"Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, 'Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?'” (Matthew 9:14)
In admonishing His disciples on fasting, the Lord Jesus cautioned, “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” (Matthew 6:16). The Lord’s remark was both thought-provoking and enlightening.
In the preceding verse 15, He had said, “…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.” Here, He was referring to Himself returning to the Father in heaven. Moreover ever since His ascension, the Church has fasted—the disciples and apostles of the early Church fasted. Prayer and fasting have been part of our spiritual activity as Christians. We fast when necessary. “When is it necessary to fast?” someone might ask.
First, when your local church or congregation proclaims a prayer and fasting program, that’s a time to fast. Never isolate yourself from such a call, because it’s part of our corporate fellowship. There’re things we do corporately, such as corporate worship, and many other things that are intended for spiritual growth and edification; prayer and fasting are among them.
Secondly, when you choose to fast and pray, or the Holy Spirit leads you to do so, don’t ignore it. That’s another great opportunity, especially if it’s the Spirit guiding you; and you’ll know when He’s the One leading you to fast.
Some people schedule prayer and fasting as a means for their own spiritual exercise, and that’s excellent. So, in whichever way and at whatever time you’re guided to fast, take it seriously. Make fasting and praying a part of your personal spiritual routine.
If, in your local assembly, the announcement is made for a praying and fasting session, don’t unilaterally decide you’re not going to be a part of it. Don’t, on your own, choose when you’ll break your fast. That’ll be wrong. Be disciplined to always get involved, being aware that the benefits are essential to your spiritual growth (1 Timothy 4:8).
Remember that through fasting and praying, your effectiveness in the things of the Spirit are improved. Your ability to hear and receive from God is sharpened, and you’re more attuned to the finer signals and instruction of the Spirit that you need for a higher level of life; a life of continuous glory and success!
I’m sensitive to the leading of the Spirit, and His guidance in my life for my spiritual growth and development. My acts of service in the house of God will inspire commitment, growth and development of younger Christians, such that there will be no cause for stumbling for them, in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Further Study: Nehemiah 1:4; Acts 13:2; Matthew 26:38-44