Fasting for Renewal
March 8, 2021
Fasting is one of the least used spiritual disciplines of our time. Yet, in the Bible and throughout most of church history, it has been an essential practice for followers of Jesus. The great heroes of faith in the OT fasted. The first story we read about Jesus’ adult life is of Him fasting for forty days and forty nights. Many of the NT’s central characters continued this practice, as have Christians since then for thousands of years. It was not until very recently that fasting fell out of favor.
Why is this? Could it be because we live in a culture obsessed not only with food, but also excess, luxury, and addiction to pleasure? For so many of us, the desires of our bodies have come to hold too much power over us. In the battle with our “flesh,” we have become its slave, not its master.
So, how can fasting help? Fasting is the practice of abstaining from food or other things for a set period of time in order to hunger more deeply for God. At its root, fasting is about more than simply giving up certain things; it’s about hungering for God. A hunger that’s often curbed by our endless feeding on the things of this world. As John Piper writes,
The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison, but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for Heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It’s not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night…The greatest adversary of love to God is not His enemies but His gifts. And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth. For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.1
In fasting, we are laying down an appetite. This act of self-denial may not seem significant, but it exposes hunger which may control us more than we realize, and it creates space for time with God.
Like all spiritual disciplines, it’s easy to lose sight of the “why” behind fasting. Fasting is not a way to manipulate God. It’s not a spiritual opportunity to lose weight. It’s not a chance to impress others. Through fasting, we feed on God and, in turn, break the power of the flesh in our lives.
Fasting is a tool to help us realize an important biblical principle: when we lay our lives down, we find it again in God. Believing this, we want to call you to 21 days of prayer and fasting.
Feel free to fast from things other than food. It’s not uncommon for Christians to refrain for a period of time from things like television, social media, caffeine, sweets, music, shopping for non-essentials, or sleep2. If you’re fasting from food, take baby steps. If you’ve never fasted before, consider starting with just one meal (i.e., lunch once or twice a week). Another option is a weekly 12 hour or 24 hour fast (i.e., sunup to sundown or sundown to sundown). Of course, you’re free to fast for a longer period of time (i.e., the whole 21 day period), but know, a longer fast is not more pleasing to God than a shorter fast.3
There are four ways we are asking you to be involved:
- Choose something to fast from for the 21 day period of March 14th to April 3rd.
- As you fast, each time you feel a hunger pain, use it as a prompt for prayer. Let your desire for whatever you’ve given up be a reminder to refocus on God.
- Use the time you would normally be eating (or doing whatever it is you’re fasting from) to read your Bible and pray. To help focus our prayers each day, we’ve put together a daily prayer guide (download a copy of our prayer guide here or pick up a copy in a worship service on Sunday).
- In all of this, understand that breaking a fast early may cause you to feel guilty, like you have sinned. Likewise, success in a fast may cause you to feel pride, like you have earned favor with God. Watch out for both of these reactions as neither is healthy or in line with what the Bible teaches about fasting.
1 John Piper, A Hunger for God: Desiring God through Fasting and Prayer, 14-15.
2 If you choose to fast from sleep, you are not expected to give up sleep for the entire 21-day period. Those who practice this type of fast typically choose 1 or 2 days a week to wake up an hour or two earlier (or stay up an hour or two later) and devote that time to Bible study and prayer.
3 Consider talking to a doctor before undertaking longer fasts and take their advice.