Do you ever fast? Simply from a physical/mental standpoint it is worthwhile. One of many benefits is that short periods of fasting will increase Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, a protein that not only helps with the function of brain cells, but can actually stimulate the development of new brain cells! We tend to think more clearly when fasting. But the major reason for fasting in Bible times was distinct.
As we peruse various incidents of fasting, it seems always to involve times of serious entreaty for God's intervention, guidance, or forgiveness. When his baby was sick "David therefore besought God for the child; and David fasted, and went in, and lay all night upon the earth" 2 Samuel 12:16. When the Moabites, Ammonites, and others where coming against Judah in battle, "Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah" 2 Chronicles 20:3. When Ezra led a large number of people back to Jerusalem they had to travel through dangerous territory. He stated, "Then I proclaimed a fast there. . . that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones. . ." Ezra 8:21.
We've looked at several good and valid reasons to fast. Unfortunately there has been a wrong use of the act. Apparently there were those who thought themselves, in some way, more holy than others when fasting so they would make a show of it. That was and is not to be. Jesus said "when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly" Matthew 6:16-18.
Another important point is that fasting should never be used in an endeavor to twist God's arm such as is portrayed in Isaiah 58. There were those who pretended correct worship but their fasting was" for strife and debate." If we enter into fasting without a desire to obey and serve God, we've missed the boat.
For a fast to be meaningful, our lives will be in conformity with God's will. "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?" Isaiah 58:6, 7. Let us each enter into the fast that God has appointed.