Fasting is a spiritual discipline where one abstains from food in order to allow the physical pains of hunger to serve as a reminder of the spiritual hunger we should encounter when the spiritual disciplines of our lives fall absent. This time of abstaining from food is then used to spend time in prayer, meditation, and reflection of the Scriptures.
Fasting should be a regular rhythm of a Christian’s life, meaning it should be a habit one is mindful of and planning for in their monthly rhythms. Sadly, this spiritual discipline has fallen out of habit in the American church, which is odd being we are one of the most well-fed countries on earth. Food for thought.
One might also fast from other things in life such as media (TV, social platforms, etc) or specific food items like chocolate or other comfort foods. I have a hard time considering this fasting as one is not giving up something that is essential to life. You will definitely feel the physical pains of going without your meals in a given day, while you will probably not feel any pain giving up Twitter or Facebook but rather, find delight that you escaped gossip and drama for a day. I would recommend that while you are fasting that you turn off those other distractions so that the full benefit of your fast becomes reality.
No matter what you choose to fast, make a plan on paper, describing what you are going to fast and how you will keep to this spiritual discipline.
For instance, Harbor Church is about to enter into our annual “Week of Fasting and Prayer” that we set aside at the beginning of each new year in order to quiet our minds and allow our souls to be tuned by God as we begin to think through our goals and actions in the year ahead. I will be making every effort to fast from all food and only drinking water and tea from Monday through Friday. During my regular meal times (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) I will be using that time to pray and reflect on specific Scripture reading. I am choosing the Psalms this year as they are very helpful to spur various aspects of prayer. My goal is to read through all of the Psalms during this week and allow my soul to be encouraged by Jesus as he prepares my mind and heart for the year ahead.
Last year, I came down with a horrible sickness leading into our fast and had to amend my plans as my body needed food in order to heal itself. I share this to encourage you to be disciplined in your planning and execution of your fasting but also to remember that God isn’t judging your faithfulness on the excellence of your fasting. Praise God he judges us according to the life and death of Jesus Christ. Fasting is for your benefit, to take specific time to grow your relationship and vibrancy with Jesus. Don’t make it a religious work. Allow it to be a spiritual blessing.
Have you ever participated in fasting? How long was your fast and what did your fast entail? What were the spiritual takeaways from your time of fasting and reflection?