as the hypocrites do . . . .[but fast] so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father.”
With fear and trembling, then, let me offer a couple of benefits I have “heard about” from regular fasting:
1. A reminder of your true hunger. While in the middle of a fast, hunger pangs remind you that your truest hunger is for the presence and power of God.
2. Physical and spiritual cleansing. Physically, a fast helps clear your system of toxins and excess. You feel noticeably lighter and more alert at its conclusion. I believe the spiritual benefits are much the same: feelings of inner cleansing coupled with heightened awareness of the Spirit’s word in your life.
3. Corrective to our natural self-indulgence. Regular fasting allows you to overcome your natural tendency to govern your life by your feelings. “I’m hungry so I’ll eat.” “I’m really hungry so I’ll gorge.” And for some, as you know, it’s “I’m sad, lonely, anxious, so I’ll eat.” Fasting trascends all that: “I feel this but I have a higher commitment than my feelings right now.”
Some folks I know have one 24 hour fast per week — from dinner one night all the way through dinner the next night.
So I invite you to start out that way. Don’t tell anyone what you’re doing. And see if you finish the fast more refreshed, more alert, and more alive in your relationship with Jesus Christ.