Day 18

How to Fast

from the The Sermon on the Mount reading plan


Matthew 6:16-18, 2 Samuel 12:15-23, Psalm 51:16-17, Isaiah 58:1-12, Revelation 19:6-10

BY Guest Writer

Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:16-18, 2 Samuel 12:15-23, Psalm 51:16-17, Isaiah 58:1-12, Revelation 19:6-10

One of my pet peeves is when people in public talk really loudly on purpose. Don’t get me wrong, I like loud and extroverted people in general, but the random strangers who want to be overheard irk me. Have you ever noticed someone talking about their awesome adventures, juicy gossip, or busy schedule, and it feels like they want you to hear every word? To know how cool or important they are? As I write this I’m sitting in a coffee shop next to a mighty loud cell phone talker. Deep breaths.

In my work as a counselor, I’ve learned about a common human defense called “projecting.” Projecting is essentially when you don’t want to face your own weakness, and so you deny your problems while seeing and disliking them in other people. Pet peeves are often projections. To be honest, I have on occasion noticed myself starting to talk extra loud in public and I hate it. That’s probably why it really bugs me so much in other people, because I’ve felt my own shallow desire to be admired and I’m not proud of that.

The truth is, most people deeply crave admiration and recognition from others. We want someone to tell us we are cool, perfect, strong, holy, or worthy. Jesus addressed this condition of the human heart in the book of Matthew, when He instructed His followers on how to fast.

When Jesus spoke about fasting it was a common practice for Jewish people, but had become quite a show for some. This practice which is meant to humble people before the Lord, instead made them proud in their own self-righteousness. The fasting people made their deeds obvious to all around them by looking visibly disheveled and afflicted. Like the person talking loudly in the coffee shop, they wanted others to notice and affirm their value.

To the religious people fasting for human recognition, Jesus said, “You have received your reward.” Meaning, “You want human admiration so badly? Then enjoy it. But I know your heart, and you’re not doing this for me.” You see Christ told His followers to hide their fasting because He wanted to keep their intentions pure and their faces turned toward God alone, so they might find their worth and identity in Him.

God is always concerned with our heart than our sacrifices, and He shows that throughout the Sermon on the Mount. The Lord already knows the motives of our hearts and minds (Jeremiah 17:10)—the good, the bad, and the ugly. There is no sense in putting on a show, and there is no need either, because the Lord is “gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and great in faithful love” (Psalm 145:8-9).

Christ gave us commands and practices to connect with us, not to put us under another law. As Paul proclaimed in Galatians, “For freedom, Christ set us free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Sometimes that yoke of slavery looks like an insatiable need to have others admire you. But the Lord knows that a true sense of your value can only be found in Him, and so He wants to free you from that devastating rabbit chase.  

Whatever works you are doing for the Lord, make Him your audience of one. And “your father who sees in secret will reward you.”

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Kaitie Stoddard is a professional counselor who recently relocated from Chicago to Colorado with her husband. She has her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and is passionate about helping couples and families find healing in their relationships. On any given weekend you’re likely to find Katie snowboarding in the Rocky Mountains, checking out new restaurants with friends, or catching up on her favorite Netflix and podcast series.

Post Comments (67)

67 thoughts on "How to Fast"

  1. Becky says:

    I have mixed feelings about this devotional. While I completely agree with the general principle, I wish it had focused more on the discipline of fasting itself. After all, Jesus makes similar statements about praying in secret as he does about fasting in secret. I also think sometimes people go too far in hiding their fasting, as though they aren’t even allowed to tell anyone that they’re doing it. How can we encourage others in practicing fasting if we never talk about it? We pray both publically and privately. Why don’t we apply similar principles to fasting?

    That being said, I think I struggle with putting on a performance for myself, not others. When I fast, even when no one else knows, I struggle with a sense of pride that I even do it at all. I would really appreciate more spiritual instruction on fasting itself and how to practice it in a holy way. Hyper-secrecy doesn’t seem very beneficial.

    1. She Reads Truth says:

      Hi Becky, thank you for sharing your thoughts. We appreciate the feedback and are grateful that you’re reading with us! -Margot, The SRT Team

  2. Lee Anne Augsburger says:

    Lord forgive me for being prideful for forgetting that this life is not about me or what I can do but what you can do through me. I lost direction trying to jump ahead in our journey that I was left with just me, myself, and I please forgive me and continue to humble me and transform my heart. Intertwine it with yours so that I am in harmony with all that you are. Love through me Father! Lord use me to be an instrument of hope and love as you guide me in your Holy Spirit. Rid me of all that hinders me from you Father! I want to be full of you and not of myself. As I gaze into your face let me be lost in you Father so that your the only thing that the world is left with. Thank you for your reckless love praise your name and all that you are!!!! Amen!!!

  3. Rebecca says:

    I was praying this morning about a conversation I need to have with someone about talking too much. A few days ago I spent almost an hour an a half on the phone with this person and I spoke maybe for 10 minutes of it. The conversation was filled with her telling me about her day, what went right, what went wrong, her plans. What she should do about these certain situations, etc. Ejven when she asked me a direct question, I was not given the opportunity to answer her properly and the short answers I did give her, I am not sure she really heard. I really felt as though there was a lesson I needed to teach her about communication being a two-way street. As I was asking God to help me craft what I would say, He very quietly reminded me that this was in fact exactly how I spoke to Him. I would tell Him about my frustrations, thank Him for the gifts He has given me and ask what to do about XYZ, but did I ever just sit and let Him speak to me? Did I really listen for the instruction He wanted so badly to give me? I was ashamed and embarrassed and convicted that for me, I need a fast from talking TO God and lean into talking WITH God. Lord, help me to listen to You, to not come to You with my lists everyday but to listen to what You would have to say to me. Remind me that I am to sit at Your feet and be still in prayer with You, instead of rushing through our time together trying to check off a list of all the things I need to tell You. Help me to listen more. Thank You, I love You. Amen.

    1. Melinda says:

      This is pure gold! Thank you, Rebecca, for this divine instruction and conviction. Lord, let me sit at your feet and listen to your word as I leave the talkers in your most capable hands! Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips, in Jesus’ name amen!

      1. Heather N says:

        Such a great picture of what we easily do to God.

    2. Sarah says:

      I was just thinking about this in regards to a conversation I had with someone just yesterday. It is so frustrating to feel like you’re not actually being heard (ever). This change in perspective is just what I needed to hear! Thank you for sharing.

  4. Kathy says:

    Wow talk about conviction. I really need some work here. I don’t want to need validation but I am consistently seeking it. I pray that God will teach me to see my worth in him not man.

    1. January says:

      Well put, sir, well put. I’ll cenrtialy make note of that.

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