Why Every Christian Should Fast
All of us have had a nurse say, “No food or liquids after midnight.” We sigh. Good grief, “How can I manage?”
We go to bed, midnight passes, and we wake up to count the hours until the medical procedure is completed so we can eat, drink, and be merry again.
For most of us, fasting before a medical procedure or test defines our full experience of fasting.
However, fasting has long been an important spiritual discipline in the Christian faith.
Every Christian should fast.
This post is a part of a series on spiritual disciplines that define the Christian life. In previous posts, we looked at why we need to take a spiritual journey, the importance of meditation, and the critical nature of prayer.
This week, we look at fasting.
Remember, we will dig a little deeper with “Three-Minute Bible Studies” each day of this week on my Facebook page here. If you haven’t “Liked” it yet, please do so you can follow along.
Among all the spiritual disciplines, fasting may be the one with the greatest biblical presence and strongest Christian tradition that is the least practiced among Christians today.
We should not be surprised since we live in a consumer-oriented culture. We define personal and physical success by what we can acquire and consume, so fasting is counter-cultural for us.
Fasting requires denial. Denial is as foreign to most people as a snowball on a July afternoon.
Yet, some people fast for political reasons by going on a “hunger strike” until certain political or social demands are met. Others might fast for physical or health reasons.
Christians should fast for the spiritual benefits.
While there are many examples of fasting in Scripture, these texts illustrate the way fasting may spiritually impact our lives:
- Fasting in times of peril (Esther 4.16)
- Fasting for repentance (Joel 1.13-14)
- Fasting for the wrong reasons (Isaiah 58.2-7)
- Fasting to seek communion (Matthew 9.14-17)
We fast to respond to a need in our lives. Fasting heightens our awareness of our physical needs and our dependence upon God. Fasting requires denying ourselves and, in the denial, trusting God with our lives.
By setting aside the food that gives us life, we turn to God to meet our most basic needs. There is a decluttering and a cleansing of our lives. Fasting allows for focus.
Every Christian should fast because it is an essential discipline to grow in faith.
In times of special need, fasting creates a path for intimacy with God.
Anyone attempting an extended fast should consult a physician and be thoughtful when entering the fast. Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) offers a Personal Guide to Fasting and Prayer and How to Fast also offers helpful information on fasting.
Like any discipline, you should prepare yourself and begin with small goals. Work on fasting one meal, one day a week.
During that meal time, be more mindful of God’s presence in your life.
Work toward fasting for an entire day and then try multiple days. Pay attention to how your body responds and how you lean into God more fully.
Fasting helps us focus our attention on God to meet our needs. It helps us learn nothing physical meets our needs in the way God can.
For now, you have an opportunity to depend upon God more fully. Start small. Give up one meal or something else you depend upon. Lean on God when you start to miss it or need that food.
Let’s see how God works in our lives.
Have you fasted? Would you share something you learned from fasting? What do you think about fasting as a way to grow spiritually?