Jesus predicts his death, "the bridegroom will be taken away." And then Jesus tells us that it will be time to fast. Yet, I don't know a lot of people who fast.
Fasting in the Bible is interesting.
- Moses fasted during the time God was giving him the commandments.
- People fasted when they wanted to repent - like King David after he fathered a child with his friend's wife and God told him the child was going to die.
- People fasted on behalf of others who needed to repent - like the prophets Nehemiah or Daniel or Ezra who asked God to forgive the sins of the people who had turned against God.
- People fasted when they had a request to ask of God - like Hannah when she wanted a child or like Mordecia when he wanted protection for the people of God or King Darius in order to ask God to protect Daniel from the den of lions.
- People fasted to greive the death of those they loved.
- People fasted to seek God concerning certain matters before them
- Anna fasted in order to live a life of service to God.
- Paul fasted after he saw Jesus on the road to Damascus.
- Cornelius, a pagan, fasted because he didn't know who God was and asked God to reveal himself to him so he could worship him.
- The leaders of the early church fasted when they sought God's will... or when they commissioned someone into God's service.
- Paul wrote about married couples fasting together.
- Jesus told the disciples to fast to cast out certain demons.
- Jesus fasted when he was faced with trials
People fasted as a group and as individuals. Some gave up all food and water, others just food, others just particular foods. Some fasted for a meal and some for a long time. The point of fasting was not to perfect a ritual, but to set aside a time to come close to God and seek God's will or comfort - listening and talking to God.
Yet, there is a wrong way to fast too. Isaiah 58 describes fasting for the purpose of selfish gain. God tells those who fast for this reason to go loose the bonds of injustice, let the oppressed go free, share their bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless into their own homes - and then he will hear them in their fast. Matthew 6 says not to fast for show. Zechariah 7:5 asks if the people are fasting for God or for themselves. Fasting is about seeking God not seeking gain.
Our world is so busy... how on earth can we find time to fast? Fasting isn't just missing some meal - it is always coupled with prayer. And that takes time. How do we find time to seek God's will? Most of us want a text message from God instead of putting any effort into our relationship with him. And with this being our attitude, no wonder most of us don't know what God's vision is for us - even for our very next steps. We ramble around hoping God will stop us if it is the wrong direction - we throw up a prayer barely thought out. Yet, God wants us to intentionally enter into a conversation with him so God can give us his vision and the power to follow that vision.
Could it be time to fast?
Here is a good practical guide to fasting: http://www.ccci.org/training-and-growth/devotional-life/personal-guide-to-fasting/index.htm