Since January, we’ve been participating as a community in a different spiritual discipline every month. This coming month, we are excited to engage in the discipline of fasting.

What is Fasting? 

Fasting is often considered the most feared and misunderstood of all the Spiritual Disciplines because unlike any of the other spiritual disciplines, we actually physically feel this one in our bodies. However, it can
actually be one of the most rewarding.

Historically, fasting was the practice of a believers’ voluntary abstinence from food for a spiritual purpose. This is not a diet, but rather a voluntary denying ourselves the enjoyment and fulfillment of food (or something else) in order to enjoy and be fulfilled by God.

What does Fasting have to do with the season of Lent? 

We see the practice of fasting in the life of Jesus in Matthew 4 when he spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness. This is where the tradition of Lent comes from—where for the 40 days leading up to Easter, the church fasts to free up space in our hearts and minds to focus on Jesus and prepare to celebrate his resurrection.

Lent actually begins on Wednesday, February 26th this year (which is why we decided to step into fasting this month).

Purposes in Fasting

Without a clear biblical purpose, fasting becomes an end in itself. Every hunger pang or craving only makes you calculate the time remaining until you can eat or indulge in what you’ve given up. Such thinking disconnects the experience in your mind and heart from the gospel and can descend into the deception that perhaps your suffering will earn you God’s favor. Rather, the “pangs” can serve as a continual reminder of your spiritual purpose, drawing you into communion with the Holy Spirit.

Scripture sets forth many purposes for fasting. Here are some examples:

  • to strengthen prayer
  • to seek God’s guidance
  • to express grief
  • to express repentance and return to God
  • to humble oneself before God
  • to express concern for the work of God
  • to minister to the needs of others
  • to overcome temptation and dedicate yourself to God
  • to express love and worship to God

Types of Fasts

How we fast can look pretty different for all of us. As far as length, we see a variety of examples in scripture from part of a day to a full one, to three or four day, two to three weeks, all the way to forty days.

A normal fast is abstaining from food, but still drinking water or fluids.

A partial fast is abstaining from some but not all food or some but not all beverages… For example, some may fast from eating out or from alcohol.

An absolute fast is abstaining from food and water. Before embarking on an absolute fast, we encourage you to consult your physician as this can be a health risk for some individuals.

Alternative Options

Some of us, for medical reasons, shouldn’t abstain from food. That doesn’t mean you are disqualified from the blessing of fasting. Just look for other things to abstain from like social media, Netflix, tv, etc.

Additional Resources

Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney

This is a great book that provides guidance through an array of powerful spiritual disciplines—including fasting. You can purchase it online or at the Winter Garden Campus Connect Wall.