God commanded the Jews to fast on the Day of Atonement. That is just once a year. But Jesus is talking about voluntary, private fasting here. Fasting is the act of abstaining from food as a form of self-denial. In the Bible, fasting and prayer go together. In prayer, you draw near to the things of heaven. In fasting, you draw away from the things of the earth. In prayer, you set up your spirit to God. In fasting, you set aside your body. It’s a spiritual combination. It is not a sign of spirituality. Rather, it is a sign of self-denial and spiritual commitment to God.
Most Christians today do not fast. We’d rather feast than fast. But Jesus and the first Christians fasted. Jesus fasted for forty days. Luke tells of Anna, a prophetess, an old widow aged 84 years old. She served God with prayer and fasting night and day (Lk. 2:37). In the church at Antioch, the prophets and teachers prayed and fasted, seeking God’s will about missionary work (Acts 13:1-3). Then they laid hands on the missionary team of Paul and Barnabas. In Lystra and Antioch, Paul and Barnabas prayed and fasted, consecrating the elders of every church to the Lord (Acts 14:23).
Last year, I announced a time of prayer and fasting during Holy Week. I don’t know who prayed and fasted with me. There’s no need to know because we don’t need to know. While fasting on the first day, I didn’t eat any food. I just drank water. On the second day, things were getting difficult. On the third day, I became very hungry. At lunch time, the food on the table was very delicious. Fasting can be total or partial. Total fasting means no food, but only water. Partial fasting means a little food and water. So I told the Lord, “Lord, maybe You won’t mind if I shif to a partial fast.” I did. Then I ate a little of the delicious food.
I encourage you to go on prayer and fasting. I don’t force you to fast. You must be willing to fast. Yesterday, we had our monthly Prayer Breakfast. We studied God’s Word at early morning, prayed, and ate hotdog, eggs, and corned beef afterward. Maybe next November, we will no longer have a Prayer Breakfast. Instead, let’s have Prayer and Fasting every second Saturday.