When you fast, do not look somber 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. Matthew 6:16
Spiritual disciplines are activities Christians have been doing for centuries in concert with the Holy Spirit to train themselves to be godly. These habits deepen one’s relationship with God and mold one into the character of Jesus. Fasting is the practice of abstaining from something for spiritual reasons. It might be abstaining from social media, radio/TV, video games, drink or food (one food, a meal or maybe longer).
Spiritual fasting is not about the duration of the fast, nor is it a mathematical equation to manipulate God into acting. It’s also not a cleanse or a diet. Instead, fasting is a way to focus one’s heart and mind on God. There are examples of fasting throughout the Bible. People fast as a response to distressing news (Nehemiah 1:3-4), as part of a prayer for a sick child (2 Samuel 12:16), to ask God for deliverance (Esther 4:16), as a part of repentance (Jonah 3:5-9) and when seeking direction (Acts 13:2-3 and 14:23). Jesus both taught and practiced fasting (Matthew 6:16-18).
Today, Christians have expanded fasting to any regular activity we abstain from to focus on God. We can fast individually, or a group may choose to fast together. Fasting, like any other discipline, is a muscle we can develop. We may need to start small and work our way up if we’ve never fasted. We don’t have to start at a full day—we could do just a few hours. During the fast, take the time usually spent on that activity and use it to spend with God. For example, if fasting from food or drink, we can turn our thoughts to God in dependence on him each time our stomach rumbles. If fasting from technology, turn to God in prayer with each urge to pick up the device. Fasting helps develop our reliance on God even after the fast has ended. It serves to mold our hearts in the way of Jesus.
IN YOUR CHAIR TIME TODAY
Consider how you might incorporate the spiritual discipline of fasting into your walk with God. Make a plan and choose a date. If you’ve never fasted before, start small. Perhaps you decide to fast by skipping a meal to focus on God. Maybe you fast from technology or social media to eliminate distractions and center your heart on God. Or you could fast from television for a day or week to read your Bible or a book that challenges you to grow spiritually.
2023 SPIRITUAL PRACTICES
Join us all of 2023 developing a different spiritual practice each month. SPIRITUAL PRACTICES are intentional regular activities to deepen our relationship with God and mold us to be more like Jesus.
March is FASTING. Keep track of our spiritual practices at beyondtheweekend.org/spiritualpractices.
Download a printable PDF of the BTW week here.