(Beginning) Thoughts on Fasting

There’s a chance that I will be speaking to a group of young (in the faith) Christians this summer about intimacy with God. The material that I’ll be using lists fasting as one of the ways we can nurture intimacy with God. As I read through this section of the material, I was deeply frustrated and disappointed with the misapplication of Scriptures to support various statements about fasting and as a result, I’ve been reading and thinking about the subject for the past several days.

Fasting is not something that Western, Protestant/Evangelical Christians as a whole do either well or often. Consequently, coming from neighborhood of Christianity, I don’t know much about the practice. I can only think of one time that I fasted for a spiritual purpose (incidentally, without receiving the desired result). Obviously, I’m not exactly qualified to speak about it, but I have begun to develop some more nuanced thoughts on the subject.

Previously, my lone thought on fasting was that it’s not required. That’s it. Since it’s not required of Christians, it’s not worthy of further consideration. That was before. Now, I still think that fasting is not required of Christians but it’s definitely worth much further consideration. (Funny how having to teach on the subject has been the catalyst for my further consideration of fasting.)  For example, why bother fasting if it’s not required? What are the benefits of fasting? What are acceptable and unacceptable ways to fast? And finally, with regards to the material that I may be presenting in July; does fasting really nurture intimacy with God?

These are the questions that I’m in the process of answering for myself. At the moment, my answers are not fully formed. I can say with confidence that fasting with proper motives and attitude coupled with prayer nurtures intimacy with God. Not because God is enamored with fasting. It’s not something that God finds more or less desirable in comparison to the other activities which also nurture intimacy with Him. Fasting simply is one of many ways we may choose (or not) to draw near to God. And like every imperfect act motivated by love for God and desire to please Him, God responds graciously according to His wisdom.

I’m not planning on taking up fasting any time soon…but I might.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “(Beginning) Thoughts on Fasting

  1. Patrick

    Very timely blog. I just finished a fast, my second one in about 30 years. My first fast was with my youth group and I had no idea what I was doing. LIke you, over the years I too became aware that fasting is not required despite many churches insinuating that it was. Therefore I didn’t get involved when leaders recently called for a church wide Daniel fast for direction the church was to go. So many around me were caught up in the do’s and don’ts of a daniel fast…rules, regulations, method…the Law. Yuck. My view was “If the church needs direction why not just ask the Lord then listen to his answer?”

    But this time I approached it differently as I sensed in my spirit, the Lord saying “Why not give it a try this time”. I prayed “Lord, I don’t really see the significance or reason to follow an old testament custom, but I know you told your disciples once that certain situations can only be resolved with prayer and fasting. I guess there is a reason to fast that I am not clear on. So, Lord, I am not going to focus this fast on a specific topic or expectation. Please show me what you want me to focus on otherwise I probably won’t get involved this time either”. Almost immediately I was impressed with the Lord saying “Just rest in me and focus on me. That’s all I want you to do”.

    After a week I wasn’t sure if anything came of it, except my deep desire for bacon. But seriously, it took two more weeks for a revelation. The Lord began showing me areas in my life I was not aware of, where I was deeply self centered and defensive. This self centeredness had begun to create a “critical” spirit in me when faced with certain situations. The Lord wanted me to see this. I had no idea this was the cause of my criticalness.

    Today, His lovingkindness has brought me to a repentant and thankful heart for showing me this. His grace and mercy is evident in my life even more. So the moral of my story is, fasting is a wonderful way to draw near to the Lord. Let go of expectations and methods. Those trivial things are mere distraction. He will speak what He wants to speak if we will but listen. This isn’t a new law. This is the beauty of God’s heart revealed to His beloved in a special way. Draw near to Him and he will draw near to you.

  2. Patrick

    Hi, just to clarify on the only scripture that sparked my second look at fasting: Mat 17:21, Mark 9:29. Jesus is talking with some of his disciples about why they were not able to cast a demon out of a boy. The disciples were concerned because they were regularly casting out demons and healing people. But this one they could not. Jesus said to them in Matt 17:20 “Because of your unbelief…”. This spoke to me deeply and caused me to consider what the Lord was trying to tell me. We all have areas of unbelief deep down inside that we may not be aware of. For me, fasting was a way to uncover an area of unbelief that was masked with self centeredness and defensiveness. leading to some unnecessary critical posturing with fellow christians. My position wasn’t wrong….just the wrong defensive reaction.

    Also, although fasting this time resulted in a wonderfully unexpected “deep clean” from deeply rooted insecurity, so to speak, we are not required to fast in order to draw near to the Lord or to be healed. And I am not sure about the next call to fasting. But because of this hidden “unbelief”, modus operandi, there were blockages in my relationship that were not just revealed, but healed.

    • amtog

      Patrick, why do you think that fasting is what revealed this unbelief/insecurity of yours?

      The reason I ask is because fasting in the Bible so frequently is joined with prayer. I’m wondering if you prayed and if prayer might actually have been the process that lead to your experience.

      • Patrick

        Great question. Prayer is absolutely part of fasting – sorry I did not clarify earlier. Prayer is just an essential part of the Christian life. Could prayer alone have revealed this? Certainly it could have. Maybe it did before. But for me this came as a result of fasting and prayer. Coincidence? Maybe. I see this as “faith in things unseen”. I cannot point definitively to fasting as the result of this. But I cannot say it was not either. The only scripture I can point to is the one in Matt 17:20 – even if it may not be totally clear why Jesus identified “unbelief” as a reason to fast. And unbelief in my own heart was revealed. I don’t understand why just praying didn’t clarify this. On the other hand, I don’t believe fasting “moved” God’s hand in this instance either – as if He was not speaking and revealing before. Rather, due to fasting I think my body, heart, mind, spirit was ready to hear Him more clearly. I fasted in faith….and the result was this for me. I have been a Christian for over 40 years. The Lord has done many wonderful things without fasting. I didn’t expect anything to come of this. I am sorry I am unable to explain it more clearly. Oh, in addition….if someone does decide to fast and pray, it should really be done in private, between a believer and God, not advertised for all to see. That’s what I did.

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