When Should I Fast?
By Warren Mueller
I have wrestled with the question of when and how to fast. I must confess that I have fasted very little and have struggled with my motives in fasting. For example, I do not believe it is right to think that God owes me something because I am fasting and praying and thereby am adding extra effort to my prayers by fasting. He is sovereign God and I am but an imperfect creature. Therefore, I believe the Holy Spirit must move you to want to fast about something rather than think: "I will do this so that God will answer my prayer." I have been told that fasting is not for God but to help us focus on Him and draw us closer to Him. What pleases Him is what I must do.
Jesus fasted and it says in Mt 6:16, "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting”. Jesus is instructing his disciples to make fasting a private matter between the person fasting and God rather than a public display. Also, note that Jesus is telling his disciples that they will fast. He does not say if you wish to fast but when you fast. This implies that fasting is part of the life of a disciple. However, Jesus does not indicate how often or under what circumstances one is to fast. Examples from the New Testament about fasting are found in Acts 13:2 when the believers in Antioch fasted and prayed prior to making an important decision (i.e. choosing Saul and Barnabas as missionaries). Likewise Paul and Barnabas fasted and prayed prior to choosing elders to lead the churches they planted in Acts 14:23. Other examples include fasting in times of distress and danger (Judges 20:26; 2 Chronicles 20:3), for deliverance (Daniel 9:3), and worship (Luke 2:36-37).
Fasting may be painful, but it is for our benefit. It helps us get in touch with God by taking us out of our normal routine and making God a priority.