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The Discipline of Fasting

I’ve been a Christian for awhile now, and I’ve grown up learning how to read the Bible, memorize verses, pray, give offerings, serve, and use my gifts for God’s glory. But fasting has often seemed like an optional spiritual discipline. Occasionally I would fast because of some event or maybe for a big decision. And when I went to a Lutheran College, I learned more about long-term fasting for Lent and that it doesn’t always have to be food that we give up. It could be giving up certain forms of entertainment or things that distract you from God.

But more recently my church spent a whole year reviewing each of the spiritual disciplines, including fasting, and for some reason it just clicked that I should be practicing it more often. I mean it’s a discipline, so shouldn’t I be practicing it consistently? My older brother has been a great example of fasting to me. He’s chosen to fast from food one day a week for the past several years. And I thought I’d try it his way. It definitely seemed more intentional to plan to do it once a week and more like a real spiritual discipline. So I decided that every Wednesday or Thursday, depending on which day worked better for me that week, I would try to fast.

Some days were harder than others. Sometimes I was driving all over town, or doing more manual work, and other days I was mostly on my computer, working from home. Some days I almost forgot I was fasting, others I was very hungry. Some days I ended my fast early, because of an unexpected opportunity to eat with others. But I’ve managed to be consistent, even through the holidays, to fast each week. And I’ve noticed something pretty cool that I want to share.

Instead of dreading the day I can’t eat, I look forward to it. It’s something I enjoy now because I’ve found it’s easier to follow God and keep a good attitude when I’m fasting. All those little things that happen in a day, that inconvenience me or prevent me from doing what I want, don’t seem as important when I’m fasting and relying on God’s strength. It’s easier to switch my perspective when I’m fasting and see the problems I face as opportunities to bless others and glorify God, instead of merely hassles that I have to get through. And I’m more at peace on those days, more aware of God’s presence with me and His strength sustaining me.

I won’t say every fasting day was great, or that I don’t look forward to when the fast ends at suppertime and I can finally eat with my family. But I’m starting to see some of the spiritual fruit that comes from obeying God in the discipline of fasting. So I thought I’d share my experience in case anyone out there is thinking about fasting more regularly. God really has our best interest in mind when He gives us instructions, and just like the other spiritual disciplines, fasting has helped me grow closer to God.

So if you would like to join me in fasting today, or this coming week, I hope this post encourages you to give it a try and see what God does. But whether you do or don’t, I hope you have a great week.


Why Fast?

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I used my free time during Spring Break to catch up on some things and get some writing in, but it’s been hard for me to think of a good topic to blog about. But during Spring Break, my church decided to take a day to fast and pray for persecuted Christians around the world. Through the process, I’ve found that several people didn’t know what the point of fasting was, or had never done it before. So I thought I’d share my experience with fasting.

Bananas, Fruits, Food, Grocery Store, Supermarket

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When I was younger, I didn’t really fast either. Sometimes my parents did, but I didn’t think it was necessary to being a Christian, and sometimes it even felt like only the ‘really good’ Christian’s fasted. It wasn’t for everyone. Anyway, this changed when I went to college. I attended a Lutheran University and fasting was more of a normal thing in that environment. They practiced Lent, the giving up of something specific for 40 days (From Ash Wednesday to Easter) and I decided to join in and give up something too. Once I think I gave up french fries, another time I gave up Hulu. Anyway I got more used to the idea and practice of fasting. We also had something called Thirty Hour Famine, where we would not eat food for about 30 hours. It was supposed to help us be aware of others around the world who were hungry.

So as I got out of the college life and moved on to young adulthood, I still would fast occasionally. Sometimes it was because I was trying to make a big decision and wanted to be focused on God as I made it. Other times it was because I really cared about someone who was struggling, so I would fast and pray for them. I also fasted several times in order to break a bad habit or cycle. I’d notice that some activity or thing (like dessert) I enjoyed was becoming an obsession, so I would fast from it for a day to break the craving.

Well when my church fasted this past week, they gave everyone a good description for why we should fast. “The primary purpose of fasting is to express a deep longing of our soul for the presence of Jesus in a particular aspect of life. Jesus taught this in Matthew 9:15 where he answered a question about why his disciples were not fasting in his presence. Jesus said ‘Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is take away from them, and then they will fast.’ His point was that when he was with them they did not need to fast but when he was gone they would fast as an expression of their longing for his presence.”

I think it’s important to remember why we do something like fasting. It can be easy to do any of the Christian Disciplines with the wrong motive. Fasting is not about proving you’re a good Christian, or better than those who don’t fast. It’s not about giving up something, just for the sake of giving it up. It shouldn’t be done just because it’s a tradition, or because it’s what everyone else is doing. We should fast, because we long for Jesus’s presence. And as we fast, our hunger should point us back to Him.

I’ve found that when I fast, hunger pains can be a good reminder for me to pray. In addition, because I don’t have to cook, clean dishes, or spend time eating, I have a lot more time during the day to do things like pray or read the Bible. Fasting can be very beneficial to our walk with Jesus, and it’s helped me personally.

Even though fasting may seem hard to you, I’d like to encourage you to give it a try. It really isn’t that bad. True you’ll feel hungry, but that goes away eventually. And even if you can’t give up food for health reasons, you could try fasting from something else that takes up your time, like watching TV or playing video games.

But if you do fast from food, take it slow. Maybe try a 12 hour fast or 24 hour fast to start out with and drink plenty of water. But most of all, remember that why you fast is most important. Spend time with Jesus during your fast and let Him fill you up.