What is Fasting?
Abstaining from food and drink in order to focus on prayer and God’s will. By disrupting your normal activities, this allows you to focus more time in prayer and more mental focus on God, serving to sharpen your spiritual sensitivities. (Our expression before God is both helpless and hopeful in the gospel. All spiritual disciplines serve to strengthen our humility and confidence in God.)
Fasting (as a means of grace) desensitizes you to the things of this world in order to sensitize you to the things of the Spirit. We fast in this life because we believe in the life to come. The focus should be on longing for closeness with God and living in his eternal kingdom. As you physically feel weak and hungry you are reminded of your dependence upon God alone. Practicing spiritual disciplines does not make us more loved by God but helps us experience God’s love in experiential ways. In addition to fasting, other Spiritual Disciplines include: Meditation, Study, Worship, Sabbath Keeping, Solitude, Service and Simplicity.
David Mathis: “Fasting, done as a grace discipline sharpens our affections for God.” Donald Whitney: “Fasting can be an expression of finding our greatest pleasure and enjoyment in life from God. Matthew Henry: “fasting serves to put an edge upon devout affections.”
Scriptural Reasons for Fasting
- Strengthening prayer (Ezra 8:32; Joel 2:13; Acts 13:3)
- Seeking God’s guidance (Judg. 20:26; Acts 14:23)
- Expressing grief (1 Sam. 31:13; 2 Sam. 1: 11-12)
- Seeking deliverance or protection (2 Chron. 20: 3-4; Ezra 8: 21-23)
- Expressing repentance and returning to God (1 Sam. 7:6 ; Jonah 3: 5-8)
- Humbling oneself before God (1 Kings 21: 27-29; Ps. 35: 13)
- Expressing concern for the work of God (Neh. 1: 3-4; Dan. 9:3)
- Ministering to the needs of others (Is. 58: 3-7_
- Overcoming temptation / dedicating yourself to God (Matt. 4: 1-11)
- Expressing love and worship (Luke 2:37)
- Start Small. Start with giving up one meal a week for several weeks. Then try two meals and work your way to fasting for a full day.
- Plan what you will do with this time. Set aside something to read and pray through or give extra time to intercede and journal.
- Consider how this will impact others and be considerate of family, friends and work associates.
- Fast from something other than food to free up more time for focused prayer and meditation. For example, consider spending an evening in prayer and the study of God’s word rather than watching entertainment or spending extensive time on social media.
- Be discreet. This should be something done in private with very little discussion about this to others unless it is an accountability partner, family member or spiritual mentor.
- Please check with a health care professional if you have a medical condition that would not allow you to skip meals.
“You are what you Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit,” by James K. A. Smith
“Habits of Grace,” by David Mathis
“Sacred Rhythms,” by Ruth Haley Barton