Spiritual Fasting – is that even a thing anymore?

What comes to your mind when you think of fasting? Hunger? Health benefits? A practice of long ago? 

There has been a big fad lately for intermittent fasting, proven to provide health benefits.  However,  spiritual fasting is not a topic you hear discussed too often, even in Christian circles.  

I became curious about this discipline as I vaguely heard about it as a spiritual practice. At the time I was learning about the topic, I was nursing my first child.  I was advised not to try it at that point.  The cycle of pregnancy and nursing continued for several years so the book I bought on the topic collected dust until recently when I pulled it back out.

Through the years of not fasting, I tried to store  information in my head when I would hear the topic discussed. It wasn’t a lot, but certain things stood out and I wanted to know more. I had heard about Dr. James Dobson and his wife taking one day a week to pray and fast for their children. This is a prayer they would pray, “Lord, give us the wisdom to raise the precious children you have loaned to us, and above all else help us bring them to the feet of Jesus.” I love that. That is my heart’s desire for my children as well.  The article also stated that they have continued this practice even as their children have entered adulthood. 

What has driven me to learn more and has increased my desire to put it into practice on a regular basis, is the realization of how food can quickly become an idol in my life. What do I do when I’m frustrated, angry, exhausted, stressed, or procrastinating an important project? I often open my pantry or fridge doors…repeatedly. I keep looking for that perfect snack or treat to satisfy the need in my soul. But it occurred to me, only God can fully satisfy and fill that void. I was replacing God with food. Only God can comfort me, give me strength and the help I need. No source of physical nourishment was going to fully satisfy.

When I began to try fasting, it made me realize just how often I went to food. When I didn’t have that comfort available at any moment, I had to cling to God and pray. This is exactly where He wants us all the time. He wants us to fully rely on Him. For me it’s food. For others, it may be a drug, alcohol, media… there are many ways we can cover up or ignore our deepest longings or hurt.  When we stop reaching for those things that give us temporary fulfillment, and have only God, that’s when we have a breakthrough to the fellowship He desires to have with us.

From his book, Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes, “More than any other discipline, fasting reveals the thing that controls us.”

I don’t want to be controlled by food. I want to live my life fully for God, and to clearly hear His voice. When I reach for food, instead of Him, I begin to block that communication. It’s like I’m saying “I know better”.

Yet, in our society – food is all around us. I’ve recently listened to a couple audio books of conditions in Africa.  Many are lucky to eat 2 meals a day consisting of a type of corn mush. Never is meat served, except for a rare occasion. Beans are a delicacy as well. I was floored, disgusted and shameful at the amounts of food I have in my house, and the excess and waste we have. Fasting goes against our culture in so many ways. We do not even know what true hunger is. I’ve recently read your stomach has been trained through years of conditioning to give signals of hunger at certain times.  Just because our stomach is growling does not mean we are truly hungry! Our body can go several days without food and be fine.  

The Lord has placed it on my heart to make this a regular practice.  I’ve had some spiritual breakthroughs and answers to prayer and just an overall nearness and fellowship with God on the days I’ve fasted.  I desire to make it happen one day a week, but I know on my own I am quick to come up with excuses.  I can have the best of intentions, but as the hunger pains increase – I can quickly figure out a reason that today just isn’t a good day to fast.  So I am recruiting some friends to join me in this journey.  Are you interested?  Please contact me if you too, would like to grow deeper in your dependence on the Lord.  

There are many reasons to fast and many types of fasts as well as what not to do when fasting. I’m not going to go into all of that right now.   I’m just desiring to spur inside you a spiritual hunger, to lay down something you may love more than God in order to grow in your love, dependence and fellowship with our one true God.   

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