Fasting, Prayer, and Pride
Q: God has done some amazing things in my life as a result of fasting and prayer. I want to share with others what He has done and give Him the glory. But in the Gospel of Matthew, it says we're not to let others know when we fast. I never tell anyone—except my husband—when I'm actually on a fast. Is it okay to talk about it after the fact?
—Joanne, via e-mail
A: Joanne, as you have discovered, fasting is a very important spiritual discipline. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament offer many examples of believers seeking God through fasting and prayer. In the verse you're referring to, Jesus says, "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. … But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father … and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you" (Matt. 6:16-18). If you look at the context of this passage, you'll see that Jesus was rebuking the Pharisees for boasting about their spirituality—fasting for no other reason than to show how devout they were.
Jesus certainly wasn't forbidding teaching on fasting—or sharing your experiences with others for the purpose of testifying to the power of God and how you have seen Him work through this spiritual discipline in your life. (Think about it: The reason we know about fasting is because of the men and women in Scripture who shared their experiences!) Just make sure that your boast is in the Lord, that your motive is not to draw attention to yourself or impress people. One way to keep spiritual pride in check is to share honestly and openly about your failures, as well as your successes.
Remember that there's no one-size-fits-all formula when it comes to practicing the spiritual disciplines. What God chooses to do in your life through fasting may be different from what He chooses to do in another's life. Some things God speaks to your heart are just between you and Him. And some things are most definitely meant to be shared for the benefit of others.
Ask God to keep your heart and your motives pure. Seek His direction for how and when and what to share. Then give Him all the glory you can with your testimony of His life-changing power.
Christin Ditchfield is the host of the syndicated radio program Take It To Heart, and the author of A Family Guide to Narnia: Biblical Truths in C. S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia (Crossway).
Copyright © 2007 by the author or Christianity Today/Today's Christian magazine.
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