Spiritual Disciplines: Fasting
This month at The Gathering we took on the tricky-ness that is fasting!! I don’t know what your first reaction to the thought of fasting is? What is it? Is it something you have done or do?
This quote from Richard Foster is an interesting one to start with in thinking about this...
“In a culture where the landscape is dotted with shrines to the Golden Arches and an assortment of Pizza Temples, fasting seems out of place, out of step with the times...
What would account for this almost total disregard of a subject so frequently mentioned in Scripture and so ardently practised by Christians through the centuries?
... the constant propaganda fed us today convinces us that if we do not have three large meals each day, with several snacks in between, we are on the verge of starvation.”
We chatted about how we see food in our affluent western culture, mostly as something we are entitled to, whatever we want, whenever we want it, and how we can often have an unhealthy relationship with food.
There are loads of examples of different people fasting in different ways in the Bible.
Here are a few you might want to have a look at...
Daniel 1:8 & 10:3
Have a read around these verses and figure out...
What’s happening? Who? How long? Why? Are there any obvious results?
Have a read of Matthew 6:16-18 and see what Jesus has to say about fasting.
Jesus talks about fasting in the same ‘breath’ as giving and praying (verses 2-15).
Is He suggesting they are all equally important parts of living out our faith? If that was true then, is it still relevant now?
Jesus says ‘when’ rather than ‘if’. He was talking about a practice that was common among Jews at the time. He doesn’t say ‘if’ and He doesn’t say ‘must’ – should we read anything into this?!
Here’s another quote from Richard Foster:
“Where are the people today who will respond to the call of Christ? Have we become so accustomed to ‘cheap grace’ that we instinctively shy away from more demanding calls to obedience? Why has the giving of money, for example, been unquestionably recognised as an element in Christian devotion and fasting so disputed? Perhaps in our affluent society fasting involves a far larger sacrifice than the giving of money.”
“At times there is such stress upon the blessings and benefits of fasting that we would be tempted to believe that with a little fast we could have the world, including God, eating out of our hands.”
So why do you think we might/could/should fast?
How might we get fasting a bit ‘wrong’?
How might we apply fasting to our culture today? What could we fast from other than food?
“The central idea in fasting is the voluntary denial of an otherwise normal function for the sake of intense spiritual activity. There is nothing wrong with these normal functions in life; it is simply that there are times when we set them aside in order to concentrate.”
Don’t walk before you can run, it’s OK to start ‘small’.
Be aware of who you are and what is ‘good’ for you.
Give it a try? Learn as you do it?!
The aim of this is to challenge us and get us thinking about fasting! It’s a personal thing, we need to figure out what we’re doing and why, it’s between us and God. But it’s also something we can learn about, try, and do together.
As always, keen to hear your thoughts and experiences!
(Give us a shout if you want to read anything else on this)