In my zealousness to know God, I grabbed almost anything I could to help me. I tried multiple “spiritual disciplines.” I read dozens of books. I attended many conferences and seminars. I was a spiritual discipline junkie! How could that be bad? Right? Well, I got really frustrated with all the experimentation and “pick-and-choose-whatever-I-want-approach.” That is, until I realized that simplicity was the solution. What is simple, tried and true, effective, and inexhaustible?[featured-image single_newwindow=”false”]
And for that, I turned to the early church which advocated three practices leading to humility: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. An introduction to prayer was given in the last post. This post focuses on fasting.
What is Fasting?
Fasting is abstaining from certain foods, habits, and actions – both good and bad – for the purposes of knowing God, yourself, and the world around you. Fasting is not so much about saying “No” to something as saying “Yes” to God.
Fasting According to Jesus & the Early Church
Fasting is taught by Jesus’ example (Matt. 4.2) and words: Matthew 6.16-18: fast, but not like the hypocrites; Luke 5.33-39/Mark 2.18-22: fast, but after the bridegroom is taken away.
Fasting was practiced by the early church (Acts 13.2). The Didache (Di-da-kay), written before the end of the first century, set down parameters: Your fasts should not coincide with those of the hypocrites. They fast Monday and Tuesdays; you should fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. It was assumed that Christians would fast at least on these days.
St John Chrysostom (349-407) puts fasting into right perspective. It is to affect your whole life not just your eating habits.
For the value of fasting consists not in abstinence from food, but in withdrawing from sinful practices; since he who limits his fasting only to an abstinence from meats, is one who especially disparages it. Do you fast? Give me proof of it by your works! Is it said by what kind of works? If you see a poor man, take pity on him! If you see in enemy, be reconciled to him! If you see a friend gaining honour, envy him not! If you see a handsome woman, pass her by! For let not the mouth only fast, but also the eye, and the ear, and the feet, and the hands, and all the members of our bodies.
Ideas for Fasting in order to know God and yourself and to see the world differently:
- abstain from certain foods, drinks, desserts, delicacies, or shopping
- abstain from media: computer, music, radio, TV, cell phone, email
- abstain from habits: sports, drinking, reading newspaper, buying magazines or things you collect
How to Fast
- Begin by fasting from one thing one time per week – lunch on Wednesday, TV on Tuesday night
- Include more “fasting times” as you experience the benefits of fasting
- Incorporate fasting into your everyday life – change your eating habits on Wednesday and Fridays or don’t engage in media after 7:00 PM daily
- Remember: you fast in order to commune with God; to know Him and yourself better. Let fasting teach you much about God and yourself and your relationship to what is around you. Fasting will humble you. But, you only learn by doing. It’s that simple!
Share how you will begin fasting. Or, share how you presently practice fasting. Comment below.