By Philip Nation
We eat. In fact, we eat a lot. It’s why the biblical practice of fasting seems like such an interruption. But, understood as a spiritual discipline, it’s a beautiful gift.
Fasting is the spiritual discipline of altering your diet or eliminating food and/or drink for a season in order to spend intensive time in prayer for a biblical purpose. Like all spiritual disciplines, it’s done in response to God’s grace and not to somehow win over His affections.
The growl of our stomach, cry of our taste buds, odor of food, and whetting of our appetite remind us to live for God and not for physical pleasure. By fasting, we express our love for Him and faith that we can utterly rely on God’s goodness.
Fasting is a spiritual act that requires a level of willpower we’re not accustomed to exerting. It will not come easy. Your body will rebel against your willpower and reveal what controls you. By engaging this discipline, it shows our reliance upon tasty foods for pleasure. Where generosity hits at our reliance and intercession hits at our time, fasting hits at our happiness.
As I stated earlier, fasting is a spiritual discipline. If you’re fasting to lose weight, then you’re just on a bad diet. Fasting to go along with a spiritual season is just the moralistic attempt to make God like you more.
Fasting must be done with our spiritual relationship to Christ in mind. We engage this difficult activity because we want kingdom priorities in our lives. We want to trust God more than our body’s cries for satisfaction. It is a spiritual enterprise.
In fasting, you are choosing to alter your diet or eliminate food and/or drink for a period of time. I’m a bit of a stickler on this point. The biblical idea of fasting relates to food; not television, social media, or other activities you’re trying to discipline in your life.
All of those things need moderating but it’s not fasting. Only when you deny food and drink to your body are you truly engaging fasting at a biblical level.
As you fast, spend time in prayer. Without prayer, you’re just going to be hungry without deepening your faith. Fasting is a time to gain a greater desire for Christ. The reason we engage in spiritual disciplines like fasting is to express our love to God and show our dependency upon Him.
So, we don’t eliminate food or certain meals to increase our willpower. Rather, the time we usually spend on consuming food is redirected to savoring God’s presence. Personally, when I fast, my intention is to spend the time necessary for preparation, eating, and clean up as time devoted to prayer.
Fasting must be done for biblical purposes. The Bible holds numerous reasons for fasting such as seeking God’s help in the face of tragedy, temptation, confession, or decision-making. We don’t gain additional favor with God because we physically deny ourselves the salads or the desserts we love. Rather, we sit in His presence and seek His power for the purposes of His kingdom.
God uses fasting to bring your will into alignment with Him and His mission. With fasting, we willingly forgo what fuels our body in order to connect with the one who saves our soul. As you consider entering a season of fasting, do so with joy and confidence because God desires for you to know Him more intimately and experience His Spirit more powerfully.
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