The Spiritual Discipline of Fasting

Hello, all.  Happy Tuesday!

Last night Jason and I were trying to decide on a movie.  A bunch of our friends had gone to theaters to see “Noah,” but returned with terrible reviews.  We’re a little intrigued by the trailer, wondering how the movie interpreted the Biblical story of Noah…  I’m sure they had to add a ton of extra stuff to make it a Hollywood film, but everyone said that they were no where close to hitting the mark.  We were advised that if we wanted to go see it, to go in with purely entertainment purposes and zero expectation of Biblical accuracy.

Have any of you guys seen it yet?  What did you think?

(If you’re interested in reading the Biblical account of the life of Noah, you can find it here in the book of Genesis).

noah cartoon

 

FOOD

So, this morning I started a three-day fast.  If you’re not familiar with fasting or have never done it before, I definitely recommend that you look into it.  It’s a spiritual discipline that I’ve never practiced in my Christian walk before, and didn’t give it much thought until I came across the book Fasting by Jentezen Franklin.  Although I felt it had some heavy hints towards a prosperity gospel, it pointed out some key things regarding fasting that I had never noticed before:

  • If Jesus was able to accomplish his ministry on earth without fasting, why did he do it? 

I had always read that Jesus fasted, but didn’t take the time to reflect on how that might apply to me.  Jesus, who was perfect, observed several fasts, the most notable probably being his 40-day fast in the desert.  If Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, practiced fasting, then maybe I should learn more about doing it, too.

  • Jesus refers to fasting in Matthew 6 the same way he refers to tithing and praying.

Most Christians understand giving and praying to be important spiritual practices while walking with and growing in God, but few observe the practice of fasting.  The way that Jesus spoke of fasting –similar to how he spoke of giving and praying– implies that fasting is as regular a spiritual practice as the other two, yet that wasn’t true in my life at all.

  • Fasting is modeled by other followers of God all through-out the Bible.

With these new thoughts of fasting in the back of my mind, accounts of fasting started jumping out at me all over the place during my readings!  For example, when re-reading the story of Esther, I noticed that before her courageous act of approaching the king, she asks her uncle Malachi to fast and pray for her, along with all the Israelites in the land.  This evidences several things, the most notable being her belief in the power of fasting and praying.  Why would she ask the Israelites to participate in a corporate fast if she didn’t think fasting was worth anything?  (Other Biblical accounts of fasting can be read about here).

  • Fasting is a discipline of which God may use to grow, teach, and bless His children through. 

Just like praying and giving is a way for us to practice our faith and trust in God, fasting is a way of depending on our Creator in a new and intimate way.  God doesn’t need us to fast –just as he doesn’t need our tithes or prayers– but it’s a way for us to grow in him and give him glory.

fasting

My Experience with Fasting

After studying these things, I decided that I wanted to introduce the practice of fasting to my spiritual life.  I had fasted a few times before, the longest of which was 30 hours, with the understanding that fasting can clear your mind and prepare your heart for an attitude of listening to God and discerning his desire and will for your life.  (One such fast was when Jason had asked me to enter a romantic relationship with him, and I wanted to make absolutely sure that this was what God wanted of us, not just what I wanted).

But now that my understanding of spiritual fasting was broadening, I tried my first fast in October of 2013.

I had read about the Daniel fast and felt the Spirit tugging on my heart to give up the sweets.  For 40 days.

Oh. My.

At first my thoughts were:  “Psshh, that should be easy.”  But the more I thought about it, the more I started to almost panic.  Seriously, my heart rate quickened as I started prayer-journaling my commitment to surrender sweets to God.  It was a literal struggle, I did not want to write the words down!

Now, I’m not a person that’s quick to attribute things to spiritual warfare or evil spirits, but I’m quite convinced that this particular struggle was a very real spiritual one.  The enemy desperately did not want me to surrender something that I hadn’t realized was such an idol in my life, because he knew that sweet foods was a stronghold he had on my life.  And I had no idea!

The 40 days had proved difficult, but fruitful in growing me spiritually and physically.  Something strange happens when you deny your flesh what it craves.  You learn an art of discipline, and it inevitably spills into other areas of your life.  I followed up the Daniel fast with my first 3-day fast, and that art of discipline grew stronger.  I found myself less irritable and short-tempered with Jason.  I had more patience with things and people, which translated into more kindness, love and gentleness.  Things that used to really bother me or stress me out seemed less devastating in light of not eating food.  I was shocked at how much I learned to rely on God as my daily bread and a need that surpasses nutrition.

You can read more about fasting in the more comprehensive resources I mentioned above, but this is what God has taught me so far during my personal experience fasting.  I’ll be keeping you updated as I enter day #2 of my current fast!

IMG_20140111_183933_869

 

QUESTION OF THE DAY

Have you ever fasted before?  If so, from what did you fast, (food, sweets, Facebook, etc.), and for how long?

 

*A note: Consult a physician before engaging in the practice of fasting.  You may or may not have a medical condition that prevents you from fasting safely. 

 

 

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5 responses to “The Spiritual Discipline of Fasting

    • Ack, thanks for the link! 9 out 10 people have advised us the same! We settled on renting Gravity instead, which was a great film. As for the movie theater, we saw God’s Not Dead with the youth group last week and enjoyed that one, too!

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