Why Fast?

from the devotional book, "The Road to Resurrection"


Fasting is a powerful spiritual discipline. For over a thousand years, the Lenten season has been observed by followers of Christ as an intentional fast. Historically, believers would do some sort of fast for the entire forty-six days. Over time, fasting became a less popular practice and the church began fasting only meats (but not fish), and eventually only practicing the fast on Fridays during Lent.

I believe it is time to revive fasting. By deemphasizing fasting we have robbed ourselves of one of our most powerful spiritual weapons. But what is fasting and why do we do it?

First, I want to cover what fasting is not.

Fasting is not a way to get more from God. We do not fast to get; we fast to give. Through fasting we give more of ourselves, our natural desires, and our emotional baggage over to God. We fast in order to draw away from the distractions of the world around us and draw close to Him.

Fasting is not a way to manipulate God. Fasting does not make God more or less inclined to answer our prayers. It does not increase your chances of receiving a miracle. Fasting is not a spiritual deposit guaranteeing a tangible return on investment. It is not strong-arming God into doing what we want. When we fast, we are not bending God to do our will. Instead we are bending ourselves to do His will.

Fasting is not easy. I am skeptical whenever anyone says something like, “I love to fast,” or “Fasting is so easy to me.” I always think, “She’s either lying or she’s sneaking cheeseburgers.” Denying our flesh is never easy and crucifying the flesh is painful but that is partly the point. In fasting, we learn to identify with the sufferings of our Lord who “for the joy set before Him endured the cross.”
When our season of fasting gets difficult we do not give up. Instead, we must choose to run further and deeper into God’s presence and God’s word to sustain us. We know that true life does not come by bread alone but by the words God speaks and the breath of life He gives.

Biblical fasting is abstaining from food (or some foods) for one or more meals and dedicating oneself to prayer and communion with God. It is saying “no” to the flesh so that we can build up our spiritual strength.

We fast to give more of ourselves over to God. When we are faithful in fasting, we find access to a deeper relationship with Him, greater intimacy with His Spirit, and a heightened sensitivity to His voice. If you feel a distance and numbness in your spiritual life, consider fasting for a period. Take that time to disconnect from the world and reconnect with God.

For Lent, we are asking our church to commit to two short term fasts in preparation for the Easter season. First, we will fast between Ash Wednesday through the following Friday. Second, we will begin a fast after observing communion at our Good Friday Service and ending when we come together to celebrate the resurrection on Easter Sunday.

In addition to these shorter corporate, fasts I want to encourage you to pick one day a week during Lent as a fast day. For example, maybe on the six Thursdays of Lent you choose to abstain from food and utilize the time you would normally spend on preparing and eating meals in prayer and reading your Bible.

It is also completely acceptable to choose something to “give up” for Lent. Maybe you choose to give up sweets or processed sugars for Lent. My one caution would be to not simply treat “giving something up” as a fun six-week challenge, but to truly make it a spiritual fast and sacrifice unto the Lord.

Types of Fasting:

Full Fast

Fasting all foods and only drinking water.

Liquids-Only Fast

Fasting all solid foods and only drinking healthy, low calorie beverages. Some people choose to also include low-calorie, no sugar-added blended fruit/vegetable drinks or smoothies (including tomato juice or other similar juice blends).

The Daniel Fast

A popular way to fast these days is based on the diet of the prophet Daniel and others during the Babylonian exile (see Daniel chapters 1 and 10). There are various interpretations of this kind of fast and which foods are acceptable to eat. A simple explanation is to fast from all meats, sweets, and breads. There are multiple resources online to help you put together a plan for this kind of fast.

Fast a Meal

This is a great way to start if you have never fasted before. Simply choose a regular mealtime to abstain from food and spend that time in prayer and Bible reading instead. It is a great idea to fast a meal every week (not just during Lent, but all year) and give that time to the Lord.

Fast a Day

This is another great starting point. Simply choose a day of the week to abstain from food and dedicate your day to time seeking the Lord. Pray about making this a regular practice, apart from Lent, in your life as a believer.

Media Fast

While truly biblical fasting involves abstaining from food, a media fast can still be a great spiritual discipline. It is clear in the 21st century that screen addiction has captivated nearly every age group. Entertainment, the 24-hour news cycle, social media, and smartphones represent some of the greatest distractions that pull believers away from focusing on Christ. Consider finding ways to fast some or all media sources during this Lenten season.

Abstaining from food may not be healthy for everyone (diabetics, pregnant women, etc.). Consult your doctor and get the best medical advice under your circumstances.