Fasting

Have you ever fasted? Have you ever made it a habit in your life? The only fasting I’ve truly experienced was when I was not doing it alone. I ‘fasted’ during that popular youth group activity, The 30 Hour Famine, in high school. and as soon as it was done I stuffed myself with pizza and pop. Yeah. Not exactly the ideal fasting experience. I also boasted about it, complaining about how hungry I was and how exhausted I felt because I was doing this great thing for hunger awareness. I was more aware of my hunger than I was about why we are supposed to fast in the first place.

I will also admit that my first attempt at fasting during Yom Kippur failed miserably. First of all because I forgot I was supposed to fast. Second of all because I thought that once I screwed up, that was the end of it. So I quickly justified my indulgence and neglect of the Torah  since I had not prepared my body for the fast and so on and so forth. Justifications come so easily to me. It’s truly disappointing.

So, for what reasons have you fasted? What was it like for you? Where do you see an example of that fasting in the Scriptures? What do you think fasting accomplishes?

Isaiah 58:

1 Shout out loud! Don’t hold back! Raise your voice like a shofar! Proclaim to my people what rebels they are, to the house of Ya’akov their sins. 2 “Oh yes, they seek me day after day and [claim to] delight in knowing my ways. As if they were an upright nation that had not abandoned the rulings of their God, they ask me for just rulings and [claim] to take pleasure in closeness to God, 3 [asking,] ‘Why should we fast, if you don’t see? Why mortify ourselves, if you don’t notice?’ “Here is my answer: when you fast, you go about doing whatever you like, while keeping your laborers hard at work.

4 Your fasts lead to quarreling and fighting, to lashing out with violent blows. On a day like today, fasting like yours will not make your voice heard on high. 5 “Is this the sort of fast I want, a day when a person mortifies himself? Is the object to hang your head like a reed and spread sackcloth and ashes under yourself? Is this what you call a fast, a day that pleases ADONAI? 6 “Here is the sort of fast I want – releasing those unjustly bound, untying the thongs of the yoke, letting the oppressed go free, breaking every yoke, 7 sharing your food with the hungry, taking the homeless poor into your house, clothing the naked when you see them, fulfilling your duty to your kinsmen!”

8 Then your light will burst forth like the morning, your new skin will quickly grow over your wound; your righteousness will precede you, and ADONAI’s glory will follow you. 9 Then you will call, and ADONAI will answer; you will cry, and he will say, “Here I am.” If you will remove the yoke from among you, stop false accusation and slander, 10 generously offer food to the hungry and meet the needs of the person in trouble; then your light will rise in the darkness, and your gloom become like noon. 11 ADONAI will always guide you; he will satisfy your needs in the desert, he will renew the strength in your limbs; so that you will be like a watered garden, like a spring whose water never fails. 12 You will rebuild the ancient ruins, raise foundations from ages past, and be called “Repairer of broken walls, Restorer of streets to live in.”

13 “If you hold back your foot on Shabbat from pursuing your own interests on my holy day; if you call Shabbat a delight, ADONAI’s holy day, worth honoring; then honor it by not doing your usual things or pursuing your interests or speaking about them. 14 If you do, you will find delight in ADONAI – I will make you ride on the heights of the land and feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Ya’akov, for the mouth of ADONAI has spoken.”

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12 thoughts on “Fasting

  1. Lev 23: 27 “The tenth day of this seventh month is Yom-Kippur; you are to have a holy convocation, you are to deny yourselves, and you are to bring an offering made by fire to ADONAI. 28 You are not to do any kind of work on that day, because it is Yom-Kippur, to make atonement for you before ADONAI your God. 29 Anyone who does not deny himself on that day is to be cut off from his people; 30 and anyone who does any kind of work on that day, I will destroy from among his people. 31 You are not to do any kind of work; it is a permanent regulation through all your generations, no matter where you live. 32 It will be for you a Shabbat of complete rest, and you are to deny yourselves; you are to rest on your Shabbat from evening the ninth day of the month until the following evening.”

    The fasting part has to do with “denying yourself” or “afflicting yourself” as some translations communicate. This is a time to meditate on the sins we have committed against man and against God. It is a solemn day of confession, repentance, and focus on the cleansing we receive from God alone.

    I do this in remembrance of the final Atoning sacrifice made by Yeshua and how he, our High Priest, has entered the holy of Holies for us, appearing in God’s presence and being the sacrifice for our sins. It is a time of mourning our sins against God, btu also, for believers, it’s a time for hope and faith in the blood of Yeshua.

    Yom Kippur also looks forward to the time when he will return to fulfill the second prophetic significance of this Holy Day even more:

    Yom Kippur prophetically pictures the Day of the LORD or the Day of Judgment in the Acharit HaYamim [last days]. After the judgment of the nations during the Great Tribulation, national Israel will be fully restored to the LORD and their sins will be purged (see Matthew 24). Indeed, our beloved Mashiach will one day return to Israel, cleanse her temple, restore her to Himself, and set up His glorious kingdom.

    (from hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/…/yom_kippur.html)

  2. I’m actually considering a water only fast for medical reasons (stupid Iritis is flaring up again, and I’ve read that autoimmune diseases often respond well to fasting). I’ll let you know how it goes.

  3. Oh I do hope that goes well for you. My friend S went on a “cleansing” fast of sorts recently to get rid of the toxins in her body. She says she does it every 4 months or so.

    water only for how long?

