I had a moment of insight a few days ago with a friend of mine that was and is going through some hard times. He was telling me about a fast he was engaged in and several experiences where he had run his mouth in a manner that had caused a great deal of contention and conflict.
I couldn’t believe that he would say such things and then act somewhat surprised when people retaliated against him. I told my friend that “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1) I then asked my friend if he knew what the word “fast” meant in Hebrew and he said that he did not. The word is tsuwm, and it means “to cover over (the mouth).” (Strongs)
When you fast your mouth is “covered” in the sense that you are restricting what comes into you such as food and water. If we consider fasting in light of simply covering your mouth, you’ll notice that you cannot speak with a covered mouth. This made me wonder if the principle of fasting which prevents food and water from coming into us also serves to prevent certain things from coming out of us. I thought of the words of James:
“So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. … With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.” (James 3:5-6,8-10 NASB)
What if fasting is part of the key to taming the natural man and becoming a saint?
The idea of controlling what comes in and out of us led me to consider how often fasting and prayer are mentioned together in scripture. While fasting, we cover our mouths temporarily to food and water, opening them only to pray and bless. Furthermore, to get the most out of fasting, we may want to focus on what else comes out of us such as contention, anger, bitterness, sarcasm, etc. There is probably a lot more here to study and look into.