30 Prayer and Fasting

Matthew 6 v 16 – 18

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you
.  (ESV)

Prayer and fasting is not just optional but essential, but it must be done without hypocrisy:

  1. Jesus assumes that we will fast – ‘when you fast’ (v16a).
    Fasting is a form of mourning.
    The Church fasted after the Ascension (Acts 13:1-3).
    Purposes for fasting:
    a. Fasting helps us to seek the Lord’s guidance and can be done as a group.
    b. Accompany praying for and setting apart men for ministry in the Church (Acts 14:23).
    c. Fasting can involve abstaining from more than just food (1 Cor. 7:3-5).
    d. Fasting is as difficult as trials and tribulations (2 Cor. 6:4-5).
    e. The Apostle Paul’s fasting (2 Cor. 11:17-28).

    Fasting was common practice in the early Church. How about us.

  2. Jesus cautions against hypocritical fasting (v16b)
    The OT warned against such kind of fasting (Is. 58:3-8).
    The motive: ‘to be seen by others’.
    The reward: ‘succeeds only in the praise of men

  3. Jesus admonishes us to true fasting (v17-18)
    The goal is true fellowship with God – bringing glory to Him, and not yourself.
    To be seen fasting is not wrong, but to fast in order to be seen is wrong.
    Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7).
    Jesus says that the reward for true fasting is heavenly treasure (Mat. 6:19-21).

This [hypocrisy] is the kind of subtle thing that Jesus wants us to avoid when we give, pray and fast. He wants us to never lose sight of God as the centre of our lives. He wants us to never forget that hypocrisy always begins with a selfish desire to be thought well of, admired and envied by others with the tendency to crowd God out of the very things we are trying to do for Him.

May we all leave tonight considering the teaching of our Lord Jesus with a renewed desire that He be first in all that we do, encouraged to think of fasting as one way to help us in this regard.