I’m not sure how you feel when you hear the words “Spiritual Disciplines”? It can sound a bit hard core and demanding. I like the way Wesley describes Spiritual Disciplines as “Means of Grace”. God has so much grace available to us. Grace to forgive, heal, give peace, bring freedom and purpose etc. Things like Bible reading, prayer, worship, solitude and simplicity are the means by which we can receive God’s grace. We can’t earn God’s grace but we can position ourselves to receive it more readily. Fasting is one of these “Means of Grace”.
1. What is fasting?
It is NOT Asceticism (treating our body badly because it is “sinful and dirty”) or Hunger strike (twisting God’s arm to add extra pressure to our prayers) We abstain from physical food because we know that we desperately need spiritual sustenance. Fasting is abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. It’s like a physical prayer.
2. Examples of Biblical fasting include
Moses, David, Elijah, Ninevites, Esther, Daniel, Anna, Paul & Jesus (Further reading Esther 4v16, Acts 9v9, Deut 9v9, 1 Kings 19v8 Dan 1v15, 10v3, 1Cor 7v 5)
3. Jesus’ Teaching
Jesus never insisted that his disciples fast BUT...
Matt 6: 16 ‘When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
“When you fast” not “if”
Matt 9: 14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, ‘How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?’ 15 Jesus answered, ‘How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.
“...then they will fast” (Feast when Jesus is present, fast when He’s absent)
4. Fasting brings “reward”
As with all spiritual discipline they have a “reward”. This could include a closer relationship with God, an increased sense of His presence, breakthrough in healing, etc (further reading Isaiah 58v1-11, Judges 20, Mark 9: 29, Daniel 9, Acts 13: 2, 1Cor 9: 27, 1Pet 2: 11)
In Matthew 6 Jesus mentioned three spiritual disciplines (Means of Grace) and explains if we do these there is a reward from our heavenly Father
When you give to the needy...
When you pray...
When you fast...
and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
You may regularly give, and you may regularly pray, so why not regularly fast*? You could try a day or two (or a meal or two) during this Prayerweek!
(*If you have a medical condition, are pregnant or have an issue with food, do seek advice before fasting)