Spiritual Disciplines: Fasting

Since it is recommended that expectant mothers abstain from fasting, I haven't fasted in a while. My past experiences with fasting have always been met with mixed feelings. I understand the spiritual act very well, but it doesn't always feel spiritual in the moment. The other difficult thing is trying to avoid constant thoughts about food.

Fasting has many purposes, such as effectiveness in intercessory prayer, guidance in decisions, increased concentration, deliverance for those in bondage, physical well-being, revelations, and more. Here are a couple that I want to dig into a little deeper:

Fasting must forever center on God.

Becoming closer to God must be the reason we fast in the first place. If God is not the central focus of our fasting period, then it is all for naught.

Fasting reveals the things that control us.

This one was particularly telling for me. I often let things control me- my emotions, other people's expectations, and even my pride. It would be interesting to see my response to fasting were I to do it again some time soon. Some people see their anger rise quickly when they fast, which allows them to ask God to deal with it in that moment.

Fasting helps us keep our balance in life.

Creating the space for balance is so important. I get so distracted with the trivialities of life, and fasting is a good way for me to focus on those things that matter.

In his book, Foster talked about various types of fasts. Firstly, there is a partial fast. He recommends going from lunch to lunch, so you only skip two meals and drink only water and juice. Secondly, there is a 24-hour fast, which involves fasting for a full 24 hours (skipping three meals) and drinking only water. He suggests that the fasting muscle, like so many of the disciplines, needs to be built up and trained. Once you have become used to the 24-hour fast, he advises to move up to a 36-hour fast, and then gives practical advice for how to do a 3-7 day fast, and then up to 21 and even 40 days.

Let's look at some of the statements that stood out to me in this chapter:

Biblical fasting always centers on spiritual purposes.

This is crucial to remember, since health and fitness media most often focus on fasting for weight loss purposes. Fasting as a spiritual discipline is not the time to try to lose those final 5 pounds you can't seem to shake.

It is clear...that Christ both upheld the Discipline of fasting and anticipated that his followers would do it.

Whatever your thoughts are about fasting, Foster points out that Christ never actually commands His followers to fast. However, He does say, " 'When you fast...do this' ". He expected that his disciples would do and do it regularly. We can also see, from various examples in the Bible, that there are definite spiritual benefits to fasting.

Perhaps in our affluent society fasting involves a far larger sacrifice than the giving of money.

This one hits pretty close to home, doesn't it? For some of us, giving money can be pretty easy. In my case, $39 automatically comes out of our account every month for our sponsor child, but I don't consciously think about it. Some months that money could come in handy somewhere else, yet the sacrifice is a drop in the bucket. Fasting, however, is something we can barely stand to imagine, and thoughts like, oh-my-gosh-how-can-I-go-without-food-for-a-day?!! circle 'round and 'round in our heads. We are constantly bombarded with health magazines, fast food ads, and surrounded by so much food and drink that it almost becomes physically impossible to fast in our society. We have so much, and yet we are often unwilling to give it up for even a day to become closer to God.


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