Fasting isn’t commanded in Scripture, but Jesus expected His followers to do it (“When you fast…” Matthew 6:16). So what is fasting and why should Christians do it?
Fasting is depriving ourselves of something (typically food or a type of food) for a certain period of time so we can focus on drawing near to God. We don’t fast to get God’s attention or to try to make Him do something. It is a way for us to deliberately choose to crucify our old self and become more in tune to God’s presence at work in our lives. But ultimately fasting is not about what we’re giving up, but where we choose to turn our attention instead. “Fasting is about cultivating a hidden and holy affection for God” (J.D. Walt).
Fasting doesn’t make sense if we don’t understand that God is good, our health is important, and God’s heart is for us to live in wholeness. Fasting temporarily denies the desires of our flesh in order to make us more whole and holy – more like Jesus. This doesn’t mean the desire to eat or drink is bad! But it is a way to deliberately put aside distractions and acknowledge that even more than food, we need to be sustained by communion with God Himself.
Please note: some people should absolutely not fast food, because it would be detrimental to their health. I know people who have a history of eating disorders, and for them, the best way to “fast” is to eat until they’re full, rather than not eating. So if going without food is not healthy for you, choose another way to fast. You might deliberately choose foods that are simple or bland during a period of fasting, or choose another medium altogether. But prayerfully consider something substantial, something that comes close to the survival relationship we have with food.
“Fasting is more than denying ourselves food. It is choosing to act out, by temporarily denying ourselves food, that we do not live by bread alone. We are completely dependent upon God, and we deliberately choose voluntary weakness. We become identifiably humble in the face of the problems with which we are dealing. …We become less clamorous in seeking our own way, and more receptive to what God may intend for us.
We must see fasting as an invitation. Scripture is full of this invitation. God invites us to fast because God wants us to desire more of God’s presence, intention, and will.” – Maxie Dunnam
If you’re new to fasting, maybe just start by fasting lunch and joining us in prayer at noon, or fast from after dinner the night before until dinner the next day, skipping breakfast and lunch.
It’s another way to expand your prayer life and experience God in a different way.
Not sure about fasting? These articles might help: