Fasting Resources By Becca Stavert
Something that I struggled with regularly while my faith was forming through high school and into college was walking through my entire day without the Lord. I would lay down to sleep, and be hit with the realization that I hadn't prayed, fixed my eyes on God or let His words be a part of my life all day long. However, something I have never struggled with is knowing when it is time to eat. I am not one who goes through my whole day, lays in bed, and realizes "I haven't eaten all day!" God created human bodies with physical needs and systems that inform us when we need to fill those needs. The truth is, we also have spiritual needs, most importantly a deep spiritual need for Jesus' presence and guidance with us always. Jesus Himself, after His 40-day fast in the wilderness affirms that "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 2:4 & Deuteronomy 8:3). Fasting can help bring into our physical reality the spiritual reality – we need God. We need God like we need food. We as a people redeemed and loved by God should hunger after time with Him just like you hunger for a warm meal after a long day.
Fasting gives us the opportunity to lay down an appetite, and thus help expose the true hunger we have in our souls. Just like we snack to keep our physical hunger at bay throughout the day, we as humans keep our spiritual hunger at bay by "snacking" on the comforts and distractions of our world. Fasting, or as Jeff defined on Sunday "willfully denying yourself of earthly goods for spiritually better" helps to bring into awareness what we are truly "hungering" after. This should not lead to a sense of guilt or shame, but rather be on-going steps in the process of self-denial that Brian Taylor in Becoming Christ describes as "the process of human subtraction and divine addition." We are, as Christ's children, called daily to become more and more less full of us and more full of Christ. Fasting is a practice in emptying to be filled in Christ.
This process also brings awareness to our care of soul-things like we care for physical-things. Just like a caring parent ensures that their toddler does not exist on Goldfish Crackers alone (though that may be the toddler's preference), our loving Heavenly Father knows what we need – we need spiritual care and attention to how we are nourishing our souls. Fasting can help us reorient to what is important, letting our Father inform us of what He cares about – He cares about His bride the Church, He cares about His created world, He cares about people living the best life they humanly can by living in alignment with His Word and will.
Also, fasting wasn't seen as an optional practice to Jesus. He assumed it to be a regular rhythm for His followers, not instructing them "if you fast”, but rather "WHEN you fast" in Matthew 6:16.
Since fasting can look so many different ways, here are some guiding questions and practices to ask yourself and talk with God about to help direct how you can practice this spiritual discipline:
- When you start to feel empty or restless, what do you reach for or do first?
- What is something that you feel like you cannot live or function without right now? What would it look like to surrender that to God?
- What does your typical day/week look like? What are "staple" rhythms or practices that you do? What would it look like to surrender those to God?
- What has been your past experience with self-denial or fasting? How does God want to renew or change that experience in this season?
- What reservations do you have against fasting? What excitement do you have with fasting? How can you give these over to God?
- In this current season, what from the models in Scripture for fasting do you feel called to engage in (ex. guidance, repentance, worship, closeness to God, overcoming temptation, refocusing of vision)?
- Make two lists – a list of needs and a list of wants. Hold each list before God and let Him nudge you towards what to give up for Him.
- Look into the traditional times of fasting that the Church has engaged in throughout history and ask God if He is inviting you to participate.
- Start small – leaning into the practice a little bit to start is better than not starting at all. (One easy small example is to skip one meal, and instead "eat" that meal with Jesus – take your lunch break sitting with God instead of your phone or your food.)
- Once you start small, talk with God about how much He is asking of you for future fasting.
Fasting: The Ancient Practices
Fasting: Spiritual Freedom Beyond Our Appetites
A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer
God’s Chosen Fast by Arthur Wallis
21 Days of Prayer & Fasting: A fasting guide for spiritual breakthroughs
Personal Guide to Fasting (CRU)
The Purpose of Fasting Dr. Donald Whitney (7 minutes)
Isaiah 58: The Fast God Chooses Tony Evans (10 minutes)
Feasting While Fasting Matt Chandler (45 minutes)
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us, Revised and Expanded