Maybe that word takes your mind straight to the foods you’d have to give up or that “hangry” feeling you sometimes get when you’re so hungry, you’re irritable.
Yet, many churches nationwide have asked their members to start the year with prayer and fasting. Though fasting can be one of the toughest spiritual disciplines, the idea is repeatedly shown throughout the Bible, signifying its importance in the Christian walk.
So, what good can come out of not eating for a period of time?
You might think of weight loss, but that’s not the goal. Instead, fasting can actually be a wonderful spiritual experience because it enables you to focus on the Creator of the universe in an entirely different way.
Maybe you’ve never fasted or haven’t really known how to do so—or why. Here are 3 things to consider:
1. Fasting follows the actions of Jesus, and is a way of drawing near to God.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus instructs His disciples about fasting as if it’s a normal activity. Notice that He doesn’t say “if you fast,” but “when.”
But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. —Matthew 6:17-18
Let that sink in a bit. Fasting isn’t a suggestion; it’s meant to be a lifestyle. And Jesus Himself modeled that for us.
2. Fasting is a method of sacrifice, showing complete reliance on God.
Following the Holy Spirit, Jesus Himself went into the wilderness and went without food for 40 days and nights (Luke 4:2) immediately after He was baptized. There, Satan relentlessly tempted Him, but Jesus did not give in.
Although you may not be fasting for that length of time, it’s important to realize that even when our bodies are at their weakest, we can resist the devil’s temptations by depending on God. As Jesus said:
It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” —Matthew 4:4
If the One who was fully God and fully man took time to fast, how much more should we?
Fasting is a way of training your body to deny itself for the sake of something greater—knowing God and putting everything in His hands.
Yes, you may crave that fancy latte or your favorite fast food. Fasting means breaking your habits for a shift in your routine to make room for something better.
So in the tough moments when you’re hungry, pray. Ask God to help you.
The action of fasting helps you be more mindful that at the end of the day, no matter how advanced technology is or what amenities you have, you’re still a human in need of God.
“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” —Joel 2:12
3. Fasting can help you gain clarity and direction.
Have a big decision coming up and not sure what to do?
Take time to fast and pray about it. While a fast isn’t an exchange to get something from God, you by all means can use the time to pour your heart out to Him. He wants to take your cares and worries.
… Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. —1 Peter 5:7
Lay everything down before His feet. He won’t leave you empty.
That’s what Queen Esther did before putting her life on the line to make a request to the king (Esther 4:16). And that’s what Paul and Barnabas did ahead of choosing leaders in the early church (Acts 14:23).
While the world may tell you that you need this or that, fasting helps you know what’s truly important. It gives you the opportunity not just to seek God, but to hear from Him, too.
Whether you choose to fully fast or partially fast, fasting takes intentionality. Think about the timeline of when exactly you’ll be fasting and what foods you’ll be abstaining from if doing a partial fast. Consult your doctor before doing a full fast for any significant amount of time.
Either way, fasting is a choice to seek God over filling yourself with food.
Get honest with yourself—what are you craving more?