Fasting: A Brief Introduction

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What is fasting?

Fasting is a spiritual discipline that involves purposefully going without food as a means of praying through the inevitable feeling of hunger. This ache of hunger compels us to pray that our present yearning would correspond to a deeper and spiritual hunger for Christ. In this way, we let our physical desires push us toward God in prayer expectation that Jesus would be enough for us and He alone would satisfy our deepest longings.

 

Why do Christians fast?

Christians fast because we see the instruction toward it in Scripture. In Matthew 9:14-17, Jesus suggests that while He was on earth it was inappropriate for His disciples to fast, but when He had ascended fasting would be an appropriate activity for those who yearn for Him. This aligns with the above definition and with John Piper’s helpful summary that “Christian fasting, at its root, is the hunger of a homesickness for God.”

In Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus teaches that “when you fast, do not look gloomy… but when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret.” It is interesting that Jesus uses ‘when’ and not ‘if’, expecting that fasting would be a regular discipline in the lifestyle of the Christian. In addition, Jesus challenges us to not use this activity as an opportunity for self-aggrandizement, but for secret communion with God. This alludes back to the challenges of the Old Testament prophets, particularly Isaiah 58, where God rebukes His people for false, self-centered fasting, instead of true, God-centred fasting (Is. 58:5) that results in the outworking of love toward others (Is. 58:6-12). 

In the book of Acts, the disciples joined together in corporate fasting to seek the Lord before making significant decisions, like sending Paul and Barnabas on a missionary journey (Acts 13:1-3) and committing new elders to God (Acts 14:23).

 

How are we applying this at City on a Hill?

On Sunday, 22nd February our Lead Pastor Guy Mason taught on the Beatitude “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6). In order to literally hunger after God and His righteousness, City on a Hill will together be pursuing the Lord through fasting. We are calling for all our people to purposefully fast from food after dinner on Wednesday February 26th, until dinner on Thursday February 27th. During this time we encourage you to transfer your physiological hunger into a prayerful pursuit of Christ and His righteousness, Kingdom and glory.

While the biblical model of fasting involves not eating, we advise that should your health or current circumstances (pregnancy, etc.) preclude you from missing meals, you choose something else that is close to a ‘necessity’ for you, and go without it. Use the extra time you have, and your inner yearning for that thing, to drive you to Jesus in pursuit of satisfaction in Him.

 

Further Reading:

A Hunger for God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer by John Piper
Spiritual Disciplines For The Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney
A Praying Life: Connecting with God in a Distracting World by Paul E. Miller
Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller

Author: Nick Coombs
Published: 23 Feb 2015


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