Fasting - The Easily Forgotten Spiritual Discipline
Fasting is not easy, but according to the words of Jesus, it may be more necessary than we think! Most Christians, myself included, tend to sideline or forget about fasting very easily because it does not come naturally. We either find it very difficult or we have a wrong or limited understanding of its importance.
Many of us may have questions about fasting but are afraid to ask because it might be seen as less spiritual if we are behind on our understanding of what it means to fast. We hope this article will help anyone who is in this position.
What is fasting, really?
Fasting is abstaining from satisfying physical appetites, e.g. solid food, liquids or marital relations, for the sake of prayer and seeking God.
Fasting is not dieting or going on hunger strike for the sake of maintaining tradition. The main aim is to pray and seek intimate communion with God. Fasting must be accompanied by prayer for it to be fulfilling and pleasing to God.
Why should I fast?
We fast because it is encouraged in the Bible. Jesus Himself taught and practised it. In Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus regards fasting as a given in a believer’s life by referring to it as “when you fast,” rather than “if you fast.” In Matthew 4 and Luke 4 we see Jesus practising fasting as an example for us to follow. We see how Jesus modelled fasting as a means to a greater awareness of God, how He dealt with the incessant attacks of Satan through temptation by using the Word and how He came out stronger spiritually from fasting. We would do well to see that fasting helps us immensely in hungering for God and His purposes for us.
Is fasting a “must”, or just a “nice-to-have?”
Fasting should be a lifestyle for Christians. It should be practised regularly as a spiritual discipline with prayer and Bible reading to help us grow in our relationship with God.
Is it something that I should do privately or should I participate in fasting with others as well?
The Bible gives us examples of both. Jesus practised it privately, while we see examples of groups of people fasting together in Ezra 8, 2 Chronicles 20 and Acts 13 amongst others. So we recommend to fast both privately and corporately with other Christians.
Where do I start?
It is often best to start small, doing your best to ensure that your motive is pure in that you desire to seek God.
The Bible gives us at least three types of fasts:
- Normal fasting (no solid food only liquids)
- Partial fasting (no meat, delicacies, marital relations, lotions etc.)
- Absolute fasting (no food or water). Absolute fasts are the exception. They must only be undertaken if there is a clear command from God and for no more than three days, for health reasons.
Start small – but do start! You can then move progressively to the more challenging fasts and see how beneficial it is.
A good time for those who attend Northpoint to start would be for our fast from 5 to 7 February 2024. I encourage you to join us and participate as we trust God more of Him for ourselves, our families, our church, our city, our country and the nations of the world.
On 5 February we will encourage families to pray in their homes.
On 6 February, the men will meet at Northpoint at 18h30 to pray together.
On 7 February everyone is invited to join us in prayer at Northpoint as we break the fast together.
Don’t miss this vital time. Participate and trust for your relationship with God to grow.
If you have any questions please speak to one of the elders or contact us via the website and we’ll do our best to help you get this wonderful discipline going regularly in your life.