What is Fasting?
The spiritual practice, or discipline, of giving up something for a specific time or purpose is called fasting. Fasting is something Christians do to focus on prayer and contemplation.
When I was growing up I remember the church community that my dad pastored came together once for a group fast. We all gave up our regular family meal for a time. Instead of eating our regular dinner like we always did, we all came together and ate either plain oatmeal or plain rice. What a week that was!
It gave us all a chance to come together in one place for fellowship and camaraderie. We were all doing something together as a group that brought us closer as a community of believers.
The most common thing to fast from is food. Every time your stomach rumbles, that’s a reminder to pray. This is where we get the word, breakfast: literally to break your fast of not having eaten for the last 8 to 12 hours since your last meal. Obviously fasting while you sleep is not much of a spiritual discipline. It’s the practice of intentionally giving up or removing something from your life for a specific period of time.
The removal of a necessity like food, or something pleasurable in your life, for a season helps to focus the mind. It concentrates your spirit on the will of God. Many people fast as they wait for an answer to prayer. Some fast to overcome temptation, or to remove something unhealthy in their lives, spiritually or physically.
Many medical professionals recommend a weekly period of fasting, say from dinner to dinner, one day a week to help the body cleanse and for a healthy metabolism. So we see a spiritual discipline can have a positive benefit in the natural as well. (Of course, any extended fast should only be undertaken with the consultation of a health professional.)
Jesus fasted at the beginning of his ministry. John the Baptist and his disciples fasted. Old Testament prophets like Daniel, and leaders like King David, all fasted.
As an adult, fasting is definitely not one of my favorites. It’s not something I do often enough. But as a Christian, a follower of Jesus, and someone who calls himself a disciple, I want to be like him.
And fasting is one of the things we do as Christians to increase our faith and draw us closer to God.
What’s your experience with fasting? Please share in the comments below.