Pray the Word: Fasting and Longing for the Bridegroom
Read Matthew 9
Matthew 9:14-15 talk about fasting, so the disciples of John came to Jesus saying, "Why do we, in the Pharisees, fast, but your disciples do not fast?" And Jesus said to them, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast."
You know, fasting is not something a lot of followers of Christ talk about today. A lot of churches rarely talk about fasting, but it's pretty basic in the Bible. We see it all over the Bible. Even when Jesus, just a few chapters before this, was talking about praying and giving, He talked about fasting in the same section, so just as basic as praying and just as basic as giving is fasting.
And he even said, "When you fast, do this," and he gives instructions for fasting, so it's not a "If you fast," but a "When you fast," so first I would just ask, is fasting a regular part of your life? Is it a regular spiritual discipline in your routine of life as a follower of Christ? Because it's intended to be that.
We're intended to fast, regularly. Now, what that looks like the Bible doesn't specify "This is how often, or this is exactly what it needs to look like," but listen to these verses from Matthew 9, when the disciples of John are actually asking Jesus, "Why are Your disciples not fasting?" And Jesus says, "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast."
So fasting, Jesus is teaching here, is a picture of separation between the bride and the bridegroom, so when the bride and bridegroom are together, there's no need to fast. It's when they're apart, and when the bride is longing for the bridegroom to return, that is when the disciples of Jesus will fast. As his bride, as the church, as the body of Christ, the bride of Christ, fasting is a picture of longing for the bridegroom to return, longing for Christ to come back.
Fasting is intended, among many different purposes in the Bible, it's intended by God to be a picture of longing for the return of Christ. So, if we're not fasting, then what are we saying? Our lack of fasting actually shows that we're content without Christ's return. It shows a lack of longing for Christ to return.
So, I want to encourage you, in your life, to fast. Let's be encouraged by Matthew 9:15, to fast for the return of Christ, to put aside food on a regular basis, whatever that means, whether it's once a week in this way, once a month in this way, or periodic times here and there, for maybe even longer periods of time, but amidst fasting to say, "More than we want food, we want You to come back, Lord Jesus. More than I'm hungry for this and that, I'm hungry for You. I'm hungry to see Your face, to be in Your presence."
So God, forgive us, we pray, for our lack of fasting. Forgive us for the lack of attention we have given to this spiritual discipline. And forgive us, we pray, we repent, forgive us for not expressing longing for the return of Christ through fasting. Oh God, we say together in our hearts even right now, "More than we need food, we need You." More than we long for our stomachs to be full, we long for the son to come back. We long for Your kingdom to come, and Your will to be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. We long to see an end to sin, and suffering, and death. We long to see our Savior's face, so help us to fast with that kind of longing.
Help us to put aside food in each of our lives, and as we do to express that longing, this physical expression of a spiritual reality, help us to express that longing. And we pray, oh God, in anticipation of the day when the bride and bridegroom will be together, when we won't be fasting anymore, because we will be with Jesus. Oh, hasten the coming of that day, we pray. And lead us, help us to fast with anticipation for that day, we pray. In Jesus' name. Amen.
The Pray the Word podcast is used with permission from Radical. For more from Pray the Word, visit radical.net. http://radical.net/articles/podcast_type/pray-the-word