Fasting: A Spiritual Discipline

Psalm 42:1-3

“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When shall I come and appear before my God? My tears have been my food day and night, while they continually say to me, “Where is your God?””

Last month, I had the honor and privilege to spend a little time with our leadership college students. Every week they have a class of sorts where they get up to date on the weeks ahead, have a devotion and then a teaching on that week’s topic. I was asked to come teach a little bit on the spiritual discipline of fasting.

If you’ve ever tried it before, it is very possible that you’ve failed before. I remember when I was 18 and my church asked the entire congregation to participate in a fast, which was great! However, my friends that I was hanging out with at the time were all about at the same level of spiritual maturity as the rest. We complained of hunger together, about how hard it was together, and then we ate the brownies my Mom made… together. We didn’t do well, but I certainly learned a lot about myself in that experience.

The very description of fasting being a spiritual discipline reveals that it isn’t necessarily going to be that easy to pick up and go with. It takes focus, work, and practice in repetition to develop it as a strong discipline in your life.

My purpose in sharing this with you is because it is something important we as believers should do but not something all of us do very often or perhaps very well, but don’t let that stop you from moving forward with it!

There are a lot of examples of fasts with different purposes that I would highly encourage you to read up on (Samuel leading the people to fast and pray, trusting in God when the Philistines are coming to attack, Daniel fasting everything but vegetables and water, Ezra fasting when he needed wisdom from God on how to get the Israelites home after the Babylonian captivity had ended).

This quote helps summarize well what I think is of great importance in understanding when we ask the question what is fasting and why should we do it?

“Fasting confirms our utter dependence upon God by finding in him a source of sustenance beyond food. Through it, we learn by experience that God’s word to us is a life substance, that it is not food (“bread”) alone that gives life, but also the words that proceed from the mouth of God. We learn that we too have meat to eat that the world does not know about. Fasting unto our Lord is therefore feasting—feasting on him and doing his will.” (The Spirit of Disciplines, Dallas Willard, p. 166)

Fasting is feasting. It is simple but dangerous to over-simplify life to merely being filled lungs and a beating heart. Our lives are completely dependent upon God alone.

Matthew 4:4

-        But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’

I pray that God speaks to you regarding this. Maybe you’ve been fasting regularly for a life time, maybe you’re just getting started, or somewhere in between the two. Wherever you stand currently, I encourage and challenge you to thirst for God, to hunger for Him where you recognize your need for God is greater than any other thing that you can try and fill your life, heart, mind, or stomach with. The reality is this: We need Jesus and I am so glad He is there for you and I.