The disciples of John the Baptist OFTEN fast and pray. (5:33)
The disciples of the Pharisees often fast and pray. (5:33).
A rabbi was held responsible for the actions of his disciples - why weren't Jesus' disciples fasting?
Jesus responds that the wedding party doesn't fast while the bridegroom is with them. Weddings were seven days of feasting at this time. There was no be no hard work done, no mourning - just feasting. (5:34)
Jesus says there will be a day when He is no longer physically with his disciples - and THEN they will fast. That day continues to this day. (5:35)
Yes, Jesus addressed abuses of fasting (Matt 6:16). However, he gives instructions for private fasts (Matt 6:16) and we see the early church fasting (Acts 13:3; 14:23; 2 Cor. 6:5).
The word fasting, as used in the Scripture, refers to abstaining from food. Yes, fasting has been abused by religious legalism - but so has giving, praying, studying- and we continue these disciplines. Jesus clearly states there will come a day when His disciples will fast. I wonder why more don't fast.
|Via Google Images|
Fasting focuses my appetites on His appetites. Fasting provides more time* in my day to seek His face. Fasting seems to clear the communication channels with God - the Word comes alive, I sense His presence quickly....I suspect as rewards to obedience. Hunger becomes a prayer prompt. When I fast I am focused....Fasting has added much to my life.
It is popular today to fast many things other than food. I've heard of TV fasts, technology fasts, Internet fasts, movie fasts, manicure fasts, sports fasts....some say abstaining from food is a MUST to be a Biblical fast. Personally? I think if God is calling you to abstain from one of the non-food items; you should. I think you should be aware of parading before men or thinking you are earning "heavenly gold stars" - in other words - treat it as a fast. I think God always blesses for obedience. If you are bargaining with God - say you feel pressed to fast and yet you don't want to give up food and so you substitute one of these other fasts - you need to quit bargaining and obey.
I began fasting weekly for our children's future spouses 7.5 years ago; this continues and has expanded as a focus on immediate and extended family to this day. A Daniel Fast was the start of an incredible personal journey to freedom from food addiction. I've seen God move me through fasting. I've seen the power of God released to fulfill the purposes of God on earth. I continue a variety of fasts as Jesus leads. I currently wrestle with when a fast has become a lifestyle - as many of you know I've moved to a Vegan/Nutritarian eating style which is very close to a Daniel Fast.
The topic is far too big to discuss fully today. I always hesitate to discuss fasting publicly as I never want to be guilty of parading before men - but I am a teacher and here is a passage speaking on the topic.
Some do not fast as they worry it is unhealthy in their situation. If God is calling you to fast - maybe you can fast one meal...or maybe you can fast one food item (pregnancy, diabetic)...or maybe a Daniel Fast....if God is leading you to fast, He can reveal how to fast as well.
I first began to consider fasting when reading the chapters on this discipline in Intimate Faith by Jan Winebrenner and Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. The first is an easier read; the later is a meatier read.
Other books which have helped me understand the spiritual discipline of fasting and how to worship Jesus through it are:
God's Chosen Fast - Arthur Wallis
A Woman's Guide to Fasting - Lisa Neelson (PWOC gal! Woot, woot!)
The Ultimate Guide to the Daniel Fast - Kristen Feola
If you are looking for one comprehensive book on fasting, I recommend, A Woman's Guide to Fasting.
This is a helpful website for those participating in a Daniel Fast.
*Note fasting creates time for me because my family is at a stage where they can get their own breakfast and lunch and so I free up my time and focus if I'm not getting food for me at those meal times. I still cook dinner...and if you have a young family fasting is probably not going to magically create time for you. I could never understand HOW it created more time for me until recent years.
Living all of life before the face of God...