Below you’ll find some helpful information about Fasting. Of course we’re always happy to answer any questions. Just Contact Us.
Fasting is abstaining from food and possibly from fluids for spiritual purposes. A fast can be from one meal or for as long as forty days. All major religions have practiced fasting throughout history. Fasting has also been used as a means of political protest and for health reasons. Hundreds of websites tout the health benefits of fasting.
In conventional religious practice, fasting is seen as a way of gaining favor with a deity. But Christian fasting is different―it earns us nothing! Through the death and resurrection of Christ, all the blessings of heaven are given to believers by God’s grace.
The problem for the modern Christian is not any shortage of God’s gifts, but rather distraction. We may become so enamored with God’s gifts that we forget the Giver. Christian fasting is the practice of laying aside some of the gifts of God in order to focus attention on the Giver.
John Piper writes: “The question is not of earning or meriting or coercing anything from God. The question is: having tasted the goodness of God in the gospel, how can I maximize my enjoyment of him, when every moment of my life I am tempted to make a god out of his good gifts?” (A Hunger for God, page 62).
Fasting is abstaining from physical food in favor of spiritual food. Food is good, but God is better. Fasting is a way to seek more contentment in Christ than in food.
In addition to seeking God, fasting is also practiced for seeking guidance. Christian missionary work began when the church at Antioch was fasting and praying and God directed them to send Barnabas and Saul to Asia (Acts 13). Many Christians today report a greater sense of God’s leading in times of fasting and focused prayer. Also, it is normal to fast at any time of intense spiritual need. Prior to any especially challenging situation, fasting can provide solid spiritual strength.
Jesus’ Example and Teaching
Jesus prepared for His public ministry by forty days of fasting. Anticipating one of His most intense temptations from the Devil, Jesus sought the strength to face it by fasting.
Also, Jesus taught His disciples how to fast: “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men 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.” Matthew 6:16-18 (NIV)
His instructions made it clear that His disciples should not be fasting to impress people, but because of their relationship with God. Throughout history, Christians have followed Jesus’ teaching and practiced fasting as a spiritual discipline.
Consider Fasting from Media
Fasting from media while fasting from food can multiply the effects of the fast. The reason for a fast of any kind is to withdraw from distractions to focus on God. Americans may be the most overstimulated culture in history. We give constant attention to this world. Fasting from media can minimize distractions and free up time for Bible reading and prayer.
The more media ignored during a fast, the greater the attention available for God. Some obvious possibilities include: TV, movies, games, music, and social networking. Every believer is free to choose a pattern of fasting that is personally valuable―there are no “one size fits all” rules. Do what helps you give your best attention to the Lord.
Dangers of Fasting
As with any effort to do the will of God, fasting has dangers―most obviously pride. Like church attendance, tithing, or any other disciplined activity, Satan will try to use fasting to convince us of our self-righteousness.
It is also a temptation to judge others who don’t fast, or who don’t fast as long, or who don’t deny themselves as many things.
Legalism is another trap. As soon as rule-making begins about whether juice is okay or water only, or what media are excluded, the joy and power of the Spirit will be lost. Let each person seek God’s leading, and let each enjoy the presence of the Lord!
Make Fasting Valuable
Skipping meals has no benefit in itself―many people do that just because they are busy. The benefit comes in freeing up time for additional prayer and Bible reading.
Start by replacing the time that would have been spent eating with prayer and Bible reading. Challenge yourself to read longer passages of Scripture than you might usually. Or spend a mealtime memorizing and pondering a verse of Scripture.
If the fast also includes media, reinvest whatever time would have been spent watching TV, etc. in seeking God. Any other time that can be freed from the normal daily routine for additional Bible study and prayer will add value to the time of fasting.
Determine the purpose of the fast. Is it to seek God, to seek direction, or to pray for others?
Determine the nature of the fast. Is this a fast from certain types of food or from all food? Is it also a media fast?
Determine the length of the fast. Is it one day? Two meals or three? Is it longer? (For fasts longer than three days, please read the supplemental material recommended at the end of this brochure and consult a doctor if there are any medical questions.)
Plan your fast. Set the time specifically. Clear your schedule.
Guard against distractions. There is so much potential power in seeking God in this way that Satan will do whatever necessary to derail your plan.
Don’t call attention to your fasting. A simple “I’m skipping lunch today” will be an adequate explanation for most situations.
Stay focused on the Lord. If your fasting leaves you irritable with family and coworkers, it will not honor God.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t get immediate results. In a culture of self-gratification, it will take a little effort to make fasting effective– but it is more than worth it.
For Further Reading:
A Hunger for God, John Piper
God’s Chosen Fast, Arthur Wallis
Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster (Chapter 4)
“If you don’t feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because you have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because you have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Your soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great. God did not create you for this. There is an appetite for God. And it can be awakened. I invite you to turn from the dulling effects of food and the dangers of idolatry, and to say with some simple fast: ‘This much, O God, I want you’.” John Piper, A Hunger for God (page 23)