Do you fast? If so, in what situations? What is the purpose of
fasting? Does the Lord pay more attention to your prayers and requests
if you fast? Let's say you were holding an outreach evening for the
lost in your area, would you fast beforehand as a way to get the Lord
to bless the speaker's talk or to make the outreach more successful
than He would do if you simply prayed? Please explain, if you have the
In your experience, does the Lord call people to "fast" from some
hobby that they enjoy doing, such as sewing or playing chess? If so,
In general, do you think the Lord calls people to do really hard
things as a way of bringing life back to their relationship with Him?
Fasting is not much mentioned in the NT. Isaiah 58 is a great chapter
showing how little God values external religion,
http:/ldolphin.org/isaiah58.html. The Lord describes in that Chapter
what He DOES value in terms of religious service.
I think private fasting may be valuable in conjunction with focused
prayer because it allows a person to concentrate on the prayer issue
during special times of need.
Fasting certainly does not impress God if it is done as show, or as
an attempt to earn brownie points with God by showing Him that we are
I think the main NT reference is in the Sermon on the Mount: "And
when you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they
disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by men. 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 men but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who
sees in secret will reward you."
I have had limited experience with fasting. But let me relate to you what I
have discovered. When I became hungry it immediately brought to mind my vow
to God and I again became focused on Him. Sometimes I had to be really
diligent. The hunger pangs were for me reminders. I think when we get into
our routines we do things without thinking. We have it hardwired. When we
refrain from certain things that we always do (like eating) then we will
probably be constantly reminded of why we are not adhering to our usual rut
and (hopefully) make us more aware of God in our lives. I'm sure that there
is much more to this subject but so far this is my experience.
More thoughts on fasting:
My current church teaches that the spiritual disciplines are the means
to increased godliness or Christlikeness. In other words, if you want
to grow spiritually and become more like Jesus, you must discipline
yourself in the areas of Bible intake, prayer, worship, evangelism,
service, tithing, silence and solitude, journaling, learning,
confession, accountability, simplicity, submission, spiritual
direction, celebration, affirmation, sacrifice, "watching," etc. These
disciplines are the catalysts for changing us.
The leaders in my church believe and teach that fasting is not an
option in the Christian life. It is expected. They point out that in
the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "*When* you fast..." not "*If*
you fast..." Just as he said, "When you pray...." They also teach that
when Jesus said the time would come when his disciples "*will* fast,"
he meant that we would fast from the time of his physical departure
until he returns. The thing is that I believe the Bridegroom is still
with us now, just in a different Person, the Holy Spirit.
I am on the women's ministry team at church, and I received an email
calling for a fast on a specified day prior to an evangelistic
outreach evening that we are doing. The email said that we can drink
water or juice on that day. If we are not going to do it, then we have
to call the leader of the women's ministry to discuss it with her. The
whole thing feels like force to me. I am just trying to understand the
I guess the only experience with fasting that I've had was my math
teacher in the 9th grade. I went to an alternative, "hippy" high
school, and I had this math teacher who was in the Ekankar cult, and
she fasted frequently. She often had this weird, sort of glazy, high
look in her eyes. I was never really sure if it was from fasting or
from smoking dope in between classes. Anyway, she tried all the time
to convert me, but, alas, I had a thing for the Tasty Freeze up the
But back to my church issues, right now our pastor is doing a series
on wisdom from the first few chapters of Proverbs. There is something
that is bothering me about it. He was talking about humility versus
pride and he gave this example of a football player that he saw on
TV. The guy was prancing and dancing around and egging the other team
on and acting cocky, and then he broke his ankle and ended up on the
sidelines holding his head in his hands. The pastor explained that God
broke his ankle because he was proud. Overall, my pastor seems to
believe that God causes bad and painful things to happen to us to
discipline and punish us for not obeying Him. So if something bad
happens to you, such as loss of a job or a miscarriage or an illness
or some other painful thing, it is a message from God to wake up and
wise up and do what He says. It is a very different picture of God
than the one I heard when I started out with Jesus. The message I
heard was that God is *head over heels in love* with the lost and the
broken. They said that Jesus was willing to pay any price, the
ultimate price, just to be with us, just because he loves us so
much. They said that God is a Father searching for his lost children
and that the desire of his heart is to spend time with his kids. They
said that when you sing worship songs to Jesus, it is like you are
I am having a hard time reconciling the two pictures of God, and
having a hard time getting close to a God who says, "Do you want a
broken ankle? OK, wise up: you discipline yourself to be more like me
My pastor says that if you are not doing well with the Lord, what you
need to do is obey him by doing something hard for him, such as going
on a mission trip to a foreign land. He says that will renew your
relationship with the Lord. I suppose he would say that fasting fits
in that category.
