Lenten Reader | Day 4

When You Fast

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

- Matthew 6:16-18
A few years ago, I decided to fast for the purpose of prayer for my dad. He had lost his job of 35 years and had applied for a new job with a local company. I could tell that he was very anxious about this new job. Out of concern for him, I made the decision to fast until he heard about the job. I clearly had not thought this entire plan through to the end. We had no idea how long it would be before he even received a call back. In my mind, this was going to last one or two days at the most. By day four, friends and coworkers were saying things like: “Marty, you don’t look so good.” “Are you sick?” “Marty, I really think you should go see a counselor because you’re not acting like your normal self.”

Things were starting to really get crazy. I could not focus on anything. I was a mess. I was constantly arguing with God. On day seven(!), I remember driving from my office to meet up with my Thursday lunch crew. I was arguing with God in my head about how I couldn’t take it any longer. Then the phone rang. With my heart racing, I took a deep breath and answered it. My dad said, “I got the job!”  My fast was over.

Jesus teaches in Matthew 6 how we should go about fasting – in private and “not seen by men”. We should not allow the world to see that we are abstaining from food or drink because the purpose of fasting is not for ourselves. Fasting is a preparation for grieving or penitence, for prayer or a divine revelation, or to seek God’s favor. Scripture is full of times where people fasted for these reasons. The focus is on God. Jesus was very clear that fasting was not for show but within the privacy of our relationship with God. There we would find our reward.

- Marty Ford
Father, give me the strength to fast. And when I do help me to do it, not for the praise of other people, but to purify my heart so that I can be in your presence more fully. Use my fast to allow the Holy Spirit to make me more like Jesus.