As we quiet our hearts during Lent, we’ll hear from the women of our church on their practice of spiritual disciplines. Every believer is on a transformational journey to grow in our relationship with the Father and become more like Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit. Our own efforts cannot accomplish this, but we do get to participate in the process. Even though the Bible doesn’t lay out a concise list of spiritual disciplines, the life of Jesus is our powerful example. The spiritual disciplines can usually be organized into two categories: abstinence (giving something up) and action. As we look forward to Easter, let’s see how we can pause certain parts of our lives in order to pursue Christ. Check out our previous posts on Contemplation and Stewardship.
As I try to prepare my heart for the weeks leading into the death and resurrection of Jesus, I have so much hope for the journey ahead. One spiritual discipline that I am looking forward to is fasting. Yes, I know it can be difficult to do, but the times I’ve fasted were some of the most special times I’ve had with God. And there are many different things we can give up to grow closer to Jesus. There are also other ways of fasting besides not eating food, especially if you have dietary restrictions. I’ve given up social media before as well. I really want to step into all He has for me this Easter. I don’t want to just check the boxes in my head of baskets, bunnies, cute dresses, and a one-hour church service.
Jesus says in Matthew 6:16-18, “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.” We can see in verse sixteen that Jesus says, “when you fast.” He doesn’t say “if” you fast. We also see that He speaks against fasting just to be seen by others.
So, what is our purpose in fasting? According to the Holman Bible Illustrated Dictionary, “fasting is to be done with the object of seeking to know God in a deeper experience.” Allaboutprayer.org says “the purpose of fasting should be to take your eyes off the things of this world to focus completely on God.” 1 The times I’ve given up food or things in order to seek God more purposefully changed me. Devoting that time during fasting to prayer and reading His Word shifts my focus from physical to spiritual. It allows me to fix my gaze upon the One who sees and knows us, the One who loves us despite our desperate attempts to fill ourselves outside of Him. Yes, I’ve turned to chocolate and shopping one too many times! It tastes and feels good in the moment but does nothing for my spiritual well being.
What is it lately that is getting in the way of our time with God? What are we trying to fill ourselves up with instead of Him? Maybe those are some things to consider fasting in our lives.
He wants to fill us to overflowing! But how can we allow Him to if we are always preoccupied with worldly things? Fasting has allowed me to spend more time in prayer for the things that matter, for other people, and things I need to change. The first time I did a fast, without any food, was amazing. The Lord helped take away my physical hunger, which completely surprised me! It wasn’t easy, but easier with God’s help. God is enough, He always provides, and He delights in us spending time with Him. His blessings are abundant and He does not disappoint. Time spent with Him is never wasted. I’ve also heard someone say that He’s not like a vending machine, and we don’t fast because we think we are going to get something right away that we want. If He wants to answer us right then, He will, though His ways are higher than ours.
Isaiah 58:3-7 says, ‘We have fasted before you!’ they say. ‘Why aren’t you impressed? We have been very hard on ourselves, and you don’t even notice it!’ “I will tell you why!” I respond. It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves. Even while you fast, you keep oppressing your workers. What good is fasting when you keep on fighting and quarreling? This kind of fasting will never get you anywhere with me. You humble yourselves by going through the motions of penance, bowing your heads like reeds bending in the wind. You dress in burlap and cover yourself with ashes. Is this what you call fasting? Do you really think this will please the Lord? “No, this is the kind of fasting I want: Free those who are wrongly imprisoned; lighten the burden of those who work for you. Let the oppressed go free, and remove the chains that bind people. Share your food with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless. Give clothes to those who need them, and do not hide from relatives who need your help.” Does our fasting please God or ourselves?
Jesus fasted in the wilderness for forty days and endured all the temptations. Luke 4:3-4 says, “And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’” Jesus used the written Word of God to show us how to resist temptation! We can do it!
There is so much more to say about fasting, different kinds of fasts, and numerous scriptures on fasting. It’s a personal matter of the heart between us and the Lord. He wants all of our hearts, not just bits and pieces. He delights in us, rejoices in us, and is waiting for us to come to Him. Devoting more personal time to Him through fasting will change us from the inside out. He’ll show us things we need to confess and ways to be more like Him.
Lord, thank you that you’ve shown us your ways and your truth in your Word. Help us to have hearts on fire for you. Thank you for not giving up on us. Amen.
1 “Daniel Fast.” AllAboutPrayer.org, www.allaboutprayer.org/daniel-fast.htm.