Fasting is a powerful and ancient spiritual practice that holds great significance in the Christian faith. It is a discipline that involves voluntarily abstaining from food for a specified period, with the primary purpose of drawing closer to God, seeking His guidance, and gaining spiritual insight. Recently, the elders of White Oak Christian Church spent six weeks over the summer learning about fasting as well as fasting one day per week. Through that time, the group gained knowledge and understanding as it relates to fasting and would encourage others to use it as a means to grow closer to God.
Here are some ways to better understand the value of fasting as we strive to have full life in Jesus as well as some practical guidance on how to get started.
Understanding the Value of Fasting
1. A Means of Self-Denial:
Fasting is a practice of self-denial, and it helps us break free from the grip of worldly desires. It reminds us that our physical needs are subordinate to our spiritual needs. Just as Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights in the wilderness (Matthew 4:2), we can use fasting as a way to strengthen our self-discipline and reliance on God.
"Fasting is, first and foremost, a way of denying ourselves in order to encounter God more fully." –Dallas Willard
2. A Tool for Prayer:
Fasting can enhance our prayer life. When we fast, we set aside time that would typically be spent eating to seek God through prayer and to focus on His Word. It provides a focused opportunity to present our concerns, seek guidance, and intercede for others. Fasting intensifies our communication with God, making our prayers more heartfelt and earnest.
3. A Path to Spiritual Clarity:
Many find that fasting helps clear their minds and spirits. When our bodies are not preoccupied with digestion, we can more effectively tune in to God's voice and discern His will. Fasting allows us to hear God more clearly, receive divine revelations, and gain insight into our lives and circumstances.
4. A Way to Express Repentance:
In times of repentance and mourning, fasting can be a powerful expression of our sorrow and desire for forgiveness. It demonstrates our willingness to humble ourselves before God and seek His mercy and restoration. The Bible often associates fasting with repentance, highlighting its significance in the process of turning back to God (Joel 2:12-13).
Getting Started with Fasting
1. Seek Guidance:
Before starting a fast, it's essential to seek guidance and wisdom from a trusted fellow believer that has experience with fasting. They can provide valuable insights, help you set realistic goals, and offer support throughout your fasting journey. WOCC's elders are a great resource for this kind of support.
2. Start Slowly:
If you're new to fasting, consider beginning with a partial fast, such as skipping one meal a day or fasting for a set number of hours. Gradually increase the duration and intensity of your fast as you become more comfortable with the practice.
3. Choose Your Focus:
Determine the purpose of your fast. Are you seeking spiritual clarity, praying for a specific need, or repenting of sins? Having a clear focus will give your fast purpose and direction.
4. Prepare Physically:
Before starting a fast, prepare your body by hydrating well and eating balanced meals. Also, be aware of any medical conditions or medications that may affect your ability to fast, and consult with a healthcare professional if necessary.
5. Stay in Prayer and Scripture:
During your fast, spend time in prayer and reading the Bible. Meditate on relevant passages that inspire and guide you. Keep a journal to record your thoughts, prayers, and any insights you receive.
6. Break the Fast Wisely:
When ending your fast, do so gradually and with care. Start with a light meal to ease your digestive system back into normal eating. Use this time to reflect on your fasting experience and the insights gained.
Fasting is a valuable spiritual discipline that can deepen your relationship with God and provide clarity and direction. It is a practice rooted in self-denial, prayer, and seeking God's guidance. By understanding the value of fasting and following practical steps, you can embark on a meaningful fasting journey that enriches your faith and draws them closer to God.