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What is fasting? And why should we do it? If you do a Google search on “what is fasting?” only two of the first ten sites that pop up have to do with biblical fasting. The rest are based on dieting and losing weight. Fasting, according to the Bible, means to voluntarily reduce or eliminate your intake of food for a specific time and purpose. It is self-denial, or self-restraint.

It’s a means of humbling our hearts before God. It’s a physical expression of telling God that we desire communion with Him more than food for our bodies. Fasting is admitting that we cannot lean on our own understanding--that the way we look at the world is flawed. It’s the acknowledgment of a desperate need for God above all else. It enables the Holy Spirit to reveal our true spiritual condition. The results are brokenness, repentance, and a transformed life.


Jesus clearly expected His followers to fast. He even gave us directions on how to do so. He said, “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-18)


Perhaps you’ve never fasted. Perhaps you don’t see the point, or you’ve considered it but thought it too difficult. Why subject ourselves to misery? Why make ourselves uncomfortable? When we allow ourselves to focus on misery, we leave no room for joy. When we focus on our discomfort, we make fasting about ourselves. Hudson Taylor said, “Perhaps the greatest hindrance to our work is our own imagined strength; and in fasting we learn what poor, weak creatures we are- dependent on a meal of meat for the little strength which we are so apt to lean upon.”


How easy is it to go on a diet when our bellies are full? How easy is it to avoid temptation in the grocery store when our stomachs aren’t growling? These situations look quite different when we haven’t eaten in several hours. It’s easy to make plans and goals and promises when hunger pangs aren’t present, but we tend to react a lot differently once hunger strikes. Hunger makes us snippy. It makes us dread the 5 minutes the Pastor might go over. It makes us argue over restaurants and bicker in the kitchen. For such a small organ, our stomachs sure do have a lot of power. Like Hudson said, we are weak creatures.


But what do we desire more? Do we desire full stomachs or heart change? Do we desire lunch at our favorite restaurant or transformation? Do we desire late-night snacks or intimacy with our Savior? These are questions we have to ask ourselves. What am I willing to give up for God’s glory? Am I willing to make praying and fasting a priority? Am I willing to be uncomfortable?


Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights. He needed time alone with God. He was preparing to accomplish the work His Father had sent Him to do. And that was to suffer and die for the sins of all mankind. His fasting and communion with His Father gave Him the power to be obedient to the hardest task imaginable. And His obedience to the hardest thing made it possible for Him to do the greatest thing. He rose again and brought us full salvation.

Nothing we give up while fasting will ever compare to the suffering Jesus went through. Skipping a meal is not going to cause us great anguish. But it might just draw us closer to God.


I challenge you today to set aside a little more time with your Father. And to set aside a time for fasting. Our denial of self opens up so many avenues for the Spirit to work in our lives.

If Jesus did it, so should we.