The goal of all Spiritual Disciplines is abiding intimacy with God resulting in abundant life, growing maturity, and effective purpose. Fasting is no exception. Although there are a number of modern ways fasting is talked about, its original meaning is abstaining from food for religious or spiritual purposes.
During this 2023 Lenten season we are focusing in on God bringing Heaven to Earth – starting in Eden, continuing through Jesus’ ministry, and culminating one day in His ultimate return. We’ll be focusing on this through a variety of ways, one of those being through fasting. Peter instructs us to set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus. As we fast together, let us pray with our bodies, training our hearts, to look forward to Jesus’ return as He brings heaven fully to bear on this planet.
Throughout the Scriptures, men and women fasted for various reasons. Both individual and corporate fasts are recorded in the Bible. Fasting is a way of praying with your body. It’s a means to starve the flesh and feed the soul. It’s a method to remind yourself that humans weren’t created to live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Communities reoriented themselves toward God through fasting corporately. It’s a way they lamented the brokenness sin has caused in this world. They cried out to God together through group fasts.
Jesus fasted to strengthen His soul in preparation to go to battle with the enemy. While He critiqued the heart motivation behind the self-glorifying way the Pharisees fasted, Jesus assumed that His followers would continue to fast after He ascended into heaven. Early Christian communities fasted twice a week in response to what they understood the Scriptures taught about fasting.
All this to say that fasting is a beautiful method given to us by God and demonstrated by Jesus to draw near to His heart in our physical bodies.
In this Lenten season, we are inviting each of us to fast together in some form every Thursday.
We recognize that many of us struggle to have a healthy relationship with food, so we want to encourage each of us to approach this opportunity with wisdom. Our suggestion is to have conversations with wise, godly people you’re connected to before you commit to this. It may be prudent for some people to consult their doctor or therapist before deciding how to participate.
One of the most practical side effects of fasting is the addition of new hunger reminders.
If you determine that abstaining from food isn’t wise or healthy for you, we encourage you to participate in an alternative way. Choose something else that you turn toward to get life or joy and consider abstaining from that on Thursdays. Perhaps you shop beyond your needs because it gives you a positive rush. Maybe you turn to sugary foods or caffeine to sustain you when you’re dragging. It could be that social media is how you find validation when you’re down. Or perhaps there’s something else you can give up for a day that will create space to reorient your heart toward Jesus. Invite your Jesus-loving community into this decision.