The Pharisees utilized fasting as an outward display of piety. It is always in the habit of the Pharisees to be noticed whenever they are fasting. Their daily lives were inconsistent with their religious beliefs. They were spiritually barren and full of all kinds of wickedness and depravity, paying little attention to their spiritual wellbeing. Nonetheless, they fasted and prayed for long periods in public so that anyone who saw them would think they were highly pious and devout.
Jesus despised the hypocritical fasts and rebuked the ones who fasted in that manner. This is evident in Matthew 6:16 “Moreover 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.” Fasting in this manner is spiritually useless. Jesus made it known that individuals who behave likewise had already received their reward. They were only interested in the honor and applause of men, not in the honor that comes only from God. The Bible teaches in John5:44 “How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” When His followers fasted, Jesus instructed them to seem as if they were not fasting, but their fast should only be known unto God. Their prize in Heaven would therefore be enormous.
Isaiah also chastised the Children of Israel’s reliance on just outward forms of religion. He demonstrated that they were more concerned with external acts than internal ones. So they fasted and pretended to pray, but they continued in their sinful ways. And when they didn’t get a response, they were frustrated; the Scripture made it clear that “Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.” Isaiah 58:3. God defined Fasting in Isaiah58:5-7 “Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Wilt thou call this a fast and an acceptable day to the Lord? 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?” This is evident that if we also do likewise, He will give answers to our prayers.