Fasting: Its Purpose, and Instructions

Why Fast?

[Resource: Marjorie Thompson’s book entitled Soul Feast: An Invitation to the Christian Spiritual Life]

The first obvious answer begins with the fact that Jesus did it, Paul did it, and faithful disciples throughout the ages have done it. As people who have dedicated their lives to becoming more Christ like, searching for ways to make our faith more vibrant and alive, looking at the model Jesus provides is a great beginning.

There is plenty of evidence that fasting combined with prayer invites God’s power to flow through us. Think about that! The Book of Acts, and experiences of Christians throughout time all point to this truth. Fasting and prayer invites God’s power into our lives in a unique way.

When we fast, we empty ourselves so that God can fill us. In a related way, fasting also helps us to get our priorities straight. As Thompson says “how often have we neglected to remember God’s presence?” Now compare that with how many times you’ve forgotten to eat. Chances are good that you are much more likely to neglect God’s presence and to neglect a hunger pang. Fasting is way of reaffirming that God is our center and focus of our lives; not food, not our jobs, not school, not entertainment, not even our families- none of these things are life giving none of these actually give our lives meaning. God alone does. When we fast, we are acknowledging the truth that God is the source of everything, the source of life itself.

Fasting is a way of recovering balance. It is a way of living within the limits of our humanity as designed by God. In other words, fasting is way of being restored and made more whole. God has placed limits on our lives for good reason- when we fast, and acknowledge God’s rightful place and our rightful place we recover a sense of who we are, and whose we are. We find the strength to resist temptation, as Jesus did, because we are living within God’s boundaries. When we live within our God-given limits, we are able to become more centered.

Fasting Directions

1. Prepare spiritually- fasting must be centered on God. Therefore, ask for God’s help. Ask for an understanding of the spiritual dimension of fasting. When temptation arises, ask God for relief.

2. Do not fast if you are ill, traveling, or under stress. If you have any concerns about your health, contact your physician first. Fasting depletes our energy levels, so plan to reduce normal activities while fasting.

3. To begin practicing fasting, you may want to try a partial fast. This lasts no more than 24 hours and may include drinking only fruit juices during this period.

4. It is most common to begin fasting after supper and fast until the following night’s supper; you may fast from lunch to lunch or breakfast to breakfast if you prefer. In this way, you are missing two meals.

5. This may be repeated once per week for several weeks. After four to five weeks, you will be ready to try a normal fast of only water during the twenty four hours. Drink plenty of water.

6. A fast should be broken with a light, non-fatty meal, usually fruits and vegetables.


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