Monday, February 13, 2006

Spiritual Disciplines: Fasting

Well, someone suggested that I bring up the issues of spiritual disciplines. So today, I was a buffet...and got to some seriously thinking...about food and weight and fasting. But does food or fasting have anything to do with my spirituality? I think so....

Fasting is a voluntary withdrawing from food and/or drink, or other fleshly appetite, for a specified period of time. The three most basic types of fasting mentioned in the Bible are:

Normal Fast
The first mention of a fast in scripture is Exodus 34:28 where Moses received the 10 Commandments. Jesus also, began His earthly ministry with prayer and fasting.Though fasting is never commanded, Jesus assumed that the disciples would want to in order to see great things happen! But it’s not something a Christian has to do, but can choose to do…there are not many guidelines given in scripture about fasting, either!A Normal fast is no food, only liquids like water, juice, etc…it can last for 1 day (Judges 20:26—1 day fast) and personally, that’s a good place to start!

The Partial Fast
In the partial fast you omit certain foods for a while, but not others. Daniel and 3 other Hebrews did a partial fast, and at the end were stronger and healthier than those eating what they wanted. Elijah did this on 2 occasions as well.

The Absolute Fast
Moses went on this kind for 40 days, nothing enters your mouth at all…can be done only for a very short time…consult a Doctor.!

The Purpose of fasting:
Fasting is a way to seek God by denying the physical in order to focus on the spiritual……for this reason prayer and fasting must always go together (or it does you no good spiritually!) Of course, there are physical benefits: medical doctor’s are discovering more and more benefits to fasting…because the body is designed to heal itself on a cellular level…as we eat and take in various toxins, processed foods, medicines, etc., we hold a certain amount of poisons in our cells…but when we fast many of those things are flushed out of our system!

But if you want a spiritual benefit, make sure and take the time you would have in eating and transfer it to prayer time!

II Chronicles 20: 3 And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4 And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the LORD: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD.

Ezra 8: 23 So we fasted and besought our God for this: and he was intreated of us.

1 Corinthians 7 7:5 Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. Another point made by this verse is that when we fast it ought to be from ALL physical desires, not just food! Let go of the physical, focus on the spiritual!

So, do you fast? Why or why not? Thoughts?


filletofsoul said...

I really don't understand the whole idea of fasting. I've looked over the New Testament and there is very little information on it. In fact, some versions omit the word and use pray/praying instead. (1 Cr 7:5 Acts 10:30 Darby NLT NASB RSV ASV) some are foot noted (Mat 17:21 Mark 9:29) and some references simply mean that the people hadn't eaten (Jesus feeds the multitudes Mat 15:32 Paul shipwrecked Acts 27:33) Other times it is mentioned with the understanding of Jewish tradition (Luke 18:12).
Jesus was asked why he and disciples did not fast. (Mat 9:14 Mark 2:18 Luke 5:30) His answer was that people don't fast when the bridegroom is with them. Obviously he was talking about himself. So my question is: if we say Christ LIVES IN US and we have been left with the Holy Spirit to guide us, why do we still fast?

SB said...

From what ive been told, fasting is useful becuase when your hungry you channel that into prayer. Basically when you feel hungry, Pray!.

I agree with fillet though, what is the point?
The way I see it is im hungry, God gave me hunger, God gave us food to eat to satisfy hunger, so why not jsut eat and pray?

I dont know though, there was the 30 hour famine at school when i was in high school and i never did it becuase i can barely go an hour without eating, BLAME God for my amazing metabolism, hehe.

So should i fast, i dont see a reason yet, nothing to convict me to do such harm to my stomach, but maybe it is worth it. Who knows, its confusing to say the least.

SoulPastor said...

Interesting it is my turn.

Matthew 6:2,5,16
If I read my bible correctly, this is Jesus speaking...
"When you give alms....when you pray...when you fast..."

Then we read in Matthew 28:19,20 that we are to "Make disciples of all nations...teaching them to observe all that I have commnaded you."

If these words have any meaning it is surely that what Jesus taught His disciples was to be taught to every successive generation of disciples, and obeyed.


filletofsoul said...

I'm looking into this.....just noted your references for Matthew 6 are incorrect. s/b verses 16-18.
Also, I don't see what Matthew 28:19-20 has to do with this. Although his disciples may at some time have fasted, Jesus never COMMANDED his disciples to fast.

SoulPastor said...

Fishy said “I'm looking into this.....just noted your references for Matthew 6 are incorrect. s/b verses 16-18.”

No they are not…

Matthew 6
1"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2"So when you give to the needy, ..But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing… 5"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites …But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen… 7And when you pray, do not keep on babbling …16"When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting... 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to men 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.

Jesus has implied that these are natural ways of 'demonstrating' or 'acting out' our faith. Notice that our culture has issues with giving, praying and now fasting!

To me this is very clear…as believers we are to give, pray and fast. Simple. Fasting was not commanded, but it is a good spiritual discipline.

