Fasting | A Prayerful Practice

Bennett Gibson helps us prepare to fast on Good Friday

spiritual-fastingHave you ever tried to fast? How hard was it to accomplish? I’ve fasted many times in my life (sometimes unsuccessfully), and I can say it’s not easy. To be honest, I can get a bithangry. But before I share more about my own experiences, let’s look at the actual spiritual practice of fasting.

What is fasting?

The dictionary defines fasting as, “to abstain from all or some kinds of food or drink, especially as a religious observance”. Through a Christian lens, whilst there are many forms of fasting in the Bible: individually and as a group, private and in public, consistent or occasional, etc., it is commonly associated with giving up food for a certain period of time for a specific purpose.

What does the Bible say about fasting?

Fasting permeates the scriptures and is often incorporated with prayer. In the Old Testament there was “the day of fasting” (Jeremiah 36:6). Moses fasted on Mount Sinai before receiving God’s law for 40 days and nights (Exodus 34:28). Prayer and fasting were also practiced during times of distress or strife.  Think of David, who fasted when he learned that Saul and Jonathan had been killed (2 Samuel 1:12).

In the New Testament, John the Baptist taught his disciples to fast (Mark 2:18). Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights before He was tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:2), and he also called his followers to fast. In Matthew 6:16-18 He says, 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.” The Book of Acts also mentions believers fasting before they made critical decisions (Acts 14:23). Frequently, fasting and prayer are often linked together (Luke 2:37; 5:33) in scripture.

Why do we Fast?

Whilst scripture does not outright command followers to spend time in fasting and prayer together, it is highly encouraged, often modeled, and is something we should be putting into practice. The purpose of fasting (in this case food), is to empty ourselves temporarily of the things give us sustenance, and in that absence, fill it with a devoted focus and attentiveness to God. Or, as Brent shared a couple of weeks ago from his sermon, it is to “give up physical nourishment in order to seek spiritual nourishment.”

Despite the difficulty in doing fasts, for me, it has always been worth it. Some have been longer than others (1-2 days at the most), but God always has something unique to teach me, and reveal more of his will for me at those specific times of my life. I am reminded of God’s presence, care, and am literally forced to be fully dependent on him in those moments when I am fasting. My prayer life has exponentially increased while fasting because I am reminded I am so weak in my own flesh, and I need God to meet me in my weakness.

As we remember Jesus’ death and resurrection this week, for those of you who will be fasting with us this Good Friday, allow God to speak into your life in those spaces you will be creating for him to further nourish your soul. Pray and meditate on God’s character, truths, and the ultimate act of love he gave us through the cross.

Meagan Dietz has prepared a Good Friday Devotional to guide us through prayer and fasting tomorrow. I hope you’ll join me in using this resource to support you through the day as we reflect on all Jesus has suffered accomplished for us.

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