Fasting can be a mysterious concept, and you may be reading this today with several questions about what fasting is, what it does, and how to go about it. Richard Foster says in his book, The Celebration of Discipline, “The central idea of fasting is the voluntary denial of an otherwise normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity.” He also goes on to describe just how many heroes of the faith fasted in the pages of Scripture:
“Abraham’s servant when he was seeking a bride for Isaac, Moses on Mt. Sinai, Hannah when she was praying for a child, David on several occasions, Elijah after his victory over Jezebel, Ezra when he was mourning over Israel’s faithlessness, Nehemiah when he was preparing the trip back to Israel, Esther when God’s people were threatened with extermination, Daniel on numerous occasions, the people of Nineveh – including the cattle (involuntarily no doubt), Jesus when he began his public ministry, Paul at the point of his conversion, the Christians at Antioch when they sent off Paul and Barnabas on their mission endeavor, Paul and others when they appointed all of the elders, and on and on it goes.”
That intense spiritual activity that Foster is referring to is most typically prayer and intercession and usually includes extended periods of time spent listening for the voice of God. The voluntary denial of normal functions can include a variety of activities. I’ve outlined a few for you:
- Food: Whether it’s a partial fast (not eating certain kinds of foods or at certain regularly scheduled times) or a complete fast (abstaining from all foods altogether), this is the most common form of fasting. A common method for a first time fast would be to go without food from sundown to sundown the next day. [Note: Make sure your body is healthy enough to do this. If you are not sure, talk to your doctor beforehand.]
- Media: Another version of fasting that can be highly effective at helping to direct our attention to the Lord is to give up all forms of media. This would include television, computers, social networking, smart phones, etc.
- Social Activities: Many people find that withdrawing for a set amount of time from interaction with people is a wonderful way to focus on their relationship with the Lord. These are often labeled as “spiritual retreats” and are just simply a time to remove yourself from normal conversation with those around you and get alone with God. This often works best if you travel to a location away from home and stay in a place where you can have solitude and quiet.
The most important part of fasting is to make sure you keep God in the center of it. It should have nothing to do with making you look spiritual and everything to do with sharpening your ears to hear God’s voice and heightening your commitment to obey what He tells you.
May God’s grace cover you, as you seek Him this week.