Why do we fast as Christians?
Why should you fast? We fast as Christians because it helps grow in the ways that Jesus said we should as his followers. Jesus fasted himself and told us there would come a time when we would need to fast. When we fast, it teaches us humility, our real weakness, and the need for an outside source of strength. Giving up food, individual activities, and adjusted schedules help us develop self-control. This helps us become more like Jesus, and we see things through his eyes.
I remember once getting ready for a “spiritual fast” thinking, “this will be easy.” I was only a few hours into my self-denial when I was tempted with some food items. Then my stomach began to grumble. I had forgotten the painful struggle of fasting. My parents are in their 80’s now and still practice fasting at least one day a week. They pray for a nation, the church, and family if not also for some person they are working. My dad said recently, “it’s not easy, but it is what we do to clarify our motives before God.” When we fast, we remind our selfish selves that we want God’s ways above our own.
“Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.” —Jesus, Matthew 6:16
Why do some Christians not fast?
I have found lots of Christians who were never taught to fast or how to fast and pray. That is unfortunate because it is a great way to grow your faith in God’s ways. When you plant seeds, you expect growth. Fasting is one of those faith seeds that grows into something that strengthens and adds life. Jesus said the mustard seed grows so that the birds may take shelter (See Luke 13:18-19). The goal of Christians is not to just receive salvation and heaven but a faith that strengths us for life in the world today. If Jesus needed to fast to launch and accomplish God’s purposes and expected us to fast as followers, we need to give it some time and energy.
I recently ran onto this short video about fasting from Southern Seminary. “What is the purpose of fasting? Is God more likely to answer your prayer if you fast?” Dr. Donald Whitney answers in Honest Answers. Watch Here. I believe this 7 min. Video is an excellent start for those who want to learn more about fasting.
The first step in fasting is to determine you will fast. The second is to assess your “God purpose” in fasting and prayer? “God, I need direction in my career or a relationship.” Look for a biblical way of prayer and add fasting to that spiritual cause. The third is to choose what you will deny yourself and for how long. You can give up doing laundry, but I don’t recommend that as a means of self-denial. Jesus clearly did not want us to draw attention to ourselves. The purpose of fasting is to focus your heart and mind on God and remove our very human tendency to rely on our wisdom, power, and strength. It means my prayer is more than words and impacts my body, soul, and spirit. Fasting brings me to my end and refreshes my heart for God.
Join me in starting this new decade with a fast.