The first time I remember fasting was as a teenager doing an event called the 30 Hour Famine- now this wasn’t “real” fasting as we’ll see, but it was my first experience and exposure to the concept. I remember going through the day without food and gathering after school for a lock-in. By the time we were done fasting 30 Hours later, I thought I could eat a horse- and evidently I tried as I felt as sick as could be after eating. Most of the time, when we hear of fasting in our culture, it comes from having to get lab work done or fasting before a medical procedure. But fasting is long held- and biblical discipline that ordinary people of thousands of years have practiced to encounter the presence of God.
Fasting is abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. Fasting is always centered upon God. In the Old Testament, people fasted out of obedience to God, as a sign of repentance, because they’ve experienced great sorrow, or they fast praying for God to intervene. Fasting is both a corporate and individual practice. Fasting is a private or inward practice where we abstain from food in order to center our lives on God and to express our repentance for our sins, to express our sorrow, and our hope that God would intervene in our lives.
I believe that fasting is a powerful discipline or habit to develop when it is accompanied by prayer and study and centered upon God because in this practice- we discover that it is not food, or technology, or ourselves that sustains us- but we are sustained by God. Fasting reveals that we cannot deal with the things that control us (sin, anger, lust, bitterness, hatred, etc.) on our own. We must cry out to God to intervene in our lives.
Why do we fast? It’s really the same answer as with why we study or pray: We fast seeking God to intervene in our lives and to change us from the inside out. We fast because we recognize our sin and our need for grace. We fast because we want to go to the places to encounter the divine presence of God and for God to transform us through God’s love. We fast because we have a longing for God and we know that when we encounter the presence, power, and love of God we will never be the same!
What do you think of when you hear about “fasting?” How might your spiritual life be different if you had a habit of fasting/prayer/study where you regularly encountered the presence of God?