Have you washed your face recently? Strange question, but behind it lies a serious challenge. I recently got to thinking about some of the issues we face when it comes to prayer.
Do we feel so strongly about the challenges we face (i.e. Muslims not turning to Christ, the sick remaining sick, financial problems, relational difficulties), that we actually fast and pray about it?
Often we do fast and pray about these issues – but, as I have noticed especially on twitter and facebook, it is not in secret. It can be kind of faith, with hinting.
I think most people would agree that perhaps there is need for us to be a fasting people.
Fasting can be contentious. The bible knows nothing of fasting from television, the internet or football. In Scripture the verb in the Greek is literally, not-eating. It’s about abstaining from food. Isaiah 58 goes on to talk of the real heart of the fast that God wanted from the people of Israel in that OT day.
Take a look at what Jesus taught:
“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.
But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 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.” (Matthew 6:16-18)
It would seem that fasting that is seen by others has that acknowledgment as its reward. It does not achieve much but it have cost much. The fact that they have disfigured faces might indicate that they either are experiencing some discomfort, or that they know from others who actually have fasted, that there is some discomfort!
But they have their reward. And that tells us something about fasting. Whilst we do not do it for reward, (everything we have is freely given to us by a gracious God)we do in fact receive one. It seems that God uses every opportunity to bless His people.
Many have taught from this verse that Jesus was indicating to us that we should fast because he said, ‘when you fast’, not, ‘if you fast’. But taken in context, this was Jesus speaking to his disciples who would encounter a few Jewish ceremonial fasts before His death and resurrection. However, uncomfortable as it may be, I think it is still valid for us today.
Anoint your head and wash your face. Some Christians have just gone weird here – basically it means ‘have a wash, scrub up’ and look normal. And the reason is that your fasting is not seen by others but seen by your Father who is in secret. And God who is out of the line of sight, invisible, unseen, undetected – will reward you. It is a staggering promise!
Fasting is something many have delved in and out of over the years. Sometimes it can be awesome, but other times it is as David Parker says, “You get cold, hungry and irritated!”
I think it is a challenge that we need to face again and again in this very dark age.
God is putting it back on our agenda?