Read Matthew 6:1-18
Fasting. Have you ever tried it?
It is one of three spiritual practices or disciplines mentioned by Jesus in this passage. Most Jesus-followers I know practice the praying and giving but I seldom hear of someone fasting. Now, I suppose that could be good. After all, people may just be heeding Christ’s instruction here by fasting “in secret.” Perhaps they are doing it without drawing much hoopla attention to themselves. Such an approach is commendable and will receive eternal reward!
Still, something tells me that fasting is a bit of a dying spiritual discipline. After all, we have been taught to indulge, and the idea of refraining (from food or anything for that matter) seems somewhat foreign and outdated unless we are preparing for a surgery or a blood draw. In the Bible, however, we discover that some of the characters we respect most fasted. To name a few, you can read about Ezra (Ezr. 8:21-23), Nehemiah (Neh. 1:4), Daniel (Dan. 10:1-21), and even Jesus (Matt. 4:1-11) fasting. For those who have never considered fasting, it would be wise for us to define it and then consider its merits.
The spiritual discipline of fasting is the intentional abstinence from food, drink, or a specific activity for a time and for a spiritual purpose. If it is a fast from food and drink, it does not have to exclude all food and drink (Daniel 10:3). It can also be applied to activities beyond eating and drinking. (Daniel talks about not “anointing himself” for three weeks in Daniel 10:3. Paul seems to point to another type of “fasting” in the context of marriage in 1 Corinthians 7:1-5.) More recently, I have heard of people going on a “media fast,” where they set aside the distractions of technology.
Why might you consider fasting? I am running out of space, but let me encourage you to take a look at the work of Dr. Kent D. Berghuis on this topic by clicking here: https://bible.org/seriespage/appendix-2-fasting-scripture. He summarizes why people throughout the Scriptures fasted:
- As a sign of sorrow (1 Sam. 1:7, 8)
- As a sign of repentance and seeking forgiveness (1 Sam. 7:6)
- As an aid to prayer (Ezr. 8:21-23)
- As part of experiencing God’s presence (Ex. 34:28)
- As an act of ceremonial public worship (Esth. 9:31)
- In relationship to ministry (Acts 13:2, 3)
Enhance your spiritual journey by planning a fast. However, don’t announce it from the rooftop.