In Matthew 6:16 Jesus said “when” we fast. Thus, He was expecting His followers to fast. He also said that our Father in heaven will reward us for fasting in secret. The following are some principles related to the spiritual discipline of fasting.

Text: Matthew 6:16-18
Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.  But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

Introduction

In Matthew 6:16 Jesus said “when” we fast. Thus, He was expecting His followers to fast. He also said that our Father in heaven will reward us for fasting in secret. The following are some principles related to the spiritual discipline of fasting.

I. Definition of Fasting

According to Scripture, fasting has to do with either totally abstaining from food (and in some cases food and water) or abstaining from certain types of food for a prolonged period of time.

1. No water or food: Moses on Mount Sinai with God (Exodus 34:28). This kind of fast is the exception and is not encouraged unless you have a clear word from God and are with the presence of God in the same way Moses was, or unless it is for only one day.

2. No food (possibly water as well): Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-2).

3. No food but vegetables: Daniel (Daniel 1:8-15; 10:2-3).

II. The Purpose of Fasting

1. To humble ourselves and show utter dependence upon God (Matthew 4:4).
The purpose of fasting is to humble ourselves by showing that we don’t live on bread alone but by the word of God (Matthew 4:4).

2. To hear from God more clearly (Exodus 34:27-28).

3. To let the oppressed go free (Isaiah 58:6; Mark 9:29).

4. To live a simple life so we have more to share with others (Isaiah 58:7).

5. To prepare for a transition or for a call into ministry (Luke 4:1-2, 14-18; Acts 9:3-9).

III. The Lifestyle of Fasting

1. Jesus lived the “fasted life” (Mark 9:29). It seems like He was ready to cast out demons even though He didn’t go away and fast and pray. This seems to indicate that He was on a regular regiment of fasting.

2. The Jews fasted 24-36 hours per week.

3. It is healthy to fast at least 24 -36 hours per week. This gives your body a chance to release undigested foods.

4. There were regular Solemn Assemblies in which the whole community of faith was called to fast during a crisis (Joel 1:14-15; 2:12-19).

5. Use fasting as a way to discipline yourself so that you train yourself not to overeat anymore. Jesus called overeating a sin (Luke 21:34--surfeiting and dissipation are overeating and over drinking; see also Proverbs 23:1-2).

i. Overeating healthy food is like eating junk food.

ii. Eating right before going to bed is very unhealthy because doing so doesn’t give the body a chance to cleanse the blood nor rest since it is busy digesting food.

iii. Try to eat a lot of low-caloric foods like raw salads and steamed vegetables before you eat lunch and dinner. This will cause you to eat less high-calorie foods and will aid digestion.

6. The healthier your diet the longer you can fast without any discomfort.

i. Those who feel called to live a fasted life can get a water iodizer, eat less, and try to have at least 50% of their diet composed of uncooked and unprocessed food so it is easier to fast without interrupting your schedule.

IV. The Way to Fast Properly

1. Drink distilled water if possible. Avoid drinking tap water, coffee, or soda.

2. Avoid chewing gum if on a longer fast.

i. Chewing gum activates your digestive enzymes and makes you hungry.

3. Don’t fast if you have health issues, or are on medications like anti-depressants, or have diabetes, or are pregnant.

4. On long fasts of seven days or more don’t drink only water or citrus juices.

i. Unless you are staying ahead of the acid curve by getting colonics or detoxing and cleansing your body.

ii. Green juices slow down the detoxifying process. Citrus juices detoxify you too fast.

iii. If possible, purchase a juicer and make fresh juice instead of purchasing old, pasteurized juices that have already lost most of their nutrients and enzymes.

5. Properly breaking a fast

i. Take just as long to break a fast and eat regularly as you took to abstain from food to begin the fast.

ii. After a fast of three days or more do not shock your system by overeating or eating things hard to digest. (Don’t break a fast with pizza, pasta, steak, hamburgers, etc.)

iii. After a three day juice or water fast start off with steamed vegetables or only soup. After a week or more of only water and juice, start off with only soup, then salad after a few days before you eat regularly.

iv. After a fast of 21-40 days you have to take about two weeks before you can eat normally.

v. Try to incorporate a weekly fast of 24 hours, a quarterly fast of three days, and an annual fast of 21 days.

vi. Use fasting as a way to discipline yourself so that you train yourself not to overeat anymore.

Joseph Mattera