Saturday, November 06, 2010

To Fast Or Not To Fast...

Recently in Sunday school class, we discussed the topic of fasting.

Usually when we talk about fasting, it is from food and eating. According to dictionary.com, fasting means to cause to abstain entirely or limit food. However, there are many kinds of fasts that we can do, and not just from food.

In class, one woman talked about having an "addiction" to caffeinated beverages, so she had chosen to fast from those for a certain amount of time (I believe she decided to do this during Lent, even though it wasn't something practiced in our church). Another woman talked about fasting from electronics, particularly the computer. Other fasts you can do is to abstain from food and only drink water and/or fruit juice; another would be to fast from all meat and just eat fruits and vegetables. The list goes on, really.

The idea of fasting is to remove some form of comfort from our lives and use that time to focus more on spiritual things. It should be noted that when fasting, the enemy is going to do whatever he can to break the fast. For example, you fast from food and only drink water and/or fruit juice and, of course, you will get hungry. Your stomach will growl, and the enemy is right there helping to put thoughts in your mind, like, "Wouldn't a nice, juicy hambuger taste good right about now? Or how about going out to your favourite restaurant - it's Tuesday and they have that awesome special on..."  However, when those hunger pangs do strike, you can use those as reminders to stop and pray and focus on the Lord.

The Bible is filled with verses on fasting - Daniel was on a sort of vegetable fast (he fasted from eating the king's food, and only ate fruits and vegetables), Jesus tells the disciples, who had inquired about not being able to drive out evil spirits from someone, that those spirits could only be removed through prayer and fasting.

I remember one time several years ago being in a Christian chat room and discussing this very topic with some people from around the world. A few of us had decided that evening that we were going to fast for a twelve hour period. Well, for one woman, the day was just beginning and she had eaten breakfast. She decided from that time she would fast for the next 12 hours. A man, who was about an hour behind my time (putting it about 10pm for him) decided that since he was going in to work on the night shift, he would fast during that time (and a few hours afterwards). That was great for them, but it was about 11pm for me and it was time for bed. They told me that didn't matter and that I could still fast and it would "count".

Now, to me, that is not fasting. I would be asleep and not able to focus on spiritual matters or pray - not exactly something you can do when you are sleeping. I told them my thoughts on this and that I would have to wait until the next day if I were to fast, but they were adament that my sleeping through the fast would still
count". However, as I said earlier on, fasting is designed to remove some of our comforts in order to focus on spiritual matters. Now, I could have fasted from sleep and spent the time praying and reading my Bible, but I didn't. I slept. And, I still believe that that sort of situation is not fasting.


To my recollection, I have only ever fasted once (for about 12 hours), and it was several years ago so I don't recall the outcome or how it was. I am thinking of trying a fast regarding a couple of thoughts/situations that I have been mulling over lately, but I have no current idea as to when I'll actually do it.

What are your thoughts on fasting? Have you ever fasted? I would love to hear your responses in the comment section.

4 comments:

Michael Perkins said...

I think you are right that it wouldn't be considered fasting. I say that because you didn't believe it was right. In scripture there are many references to fasting (Christ in the desert) but there is not necessarily a set way to do it. I am inclined to teach people just what you said...it is giving something up and filling up our time with prayer and searching.

I fast nearly every time there is something major that needs an answer, but this is something that I've been convicted of lately because I believe I should do it to grow closer as well. Excellent thoughts.

Shelley said...

Thanks for your comment, Michael. I don't think I've been convicted of fasting, but I am thinking that it might be something to try at some point.

Michael Perkins said...

No problem. I think I phrased it badly. Not necessarily convicted to fast, but convicted to draw closer to Him. Fasting allows us to do this.

PJ said...

Hi! The wording hit me 'taking away something of comfort' When I think of 'fasting' I think of taking away something that has been getting overbearable or loving it too much..but I like the 'comfort' slant, too :)