A short introduction to fasting I wrote for Gateway Community Church

Andrew Murrray once wrote than “fasting helps us to deepen and confirm our resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything even ourselves, for the Kingdom of God.” Fasting then, among other things, puts us in the right posture towards God and so its no surprise that Scripture and the history of the Church are full of examples of fasting which often are connected to incredible response by God and wider communities and perhaps more significantly people who were deeply impacted by their experience of fasting.

However we need to be careful because some have described fasting as an almost mechanical way that we can manipulate God into doing what we want him to do. So the message that subtly and sometimes not so subtly is given is that if we just fast long enough or often enough God is duty bound to give us what we want. It’s important for us to grasp that, that is not what fasting is all about and in fact that kind of attitude in which we think we can simply manipulate God can be deeply damaging to our spiritual lives and churches.

In the best definition of fasting I have come across Scot McKnight describes fasting like this: “Fasting is the natural inevitable response to a grievous sacred moment in life”

When something serious in life happens we respond as “whole” person mind, soul and body So if someone we love dies, we think about the pain of our loss, we feel that pain in our emotions and its often expressed by our body in not feeling like eating. In the same way when we realise a “grievous sacred moment” like the seriousness of our own sin, or a great need that our church community has, we will think about it, we will respond with our emotions and the natural bodily response will be to express our seriousness, grief, regret and desire for change by abstaining from food.

Thinks of it like this A (cause for fasting) B (fasting) C (result) Scot MckNight says that too often in Church we put the focus on the wrong place. We concentrate on this A (B +C) instead of (A+B) C In other words we concentrate on getting the right results from fasting rather than having the right attitude to what has happened that causes us to fast. So McKnight says “Fasting is response to a sacred moment not an instrument designed to get us our desired results” he goes on say “Biblical fasting starts right here, because of the sacredness of some moment, or task ahead, an embodied person chooses to avoid physical indulgence for a period of time in order to focus their attention on God” That’s just what this time of prayer and fasting is about for us as a community. Lets fast because we desperately need God, not to try and manipulate him.

Here is how McKnight describes fasting in the Bible “The biblical sense of fasting involved not eating anything from sun up to sun down (twelve hours) or on occasions from sun down to sun down ( twenty four hours). Absolute fasts involve denying the body water and food. Rarely does a fast in the Bible extend beyond twelve hours, though sometimes it does” the normal “biblical” fast then would have been a 12 hours abstinence from food but not liquids. So lets be ” biblically normal” why not try and go without food for twelve hours if you can, or perhaps half that if you are fasting for the first time. Don’t attempt to fast if you have a medical condition that would be adversely affected. You could fast from something else, perhaps the TV or the internet?

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