  4. It’s important you are fasting for the right reasons. Some people will fast until God does something. This is wrong. You can’t make God do anything, HE’S GOD! You can ask him to do stuff, but fasting isn’t a part of that. If you fast for a religious reason, that reason should be to get closer to God; to get to know him better. You also shouldn’t fast ‘for God’ with an ulterior motive of losing weight or something else like that. You will most likely fail if you try something like that. If you’re going to fast for God, you have to fast for God alone.

  5. I would like to recommend a book to you which answers a lot the question you’ve asked. It is called God’s Chosen Fast by Arthur Wallis (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1968). It’s a short book that gives a great biblical overview of fasting, and addresses most of the major passages in Scripture regarding fasting, in both the Old and New Testaments. Blessings.

  6. Some people will fast until God does something. This is wrong. You can’t make God do anything, HE’S GOD! You can ask him to do stuff, but fasting isn’t a part of that. If you fast for a religious reason, that reason should be to get closer to God; to get to know him better.

    I think it can be part of that. Let’s look at two passages as examples:

    Ezra 8:21, 23
    There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions.
    So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.

    Joel 2:12-19
    “Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” 13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity. 14 Who knows? He may turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing– grain offerings and drink offerings for the Lord your God. 15 Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. 16 Gather the people, consecrate the assembly; bring together the elders, gather the children, those nursing at the breast. Let the bridegroom leave his room and the bride her chamber. 17 Let the priests, who minister before the Lord, weep between the temple porch and the altar. Let them say, “Spare your people, O Lord. Do not make your inheritance an object of scorn, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?'”

    18 Then the Lord will be jealous for his land and take pity on his people. 19 The Lord will reply to them: “I am sending you grain, new wine and oil, enough to satisfy you fully; never again will I make you an object of scorn to the nations.

    I don’t think this is about MAKING God do something at all. I think it’s more about pleading in prayer and persisting with fervency in faith. I think it is more then just “getting closer to God” and getting to know Him better. The Scriptures point to fasting being done in times of mourning, pleading, national repentance, prayer, and dedication.

  7. Julia! It’s been awhile since we’ve seen each other (or chatted), but I saw this and I just wanted to tell you that I do fast fairly routinely. Not as in, I do it a lot or regularly, but I do fast for specific reasons. I try to follow what I know from the Bible about fasting – which isn’t everything there is to know about it, I’m sure. Jesus was speaking with someone “Mar 2:18 The disciples of John and of the Pharisees were fasting. Then they came and said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?”
    19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. 20 But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.”

    So I use it when I want to focus on who Jesus is, and when I feel I miss Him (not that I don’t know He’s there, but when I feel a sense of longing). When I feel I am slipping further from Him, I fast. Or, if I want to focus myself on prayer for some big event in my life. I would say I do it maybe 2-4 times per year, and I usually just do a juice fast. I carry my bible with me the whole day, and when I would normally want a ‘snack’ I will pull out my bible and read a proverb. If it would be typical time for a meal, I pull out a psalm of lament, to read about the trust those before me have had in their times of trial. And of course, I pray, and do not tell anyone that I am fasting (well, unless they ask me or look offended by my not eating with them, but I do not discuss my hunger). Usually by the end of the day, I don’t have the answer I am looking for – but I have a stronger focus. And usually within the next few days (after I finish the fast) I get a clearer picture of God working in my life. It’s really about making yourself slightly uncomfortable, so you then must readmit to yourself over and over again why you are doing this. And if your convictions are strong, then you end up realizing what parts of yourself do not align with those beliefs. It’s kind of like how I try not to pray laying down in my bed. It’s not improper, nor disrespectful, but it is easier for me to forget who I’m talking to in my head. If I get down on my knees by my bed, I introduce an physical uncomfort that keeps me reminding myself where my focus is, so that I don’t ramble off-subject. Of course, I do lay in bed, and contemplate life, with my contemplation directed towards God. But when I want to really focus on God, and humble myself in His presence, I try my knees or lying prostrate.

    In general, God does not need us to do anything for Him to listen to us. He does not listen better if we fast or lie prostrate, but rather, we pray more conciously, paying attention to the guiding of the spirit, and therefore hopefully more inline with His will. By turning our focus away from ourselves, and onto Him in a material manner, it trains our spiritual focus, and thus our objects of prayer. After all, “Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do.” is just as true today as it was in that moment of severe pain. So we must always be aware that we may not know what we’re doing, and therefore, as Some Other Matt said, we cannot fast until God does something that we tell Him, but rather until He tells us what we really want.

    Sorry for the long rant, but I have few friends who fast, so it’s good to chat about why I do it. Hope all is well for you!!

  8. Justin, long time no see!
    I found your comments insightful. I appreciate you sharing your personal experiences with me. I think it gives me a better illustration of this practice in everyday life.

    Your final paragraph reminded me of the concept of kavanah (which means “intention” and comes from the root kivun which means “direction”). This word describes how we enter into prayer; It illustrates the proper attitude and concentration that prayer to God deserves. Instead of prayer (or in this case, fasting) being a fixed activity or dry words and traditions, there has to be “something more” than that. And that “something more” is what kavanah illustrates.

    I don’t know if that was related, but I thought I’d express it anyway.

    Thanks again!

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