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Fasting

"When you fast, do not look somber as hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others that they are fasting. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." 
- Matthew 6:16-18

Fasting is returning to God with your whole heart. It is about a relationship, not religion. It is not some penance or paying for your sin, and it is certainly not twisting God's arm to get Him to give you something.

When you fast it empties and reveals dependence on excess, luxury, and addiction. Fasting moves us not to be driven by our desires. Instead it restores and trains the heart in compassion and empathy, which moves to respond and reflect God's heart to all people. 

Whether you've never heard of fasting before or are familiar with it and have tried it in the past, we've prepared some materials below to help guide you through this spiritual practice and help you gain a better understanding of what it means to fast.

Starting Points
Practice
Additional Resources

Starting Points
  1. Fasting from food. Culturally, we have a complicated relationship with food and need to reject the very prevalent negative association with food and our abundance of it.   
  2. Fasting from Technology. Fasting in this area of our life might be more difficult than fasting from food because if you’re anything like me, the thought of being away from your phone causes your hands to start shaking and hives to start breaking out. Technology has become less of a tool we use and more of an intruder in our relationships and our mental, emotional, and spiritual health.   
  3. Fasting from Other Compulsions. Other areas… such as overworking, gossiping, and even hoarding, can consume us. Others of us consume content that makes us fearful and not hopeful. Maybe it would be helpful to make a list of attachments holding you back from your attention to God.  
Practice

Select a time in the coming week to fast. Ordinarily, fasting is done from sunup to sundown (about 12 hours), skipping breakfast and lunch, then having a late dinner. There’s no hard and fast format. You could fast shorter or longer depending on your schedule and daily routine. The point is to give it a shot. 

During your fast, make use of your hunger or desire. Each time you notice that you’d like to eat or break what you desire, exploit that sensation as an occasion for prayer. Engage your imagination to “see” yourself as drawing strength from God. In that time, invite God’s Spirit to reveal anything within that is bent away from what is true and good. Again, imagine your hunger starving away the flesh and providing nourishment for the Spirit of God within you. 

Here are a few other things you might try during your fast: 

  1. Journal – Spend some time in self-reflection. Journal, take a walk, sit quietly, and think. Richard Foster said, “Fasting reveals the things that control us.” If you’re afraid, short-tempered, or lacking in willpower, ask yourself, “Why do I feel this way?” Treat yourself with compassion, as God does, but be honest. 
  2. Community - We recommend you work through it with your community, a small group, a weekly meal with friends or neighbors, your roommates, or whatever works.  Set aside time to share a meal, encourage and pray together. Transformation happens in the community. 

Lastly, True fasting is depriving ourselves of our desire and sharing sacrificially to bring an end to patterns of injustice, oppression, poverty, and hunger. When we feel the hunger that so many think by no choice of their own, we align our bodies to connect with those suffering.   Fasting can train our hearts in compassion and empathy and move us to respond and reflect God’s heart to all people. As a result, all people would experience a season of joy, gladness, and hope.  Fasting aligns your heart with God’s heart and helps you understand the depth and significance of what breaks His heart.   

Additional Resources                                                                              
Guides on Fasting
Podcasts
Sermons
Books