14 Then John’s disciples came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?” 15 Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests be sad while the groom is with them? The time will come when the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.
On a trip from Chicago to Texas, a man of God named A.W. Tozer was inspired by Holy Spirit to write down his experience of what it means to have intimacy with the Lord. On that train ride, he finished what was to be one of his most well-known books: The Pursuit of God. In this book, Tozer included his personal testimony. He wrote, “I want the presence of God Himself, or I don’t want anything at all to do with religion…I want all that God has or I don’t want any.” Tozer knew that to practice holy disciplines would not leave him feeling isolated but would instead lead him into intimacy with Jesus.
The discipline of fasting means voluntary abstinence from eating. Jesus’ response to the disciples of John reveals both His purpose and His method in fasting. He taught that fasting is about a change of character and motivation. Fasting allows God to take hold of the human heart in order to purify its desire to seek the Messiah.
Jesus’ mention of the bridegroom was one way of implying that He was the Messiah. Matthew 9:14-15 is not about who was right and who was wrong—it was about Who was there. His disciples did not fast because of the Person they were with.
In our day, Jesus is no longer physically with us. Instead, He has sent Holy Spirit to be with us and in us. Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the Father, but one day He will return to make all things new. We fast now because that day has not yet come. We are in “the already but not yet.”
Jesus said we would receive power from the Holy Spirit, and one of the ways we receive that power is by fasting. Through prayer and fasting, the Holy Spirit rids us of our fleshly desires and helps us hunger instead for the presence of Jesus, seeking His will and His ways.
Fasting is not a burden. When you fast, do not act gloomy as the hypocrites did. If you do, you make fasting more about your misery rather than about Christ. Let Holy Spirit continue to teach you how rewarding it is to seek the beautiful face of Jesus.
Fasting does not mean we go through our days empty. We feast on the promises of God as we fast, study and pray! Through fasting, the Holy Spirit leads us to the end of ourselves so we can see Jesus more clearly.
Questions to Ask Yourself:
- How can you incorporate fasting into your weekly practice of spiritual disciplines?
- What would it look like for you to pray and fast weekly? Praying Psalm 27 may uplift your heart as you fast.