Anyway, those are issues I'm sorting through.
I am one of the Paracletes who assists in answering emails directed to our
Forum. I read what my brothers have written and I do agree with what
they have stated. I do wish to also add a few points from a different
I am sure your leaders are good men. However, with all those disciplines you
listed it sounded a little like a monastery as I difficulty remembering them
My mentor, a former Elder of Peninsula Bible Church when I asked
him about fasting told me the following.
"Firstly, if your are going to fast then why should one be allowed fruit
juice? Did Jesus have fruit juice when he fasted in the wilderness? No. If
you are going to do then do it right!!!!
Secondly, he felt that fasting, alot of time, lent itself to the flesh with
that little hand rising up from within with the desire to pat oneself on the
back for the good job one was doing in fasting.
Thirdly, he said when I want to spend time with my Lord, I want to be in a
comfortable position where my stomach is not growling or I am not thirsty so
I can spend time truly focused on snuggling with my heavenly Father."
Everybody is different. For some fasting may be fine, however, it is
not something that everyone should have to do or be required to do. This
borders on Phariseeism. If one truly feels led to do it then it is fine, but
it is an individual thing. I tend to follow the advice that my mentor gave
me that I stated above.
The New Covenant lifestyle is so much different than the Old Covenant. Now
that we are in Christ, it is not what we do for him (fasting included), but
it is a relationship of love as we are in a personal relationship with Jesus
and our Heavenly Father. Read through the Upper Room Discourse in John
13-17. As we listen to the words of Jesus there, these are words of close
relationship, love, care and concern that He has for us and with us.
Disciplines do not change us, only Christ himself changes us and He lives
within us (John 14:20, Ephesians 3:16-21).
I am really thankful for your questions.
P.S. Regarding the other statement about God causing a broken arm or
miscarriage - for a person to make a blanket statement like that is very
dangerous and one I cannot agree with.
I get the feeling that your church is asking for a lot of fleshly
performance and it may well amount o just plain legalism.
Whenever you see challenges that are "try harder" "do more" "suffer
more" "perform" "meet a standard" it is surely the flesh and not the
New Covenant at all.
Look at the contrast with Colossians 2:
"As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him,
rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you
were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one makes
a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human
tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and
not according to Christ. For in him the whole fulness of deity dwells
bodily, and you have come to fulness of life in him, who is the head
of all rule and authority....Let no one disqualify you, insisting on
self-abasement and worship of angels, taking his stand on visions,
puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast
to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together
through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from
God. If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the
universe, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why
do you submit to regulations, "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not
touch" (referring to things which all perish as they are used),
according to human precepts and doctrines?These have indeed an
appearance of wisdom in promoting rigor of devotion and
self-abasement and severity to the body, but they are of no value in
checking the indulgence of the flesh."
Ray Stedman has a great sermons on legalism which may be relevant:
I think this church must also be hierarchical in nature with the
pastor, not the Lord, as the Head of the body?
One can not legislate spiritually. The church is not a Marine Corps boot camp.
I was going to pass on this question until you included "chess". A favorite
pastime of mine is playing internet chess with people from other countries.
I love the game and conversation it provides. Food is never a problem with
me and can go for quite a time without a sacrifice. It is very difficult for
me to cut back on chess. Fasting is however related to food and after some
time without eating I observe a greater awareness, sensitivity. It helps me
in my prayer life and considering scrip-ture. If I'm merely hungry and
playing chess I doubt if that is what should be happening. If fasting
becomes a law, a required routine, we lose the esssence of our relationship
I wish you well.