Also, I never said that fasting was commanded by Jesus, but what is interesting is WHAT Jesus 'implied' in Matthew 28:19-20.
Let me ask you to do your homework. Is praying commanded? Is giving? What are the commandments that Jesus taught? (Matthew 28:19-20).
More fish food for thought!

filletofsoul said...

Sorry, you were right about the references; I was only thinking about the "fasting" part.

My question still remains. Why did Jesus tell John's disciples that his disciples DID NOT FAST? How do you explain the old and new wine skins? Why should we fast if we are "living with" the bridegroom?
Is there a connection between fasting and communion? Did the importance of these practices shift after Jesus came to earth?

filletofsoul said...

These things I COMMAND you, that ye love one another. John 15:17

Master, which [is] the great commandment in the law?

Mat 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
Mat 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.
Mat 22:39 And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Mat 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Jesus gave guidelines and implied things/actions but "love one another" was his command.

SoulPastor said...

Wooooow Fishy!
You must a bone in your gills!

Good work, but is that all?

BEFORE I take some time to place on here what I think....I would love to hear other views and perspectives.

Please allow me to say this first; that I acknowledge that there are some textual problems surrounding the four New Testament references regarding fasting.

Now I wait...for some more responses.

Anonymous said...

Fasting comes highly recommended by Jesus, as we have already seen. Why? It is definitely not for us to prove to God that we are wonderful Christians. I don't think it is for the direct benefit of other people either. I think God has asked us to fast primarily for our own benefit. Fasting, at minimum, shows us how tight of a grasp the "flesh" has on us. No wonder there is a chapter in Isaiah about the kind of fast the Lord loves. Many of the times I have fasted, I get pretty cranky, and it reveals where my heart is really at. And why if I choose to do a 3 day fast, do I only last 2 and a half days? Why, if I do a one day fast do I only last till I smell Wendy's as I drive by it? When I have fasted, the main thing that happens is that God shows me things in my life that are holding me back from a closer relationship with Him. Of course, there are some times when all goes as planned, I pray for everybody on my mental list, and I manage to avoid food. I have to admit, though, that those times are few and far between. But even those times I screw it up, He shows me things, and it is very definitely worth it.

Oh - and from what I see, there is plenty of Biblical backup to support fasting. Filletofish... You missed the last part of Matthew 14:15 "then they WILL fast".

Jesus also said that certain demons would only come out if there was fasting involved. If believers didn't fast, there would be significant deliverance missed out on, huh?

Acts 13:1-3 shows us that the believers did fast after Jesus ascended as does Acts 14:23.

Harvey the Lovable Henchman said...

Some quick thoughts.

Leviticus 16:29 says that fasting is like "afflicting one's soul" (NIV) or to "deny yourself".
It's affects the soul more than the body.
An act of self denial.

"Fasting helps to express, to deepen, and to confirm the resolution that we are ready to sacrifice anything - to sacrifice ourselves - to attain what we seek for the kingdom of God."-Andrew Murray

snippyG said...

Matthew 6:18 "...your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

I think that obviously if God rewards people for fasting (before Him, not to show off), then it is clear that He wants us to do it.

My husband calls his appetite "King Stomach". Many people really are slaves to their appetite(s). I think that if we are willing to fast, then we are possibly more willing to surrender other areas to Him as well.

The verses following fasting in Matthew 6 talk about being more heavenly minded. They urge us to stop worrying and serving worldly desires. Matthew 6:31 - 33 says, "So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom...." I think this all ties in with the concept of fasting. Do we run after our desires? Or are we more interested in seeking Him? Are we willing to fast if it means developing a closer walk with the Lord?

Stephanie said...

Filletofsoul, you asked about the wineskins.

The verses about the wineskins and the garments have always confused me. Then, about two years ago, I heard a sermon about it, and it really made sense.

Now that I've got you interested... I can't remember what he said about it. I've been racking my brain all day, but it's totally evading me. So, I have emailed my former pastor, and have asked him to get back to me on that. As soon as I hear back from him, I'll let you know. Then you can decide if it makes sense or not, in the context of fasting.

I've noticed that no one else has responded to the wineskin question. Does anyone else have any thoughts on this?

Susan said...

We just had a great discussion on this in my spiritual formation group at the Sem. One fellow talked about fasting as a way to prepare for preaching. The way he put it really sunk in. He said, "I refuse to be satisfied with anything but His provision for my soul" or somthing like that.

Then we talked about the ways in which we can "disconnect" from our carnal power-sources (like food and other kinds of personal comforts) and partake of spiritual sources~ which affords us something that is of course completely different than what the world thinks of when it thinks of power...

younghands said...

Hey I love the picture, you really do have a future as a belly model. If this whole pastoring thing falls through it is good to see that you will have something to fall back on.

SoulPastor said...

