I’m not a very well trained writer, but I do know that the opening of a book or article is critical to catching the reader’s attention enough to get them to read through to the end. I’m going to break that principle here and probably lose a bunch of you when I tell you that I’m writing today about fasting. But if you’ll chew through the meat of this article (sorry bad pun) I believe you’ll discover something about intimacy with God that you likely have missed till now.
Mention fasting today and for most what comes to mind is dieting, or hunger strikes, or religious ritual. For those who have grown up going to church you may have connected it with prayer during times of significant crisis or need. Many don’t even consider it or if they do wonder if it is still relevant today.
For me personally I have struggled with the purpose for fasting because it seemed to me that it was used as a means to manipulate God. Like if I’m facing a really serious issue or decision, or if I really want God to act in a particular way then I’ll fast and by my efforts pry what I want from him, or prove to him my devotion so he’ll act favorably toward my situation.
I understand that some have said fasting is a means of focusing so that I can hear and more clearly discern what God is saying or revealing, but even that smack a little of being dependant on my effort or sacrifice to get to God.
So I did a study of fasting through the Bible, and while space here doesn’t permit in depth analysis of what I found, here are the basics.
Fasting in the Old Testament lines up with the motive of special intense effort to get God to act or move in a particular way. David fasts for God to save his son born from adultery, or Ezra calls for a national fast to ask God for safety as they journey back from captivity to begin rebuilding Jerusalem.
But in the New Testament Jesus, when asked about fasting, indicates that the way of relating to God has changed. (New wine in new wineskins is the analogy). And the accounts of fasting in the New Testament indicate that worship, rather than petition, were the new primary motivation for fasting.
So here’s my suggestion for you: test my discovery. Try a fast. Not a long one, just after supper one day until supper the next, and have no agenda or motive other than to worship God during that time. I believe you’ll discover as I have that fasting does still have significant value.