And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
– Matthew 6:16-18 (NRSV)
Several people in my life have been convinced of the importance of renewing the practice of fasting during this Lent. I think part of the conviction came from these verses. Jesus says “whenever you fast,” not if you fast. I am not sure I know anyone who really enjoys fasting (i.e. thinks it is fun to not eat). However, people who do fast typically experience that it is indeed a means of grace.
What has been your experience with fasting?
Brandon Blacksten said:
I find myself intrigued with fasting, but I have not yet been intrigued enough to look more deeply into it. I’ve done a 3 day juice fast and a 24 hour water only fast. The former was for cleansing reasons and the latter was just for the heck of it. Neither were really supplemented with substantial time in prayer or reflection. I think that those experiences probably emphasized sacrifice over obedience :). As a typical student, I have though of checking out a book on fasting, but I think there are probably more expedient ways to learn about this spiritual practice. It’s certainly something I’d like to work into my spiritual practice.
David Player said:
Fasting is a powerful means of grace. It has assisted me in crucifying the flesh, gaining clarity, and promoting intimacy with God.
I have neglected this Divine resource and gift for several years and I have recently started buffeting my body again so I can allow god to develop my soul.
Christ have mercy upon me and teach me more fully how to love and serve you.
Gratefully following in Christ’s footsteps,
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Ben Simpson said:
Fasting is not my favorite spiritual discipline. Or is it?
Over the past few years I have become increasingly interested in fasting. In my estimation it is either the least understood or the most underutilized discipline in our tradition, or both. I was initially taught that fasting was a refrain from food for the purpose of spiritual development, but was unclear on what this “spiritual development” looked like. The vagueness of the end-goal led me to ask, “toward what end, exactly?”
Reading Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, and other sources have led me to a greater appreciation for how fasting functions as a training tool in the life of the disciple. Jesus did say “whenever you fast,” not so much as a command, but as an expectation. Jesus seemed to think the practice was worthwhile in living the with-God life, to borrow Renovare terminology. I have since been hot and cold in undertaking the practice. This Lent I have incorporated fasting into my discipline. Following after Wesley, I fast on Fridays at least one meal.
Kevin, I would be delighted if you spent some energy training Methodist people how fasting can bring us more toward the goal of holiness. It is one among many disciplines which, if accompanied by repentance and prayer, could yield the fruit of renewal for not only Methodism, but for Christianity.