For those looking for answers…and have some time to do research…here you go…I will also comment on the wine skin thing shortly….
Fasting is an extremely valuable and important facet of the Christian life; but it is not an infallible means of "getting what we want" from God. (Jeremiah 14:12 "When they fast, I will not hear their cry ...") 2 Samuel 12:15-23 (David's son died anyway.) But obedience is better than sacrifice (I Samuel 15:22)!
So is there a place for fasting in New Testament times?
As I said earlier fasting was not required of the disciples of Jesus.
Matthew 9:14 (Mark 2:18; Luke 5:33) "Then came to him the disciples
of John, saying, Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but thy disciples
fast not?"
But Jesus spoke of a day when there would be a place for fasting. (Matthew 6:16-18) (Not "if," but "when") Matthew 9:14-15 (Luke 5:34-35) But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast."
So, what guidelines are set in scripture concerning fasting?
Fasting is to be done in a manner of humility and secrecy. (Matthew 6:16-18 Luke 18:9-14)
Fasting is closely related to prayer and reading of the Word. I Samuel 1:6-8, 17-18/Nehemiah 1:4/Nehemiah 9: 1-3/ Daniel 9:3, 20/Joel 2:12/Jonah 3:8/Luke 2:37/Acts 9:9,11/Acts 10:30/ Acts 13:2/Acts 14:23/I Corinthians 7:5
There is a place for both the corporate (group) and the individual (personal) fast. But fasting in itself is of no spiritual value (Isaiah 58; Jeremiah 14:12; I Corinthians 8:8). Only fasting that is done with the right motive, that of glorifying God, can be pleasing in His sight. Isaiah chapter 58/Zechariah 7:5-6/Matthew 6:16-18/Luke 18:9-14.
The same Bible that teaches abstaining from foods (as God leads) also warns us against testing the Lord (Matthew 4:7). Our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 6:9), and we are to care for them as such (v. 20). It may indeed be profitable for a season for us to exercise severe discipline, to "keep under my body, and bring it into subjection" (I Corinthians 9 :27), to be "temperate in all things" (I Corinthians 9 :25), but we must also realize that "that which is flesh is flesh," and we cannot produce spiritual results – however sincere our intentions – from that which is purely flesh. To deny the flesh of its natural desires may cause us to be more "in tune" to
hear the voice of the Lord (Deuteronomy 9:18, 25, etc.), but it also places us in a realm more easily prone to the attack of the enemy. It was when Jesus had been fasting for 40 days that He was faced with the greatest Satanic attack (Matthew 4:1-3; Luke 4:1-2).
Scripture warns that in the last days there will be many "forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats," etc. (I Timothy 4:1-3). We are to test the spirits,
to see whether they be of God (I John 4:1).
When should we fast? Many occasions for fasting are recorded in scripture.
For the ordination of elders and commissioning of apostles to ministry (Acts 13:3/Acts 23).
For the intercession for the people of God. Exodus 24:18/Deuteronomy 9:8-9, 12-20, 23-27/Ezra 10:6/Daniel 9:3-4/Joel 2:12-14, 17-18/Jonah 3:5-10
For the humbling and disciplining of oneself. I Kings 21:27-29/Psalms 35:13/Psalms 69:10
For seeking the Lord and His way. Judges 20:26-28/2 Chronicles 20:3/ Ezra 8:21-23/
For repentance and confession of sin. I Samuel 7:6 /I Kings 21:27-29/Ezra 10:6/ Nehemiah 1:4-7/Nehemiah 9:1-3/Jeremiah 36:6-10/Daniel 9:3-5, 20/Jonah 3:5-10
For receiving healing.I Samuel 1:5-11, 18-20/2 Samuel 12:15-16, 22-23/Isaiah 58:8/ Acts 9:9, 17-19
For asking GOD to withhold His hand in judgment. Deuteronomy 9:18, 25/Isaiah 58:9
In preparation to receive a word from God. Deuteronomy 9:18, 25/Isaiah 58:9
For spiritual deliverance. Isaiah 58:6/Mark 9:29 (Matthew 17:21)
For Seeking assistance in time of fear.2 Chronicles 20:3
For seeking protection. Ezra 8:21-23
When lacking material provision; or in need. 2 Corinthians 11:27

SoulPastor said...

A question was asked regarding the OLD and NEW Wineskins.

Here is a quick and simplistic answer:

Jesus (New) wasn’t just another patch on an old religious system. God was doing something entirely new. The Jews had gotten so locked in to their religion, that they had lost relationship with God. They had made themselves impossible to be used by God in a new way. This is so important for us to understand. If we ever stop being flexible to be led by the Spirit of God, if we get rigidly locked into saying, “We’ve always done it this way before. That’s outside of our comfort zone,” then we’ll cease to be used by the Lord and He’ll move on to some other group that is flexible and pliable. For a detailed explanation I would encourage one to look at the Jewish New Testament Commentary by David H. Stern.