Spiritual Disciplines – Fasting

Matthew 6:17-18 But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face; so that you are not seen by men to be fasting, but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.

Many churches and individuals begin the new year by fasting and praying for spiritual renewal and awakening.  Fasting is a wonderful discipline and it’s sometimes misunderstood.  It’s important to understand what fasting is and what it’s not.

Spiritual fasting is not a diet, or at least that’s not the main purpose.  One may lose weight on a fast from all food or become healthier on something like a Daniel fast, but the purpose is connection with God.  Even if the reason behind your prayer and fasting is related to health and healing, make the spiritual communion with God the primary focus of your fast.

A fast is not something to be done in order to look spiritual or to get attention.  Jesus warned about pride in association with fasting and public prayer.  Don’t fast for the attention it may bring.  There is no reward for fasting with selfish motives.  If possible, don’t make an issue of the fact that you’re fasting.

A fast is sacrificial.  Not all fasts call you to give up all food.  Some don’t even deal with food, but rather abstinence from activities like TV watching or a break from any contact with sources of news.  All fasts require some sort of sacrifice.  Remember when it gets hard that it’s not meant to be comfortable.  In our hardship, we are drawn closer to God.

A fast is personal.  Even if you’re fasting as a group, you should be connecting with God personally during this time.  If someone else decides that they can’t go on with the fast, continue on.  Don’t judge them for their personal decision, but don’t allow their change of plans to excuse you from your connection with God.

A fast is planned.  It’s not recommended that you jump into a fast without laying out a purpose, and end date, preparing your body, and praying.  Give yourself some time to plan your fast. Some people even like to consult with their doctor before starting.

Fasting is effective.  Various passages in God’s Word point out the power that is in fasting and prayer.  However, it should be noted that fasting does not guarantee answered prayer. (2 Samuel 12)

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  • Isaiah 58 says that the purpose of fasting is not to impress God, but to share our food with the hungry, to help what Jesus called “the least of these.” “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
    to loose the chains of injustice
    and untie the cords of the yoke,
    to set the oppressed free
    and break every yoke?
    7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
    and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
    when you see the naked, to clothe them,
    and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (Isaiah 58:6,7)

    An excellent book on this topic is Fast Living by Dr. Scott C. Todd. (http://dld.bz/aeRkW) If we fast and pray, and follow what Isaiah 58 says, we can change the plight of those who suffer in extreme poverty. Here’s a link to the Facebook page for the book: https://www.facebook.com/live58 Fasting doesn’t just change us, it has potential to change the world!