I had mentioned in my sermon a couple weeks back that I’d be doing a follow up on the topic of fasting. I’m just now getting to it, but if you haven’t had a chance to listen to the sermon, feel free to listen here. Please understand this post will not answer all your questions, and ultimately may create more in you. I’m willing to share what I know, but I encourage you to look into some literature on the topic of fasting.
Speaking of literature, I want to remind you of a book that I referenced for much help on the topic of Fasting: Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster. This book is written to discuss the many spiritual discplines within the Christian faith and their benefits. It is not a book strictly on fasting, but Foster spends a whole chapter discussing the spiritual discipline of fasting. Each chapter also shares biblical support for each practice, the history of the practice, but then provides an action plan for anyone wanting to adopt the practice. I highly recommend this book.
Is Fasting Just a Food Thing?
When we read about fasting in the Bible, most of the time (if not all of the time) it is in reference to food. We must remember that one of the key aspects of fasting is to remove a normal routine of the day and replace it with God. Food tends to be a common place in our lives and it is very noticeable when it is taken out of our routine.
Fasting doesn’t mean one needs to remove food completely. Some spend a time of fasting from meat, some fast from snacking, while others fast from specific types of food and drink (chocolate and coffee). It is always important to remember this quote from Richard Foster:
“To use good things to our own ends is always the sign of false religion.” – Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline
Given our society, though, there have become many practices that we’ve adopted to be a part of our normal routine (e.g. driving, cell phones, social media, TV). These can be removed for a time from our routine and replaced with prayer, or reading the Bible and that would be considered a fast.
A quick note: Be careful not to confuse an addiction with a routine. An addiction needs to be removed from your life, while a routine you will eventually return to when the fast is over. That is one reason why food is a simple means to fast. Our bodies cannot survive without food so we must eventually return to it. All items listed above, we can live without (though I know some teenagers and adults who would argue they couldn’t live without their cell phone).
Where Do I Begin?
This is a pretty common question for those who’ve never fasted before. Much of what I will say is taken from Celebration of Discipline, so for a more comprehensive understanding check out the book above.
First, figure out why you are wanting to fast in the first place. What are you wanting God to accomplish. Do you want to overcome an addiction? Do you want to pray for healing? Do you want to pray for your child’s future? Do you simply want to know God on a deeper level? Fasting was typically proposed in dire circumstances, but was also used as means to draw nearer to God.
Second, realize your body is used to going without food. For most of us we fast everyday without realizing it. There’s a reason the first meal of the day is called Break-fast. You are breaking the fast from not eating a whole night. Our stomachs are trained to eat at certain periods of the day. Part of fasting is to remind yourself (and your rumbling tummy) that your stomach does not control you, but it is the Holy Spirit who dwells within you that you relinquish your control to.
Thirds, start small. Skip a meal, maybe lunch. Skipping lunch gives your body a time frame that it would already be used to. But remember, your intent is to seek the Lord during this time. So don’t simply skip a meal, but replace it with prayer and study of scripture. After skipping a meal try a day without food (again, replace those times with God).
A normal food fast mentioned in the Bible went anywhere from 3-7 days. If you’re going to do a full food fast, don’t jump into 7 days without having practice. It is good to build up to it. When it comes to fasting from objects or other devices, these will be easier for your body to adjust to the absence.
I am no expert on the topic of fasting, so this LifeShare post is simply scratching the surface. I hope that some of you have been inspired to at least try fasting, because in my experience it truly allows us to overcome battles and draw us nearer to God.