Fasting

There are several examples in Scripture of God calling His people to do a corporate fast.[1] Every time God asks His people to fast corporately, it’s for a few specific purposes. First, God calls His people to corporate fasts to have them pay closer attention to His voice through the Holy Spirit. God also calls His people to participate in corporate fasts to have them pay closer attention to the needs and hurts of the world. Another reason God calls for corporate fasts is to have His people pay attention to who they need to be in order to do God’s will in the world. Finally, God calls His people to corporate fasts to have them repent of all of the ways they have individually and corporately gone astray.[2] For all of these reasons, we are asking people who belong to Harris Creek to participate in a corporate fast for one day this week (preferably Wednesday). This is really a partial fast in that we are asking you to fast during breakfast and lunch on Wednesday, and then to break the fast by having dinner with your Life Group or others from the church.

Since evangelical Christians do not always practice the discipline of fasting, some might wonder how to fast. There are definitely some practical things you need to think through when it comes to fasting seeing that it is a discipline that affects the physical as well as the spiritual. Here are a few practical things to keep in mind before entering a fasting:

  • Do not fast from food if you are sick, pregnant (or nursing), or have other health issues like diabetes or cancer
    • Fasting is not a requirement but is a discipline God invites us to participate in when possible
    • If you cannot fast from food, you could fast from media or other “necessities”
  • If you are new to fasting, just fast for one meal instead of two
    • Fasting is a little like running in that you work to build stamina before you can do it for long periods of time
    • If you are looking to fast for a long period of time, consult others (preferably a health professional/doctor) before doing so
  • Drink plenty of water and fluids
    • Your body can handle going without food for a lot longer than it can go without water, so try to drink a lot of water during a fast
    • While you may want to stay away from protein drinks and other “filling” liquids, what is most important is fasting from things that the Spirit prompts you to fast from (don’t let this become a legalistic exercise for you)
  • Don’t break your fast with a large meal
    • This is particularly important if you’ve fasted for a long period of time, as your stomach will have shrunk and need to get acclimated to eating regular sized portions again
    • The longer the fast, the smaller the portions need to be when breaking the fast
  • Remember that fasting is not magic
    • Many times you cannot put requirements on fasting and look for an immediate “payoff”
    • This is what the people of Israel did in Isaiah 58 and it upset God
  •  Have access to Scripture during the fast
    • This will allow you to replace the time when you would normally eat with prayer and Scripture reading
  • Have access to a journal
    • Writing down your thoughts, emotions, and feelings is an important exercise during fasting
    • Journaling your prayers and what God is speaking into your life is also essential during a fast

Some questions to think about while you are fasting that you may want to discuss with your Life Group are:

  1. What can be learned or experienced in a corporate fast that may not be taken away from a personal fast?
  2. After participating in the corporate fast, do you think fasting is a discipline you will practice on a more regular basis? Why or why not?
  3. If you participated in the corporate fast, what did God speak to you through this experience? What was the biggest struggle throughout the day? What was the biggest benefit you received from participating in this corporate fast?

Finally, here are a few resources the practical advice was drawn from and are helpful places to start for anyone looking to practice fasting on a more regular basis:


[1] See 1 Samuel 7:5-6, Ezra 8:21-23, Nehemiah 9:1-3, Joel 2:15-16, Acts 13:1-3, and Acts 14:21-23 for a few examples.
[2]
Calhoun, Adele Ahlberg. Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices that Transform Us. (InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove, IL, 2005). Pg. 281.

1 thought on “Fasting”

  1. In Matthew 6, in my bible, the text between prayer and fasting are separated by subtitles, but are these really two separate stories? Why do we assume that Jesus has changed subjects. What if we read the stories without subtitles as if they were all related ? Would this change our understanding? Typically things near each other in the biblical text are related, at least to the Hebrew mind. Our Greek minds, however,
    want to break these pieces of text apart as though they aren’t connected, but are separate and unrelated. The Bible is a living book where all the pages are intertwined to create thriving wisdom relevant to all people in all times.
    Let’s start with the subtitle before the portion on fasting. This section on prayer, begins with the phrase “Do not be like the hypocrites.” In this passage, Jesus is doing something subtle that is often overlooked. In ancient times there were no billboards or commercials, so in order to promote the theatrical performances the actors, also known as hypocrites, would stand on the street corners in character and perform in order to draw an audience. Thus when Jesus refers to the hypocrites, he is comparing the behavior of the Pharisees to that of the actors from the theatre. The Pharisees, like the actors on the street corners, would stand in the synagogues praying for all to see and hear; to publicize their acts.
    Jesus also indicts the Pharisees for painting their faces, again another reference to the Greek actors or hypocrites. The large size of Greek theaters required that the actors paint their faces to better accentuate their facial features and communicate emotion more clearly with the audience. Likewise the Pharisees would disfigure their faces to show their righteousness to others. Notice the text never says the Pharisees aren’t righteous, but rather they shouldn’t seek to show others their righteousness, or to be humble in all circumstances?
    Jesus is saying prayer and fasting are more than connected; they are two pieces essential for our communion with G-d. Fasting can drive our prayers into deeper depths of thankfulness and understanding. How can one appreciate water if one has never been truly thirsty? How can one walk in the shoes of a of G-d’s children who are starving while sitting in one of a hundred restaurants in town, eating a portion that is more than they will eat in a week? We spend more money at the local coffee shop talking about how we will help with poverty than most people will make that week. So how do we fully submit to G-d? By letting go of the things we cling to for security other than him. To wait each day for our daily allotment of bread is to know what it means to be held in the hands of G-d.
    What happens when we don’t fast? When our lives do not focus on G-d through petition and prayer? We begin to place improper value on the things of this world. It seems as though the more stuff we acquire, the more value we place on it. In the words of Jesus we begin to “store up treasures on earth.” Jesus warns us about this saying “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.” Why is this? Because “where our treasure is, there are heart will be also.” Fasting helps to protect our hearts from losing focus on how we should use the treasures of the earth; not by storing them, but by giving them away in order to store up treasures in heaven. How do we lose this attachment to our stuff that our flesh creates? We fast. We let go of them for a time to be reminded by G-d that their value is only in how we use them. We are stewards of the things that belong to G-d. We do not own them, they are not ours, we are given the ability to use them in order to make sure that no one goes without.
    How are we doing?

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