“And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” Matthew 9:15
Fasting is the practice of abstaining from food, or both food and drink, for a specified period of time. While fasting is often practiced for physical reasons, the Christian practice of fasting as a discipline is primarily for spiritual reasons. Fasting is more about our longing for God than it is about abstaining from food. It is like an exclamation to Jesus saying, “I long for you and await your return!” It is to show the ache of our hearts that we desire Jesus above all else, even food. In the verse above Jesus likened Himself to the bridegroom. “No one mourns while the bridegroom is present,” Jesus said, which is why His disciples did not fast while He was physically here on earth. But when the bridegroom leaves they fast in anticipation of His return. Though fasting is never directly mandated in the New Testament, it appears that Jesus assumed fasting would be practiced by His disciples after He ascended back to the Father, where He now lives.(1)
Fasting has a unique way of turning our eyes on God. Dallas Willard says, “Fasting confirms our utter dependence upon God by finding in him a source of sustenance beyond food.” This is why fasting can be very significant when combined with intense or extended periods of prayer. Fasting is one of the best ways to practice the self-denial that Jesus expected of His followers – “Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)
Jesus spoke on fasting in Matthew 6:16-18 saying, “When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Tips For Practicing Fasting
- You might begin to explore fasting by skipping a meal and dedicating the time and money saved to God in some way.
- A typical fast may last 24 hours without food. Many people like to use juice and water. It is often convenient to fast after breakfast until breakfast the next day.
- If you have some experience in fasting, you might consider trying a fast for several days or more. The purpose should not be the length of time, but what you desire God to do in your life during the time.
- If you have any physical or medical issues, be sure to consult your doctor before fasting. It is usually helpful to do some reading and research as well about the potential effects fasting will have on your body. A good rule of thumb is to start small and increase the amount of time with experience. Also, listen for God’s prompting regarding if and when to fast.
- In addition to food, you might want to expand this discipline into other areas of life. Some examples of other kinds of fasts might be television, shopping, exercise, etc. Spend some time thinking through anything in your life that you might have become too dependent on. This is fair game for the discipline of fasting.
Resources On Fasting
Rightnow Media* - 2 Holy Habits Channel
• Fasting: The Key To Spiritual Victory by Tony Evans
• Summer Classics Health (Fasting) by Kerry Shook
Fasting Resources by desiringgod.com (Link Here)
A Hunger For God by John Piper (Buy Here)
Fasting by Jentezen Franklin (Buy Here)
(1)© 2006 Michael Bischof, SOULeader Resources. All rights reserved.