Why Do Christians Fast?
We are coming to the end of the month, one where with Stoptober, people are focusing on quitting smoking. The idea of quitting or giving something up got me thinking about the mindset Christians (and those of other faiths too) have to be in, to fast and why fasting became a thing in the first place. As a kid I was taught to give something up for Lent, I think at the time it was a challenge, one that I enjoyed succeeding in. Now, fully understanding the impact of the crucifixion and the link between fasting and the power of prayer, I know there is so much more to fasting that strengthens your relationship with the Lord.
What is Fasting?
Simply put, fasting means no eating for a period of time.
From a Christian perspective, you essentially give up food (or something else these days) for a period of time in order to focus your thoughts on God. While fasting, many people read the Bible, pray, worship or do all three.
In her blog, Gospel Taboo, Amanda Edmondson writes:
“Biblically, fasting is mentioned in both the Old and New Testament. In the Old Testament, it was often a way of expressing grief or a means of humbling one’s self before the Lord. In Psalm 35:13, David humbled himself with fasting. In the New Testament, it was a means to grow closer to God through mediating and focusing on Him. In Matthew 4:1-2, Jesus went to the wilderness to fast for 40 days. In Matthew 6:16-18 we learn that we aren’t to look sombre while fasting so that it’s not obvious to others when we are fasting. Throughout the New Testament fasting and prayer are often mentioned together. In Acts 13:3, ‘they had fasted and prayed.’ In Luke 2:37 a widow worshiped day and night fasting and praying.”
Following the example of Jesus and the Early Church believers, we too can draw near to God while fasting too.
What Does the Bible Say About Fasting?
Fasting as a concept is mentioned in both the Old and New Testaments over 50 times which shows the importance of it; it isn’t just something of the Old Testament that has no correlation to modern day life. Though it isn’t something that is outright asked of us by God, it is something that as Jesus’ disciples, living by His example, we should hold dear, as He did.
Why Do We Fast?
Generally the fast was to get closer to God to, hear His voice and not be distracted by worldly things like food. Often in the Bible, God’s people fasted immediately before a major victory, miracle, or answer to prayer. It prepared them for a blessing! However it shouldn’t be seen as bargaining power for God to do what we want Him to do. Instead, it should help us hear what He wants us to do, the next steps He wants us to take/how we should deal with certain situations.
You can read here the different types of fasting that exist and how they are referenced in the Bible.
For more information about Fasting, check out this podcast episode about Feasting & Fasting: My Strange Bible Podcast.
Practical Tips for Fasting
- Start slow. If you’ve never fasted before, begin with just one meal.
- Continue to drink water to stay hydrated. While some individuals in the Bible fasted from both food and water, this choice can be dangerous if you’re not experienced with fasting or haven’t consulted a medical professional.
- If you’re accustomed to drinking caffeine, don’t stop suddenly. Decrease your intake for a few days before you fast or you may suffer headaches.
- Don’t overeat before or after your fast. Eat smaller, healthier meals, including raw foods before and after.
- Tell only people that you must, but try to be considerate of others in your schedule if you fast.
- Make a firm, prayerful commitment before you begin that you can remember while you’re fasting. Your commitment to fast is between you and God, so be sure to make a sincere, wholehearted commitment.
- Consciously reflect on Scripture and your experience. Your physical response will often reveal spiritual truths – try out Listening Prayer while fasting. you never know what He may communicate with you.
Join Us In Our Habits As Church
As a church we do a Prayer and Fasting relay a couple of weeks after each school half term. This helps us focus on specific themes that God has put on our heart, or that our church family or wider community need help with.
Our next Prayer and Fasting Week will be w.c. 7th November and with the lead up to Christmas, in the current political and economic climate, we will be focusing on hope and Emmanuel (God with us).
As I shared in our last blog, God is always with us, in the good and the bad and if any of us are struggling or worrying we want to pray for and with you. We want to be strong in our faith in Him; even when we can’t understand our circumstances, He has the bigger picture, He knows what lessons He is teaching us, and He knows what blessings are just around the corner.
So if you or anyone you know is struggling at the moment, please Get In Touch with a prayer request and we will add it to our Prayer & Fasting Week. If you’d like to join us in our relay (you don’t have to give up food necessarily, it can be any distraction you might have in your day to day life, and it can be intermittent rather than a whole day), again Get in Touch and let us know, so we can put your name down.