Today we’re having a time of prayer and fasting as a congregation.
Gasp! He broke the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule about fasting!
Isn’t it about time we got over that? Yes, Jesus said not to tell anyone when you are fasting. He also, in the same chapter and the same context, told us to only pray in a closet. Ever seen that commandment violated? To be honest, I’ve rarely seen that one followed!
Have you ever let your left hand know what your right hand was doing when you were giving? Did that invalidate your generosity?
If we don’t talk about fasting (in the right way), we’ll never learn about fasting. And to be honest, we’ll rarely practice fasting.
Churches fasted together in the New Testament (Read the first part of Acts 13, for example). Fasting was one of the approved acts of worship for the New Testament church; it didn’t make it onto our lists for some reason. Part of the reason is, we rarely talk about it.
We’re doing a sunrise to sundown fast. That’s more doable for those of us who don’t fast regularly. I shared some material from a book that I’m working on, which the other leaders took and modified to share with the church. Here’s my original:
Another physical aspect of prayer involves fasting. In my experience, many Christians are uncomfortable discussing fasting. To some, it feels like a practice done by other religious groups. Yet fasting was a normal part of the life of the early church.
Jesus taught about fasting (Matthew 6:16-18), saying “when you fast”; this shows that He expected believers to fast. In the same way, He said that when He was no longer present on earth, His followers would fast (Mark 2:20). And Jesus fasted while living here on earth (Luke 4:2).
The early church fasted as part of its worship (Acts 13:2-3) and as part of the process for appointing elders in the church (Acts 14:23). Some Christians avoid talking about when they fast, but these passages show that the early church was comfortable in sharing that information. If we never talk about fasting, we’ll never learn to practice it.
So how do we fast? Here are some suggestions:
- If you have any special health needs, talk to your doctor before fasting. If you can’t go too long without eating, consider fasting from a certain type of food. But don’t put your health in jeopardy just to fast.
- Don’t make the mistake of trying to start with a long fast. Typical fasts in the Middle East go from sunrise to sundown. That’s probably how many fasts were done in Bible times, and it’s a good way to start. Later you can extend to a 24- or 36-hour fast.
- Drink liquids. We do see extreme cases in the Bible where people went for a time without eating or drinking, but those are special circumstances. It’s wiser to continue to take in fluids to avoid dehydration.
- Remember that fasting isn’t just about abstaining from food. Fasting should be accompanied by prayer. Use the time you would spend eating to spend in time with God.
Fasting doesn’t make you super-spiritual nor superior to anyone else. Spiritual fasting isn’t about increased health nor weight loss. Fasting is a spiritual discipline we practice in obedience to God.