The Spiritual Discipline of Fasting

Delve into the transformative practice of fasting with 'The Spiritual Discipline of Fasting,' based on Matthew 6:16-18. This insightful article sheds light on the true purpose and approach to fasting, as taught by Jesus, emphasizing its role in deepening prayer, self-discipline, and spiritual reflection. Learn how to embark on this meaningful journey with the right intentions, discover the varied forms fasting can take, and understand the inner attitudes essential for a fruitful fasting experience. A must-read for anyone seeking to enhance their spiritual life through this time-honored discipline.


2 min read


Fasting, a practice as ancient as it is profound, holds a significant place in many spiritual traditions. In Matthew 6:16-18, Jesus provides guidance on fasting, emphasizing its purpose and the attitude one should maintain: "When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do... But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." This passage not only endorses fasting as a spiritual discipline but also sets a framework for its practice. This article delves into the role of fasting in spiritual growth and how it can be practiced effectively.

Understanding Matthew 6:16-18

In these verses, Jesus addresses the tendency to use fasting as a means of appearing outwardly pious. He redirects the focus to the inner spiritual benefits of fasting, emphasizing sincerity and a personal connection with God.

The Purpose of Fasting

Fasting serves several spiritual purposes:

- Deepening Prayer: It can intensify prayer efforts and bring clarity to spiritual seeking.

- Self-Discipline: Fasting aids in mastering bodily desires and focusing on spiritual matters.

- Reflection and Repentance: It provides an opportunity for self-reflection and repentance.

Fasting in Different Spiritual Traditions

While this article focuses on Christian fasting, it's notable that fasting is a practice observed in many religious traditions, each with its unique approach and significance.

How to Practice Fasting

1. Setting Intentions: Begin with clear intentions about why you are fasting. Is it for spiritual growth, seeking guidance, or repentance?

2. Choosing Your Fast: Decide on the type of fast you will undertake. This could be abstaining from all food, certain foods, or other activities.

3. Being Mindful of Health: Ensure that your fast does not harm your health. Consult with a healthcare provider if necessary.

4. Combining Prayer and Meditation: Use the time you would typically spend on meals for prayer, meditation, or reading spiritual texts.

The Inner Attitude of Fasting

- Humility: Approach fasting with humility, not as a display of spirituality but as a sincere effort to grow closer to the divine.

- Focus on the Spiritual: Keep your thoughts and actions during the fast aligned with your spiritual goals.

- Discretion: Follow Jesus’ advice to keep your fasting private and personal, a matter between you and God.

Challenges and Misconceptions

- Fasting is not a tool for manipulation: It’s important not to view fasting as a way to manipulate God into granting wishes.

- Physical vs. Spiritual Focus: The focus should remain on spiritual benefits, not just physical aspects like weight loss.


"The Spiritual Discipline of Fasting," as illuminated in Matthew 6:16-18, is a journey of deepening one's spiritual connection, self-discipline, and introspection. This practice, when approached with the right heart and mind, can significantly enhance one's spiritual life, leading to greater clarity, humility, and a closer relationship with the divine.