This post is part of a series on Spiritual Disciplines. To see the introduction to this series, click here.
“I have food to eat of which you do not know...My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work” John 4:32, 34
Imagine being able to feast on the food Jesus speaks of in that passage above. Imagine a hunger for the work and will of God that sustains us while accomplishing what we are called to. Most of us seek, pray, and hope for that type of dedication. But how do we get there? How do we transform our days from the litany of duties, struggle, and leisure into a life of work, dedication, and rest in Him?
The spiritual discipline of fasting is perhaps the most overlooked and least understood of the disciplines. However, fasting is a remarkable thing when we have the right motivation and heart. This post will look at what the Bible says about fasting and how we can implement the practice in our lives.
Fasting is found throughout the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments. For an exhaustive list of verses on fasting, take a look at our resource section below. We will focus primarily on Jesus’ teaching on fasting found in the Sermon on the Mount.
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16-18
This verse tells us a lot about fasting. Even its placement tells us how we should approach the discipline. For context, read the entire Sermon on the Mount and notice what else Jesus is discussing before and after this section on fasting. You’ll find that the context for fasting is the same as the context he teaches on prayer and giving (two other disciplines we will explore in this series).
Fast From the Past
Most agree that prayer and giving are regular parts of the Christian faith. So how did fasting get cast into the shadowy corner of Christian practice? Looking back through the centuries, fasting was subjected to some of the strictest regulations. This meant fasting went from a discipline that earnestly sought spiritual growth to one that was works-based and even punitive. However, we can see in Jesus’ teachings that fasting is meant to be a personal and private matter between an individual and God. Biblical fasting provides the opportunity to follow the lead of many Spiritual Fathers of our faith (including Jesus himself). As Richard Foster observed, “...we have as much, if not more, evidence from the Bible for fasting as we have for giving.”
If you’ve ever felt that your worth was derived from your success in fasting, or that the results should be measured tangibly; pray that your mind will be transformed and your heart refreshed in a way that reflects what the Bible says about this discipline.
Ingredients for Fasting
Let’s discuss four ingredients to keep in mind as you fast in a way that is both Biblical and, we believe, helpful.
As we briefly discussed, you need to identify what your motive for fasting is. There are many reasons to fast, but the first one must always be God. When we get that one right, we can look at secondary reasons. Fasting shows what is in our hearts. We are humbled when we see the things living inside us come to the surface during a time of fasting. This can help us turn our focus back to God instead of focusing on ourselves.
Corporate fasts often focus on a particular answer or help we need from Heaven. There is Biblical precedence for this and many congregations have found profound spiritual growth as they fast and pray together. Utilizing a Church App is one way to get your congregation prepared and motivated for a corporate fast. Keep your eyes on Jesus during the fast, and remember the greatest benefits are happening in the spirit even when we see physical or tangible results.
2. Baby Steps
If you are new to fasting, it’s wise to start small. Begin with a 24 hour fast from lunch to lunch. Once you have repeated that a few times, you can move on to a full 24 hours fast and then longer (as you feel led by God). Always check with your doctor, especially if you have medical conditions that could make fasting dangerous for you.
You may be tempted to gorge yourself the day before a fast. Resist the temptation as this will make it even more difficult. Taper off your caffeine intake a couple of days before your fast and have smaller meals mostly of fruits and vegetables. If you are newer to fasting or you have a job that demands your full capacity at all times, have broth or fruit juice available so you can remain alert while fasting.
4. Pray & Worship Privately
During times you would typically be eating, pray to God, study the Bible, and engage in worship. Fasting isn’t done for you to suffer or feel uncomfortable for a few days. Fasting allows us to “feast on the word of God.” Like the scripture in Matthew tells us, fasting should be kept private so we do not receive attention from others for what we are doing.
Fasting is a spiritual discipline that can deeply impact our lives and our walk with God. We hope you feel equipped and inspired to either grow in this discipline or even try it for the first time. For more information and resources on fasting, take a look at our resource library below.
“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” Romans 14:17
Are you looking for more practical tools that will help your church grow spiritually? Tithe.ly All Access equips churches to do just that and so much more. We would love to talk to you about how we can help you on your mission.
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H3 What’s a Rich Text element?
H4 What’s a Rich Text element?
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The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.
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A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. For static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. For dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. Voila!
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