During the season of Lent, many Christians fast as a form of spiritual discipline. Here are some of the reasons why:
1. It is Biblical.
Both Old and New Testaments speak of fasting as an important spiritual discipline. Moses fasted for forty days on the mountain to receive the tablets of God. Jesus fasted before facing his temptation. The church at Antioch fasted and prayed before choosing Paul and Barnabas to be their missionaries (Acts 13:2). Paul led a time of fasting and prayer with the leadership of the churches he founded on his missionary journeys (Acts 14:23). And Jesus just assumed that his followers would fast, and told them to do so both happily and with a low profile: “And whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance in order to be seen fasting” (Matthew 6:16)
2. It is our tradition.
From the time of the early church, fasting has been a key spiritual discipline for churches all across the theological spectrum. Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant Christians have all seen fasting as a way to strengthen one’s relationship with Christ, and to more fully experience the work of the Holy Spirit. John Wesley would not ordain any pastor who did not fast every Wednesday and Friday “until the ninth hour.” (3:00 pm—Wednesday because it was the day of the Lord’s betrayal, and Friday because it was the day of the crucifixion.) This Wed/Fri partial day fast is a good way to get started in the discipline.
3. It makes a difference. Fasting has at least two interrelated purposes.
• Repentance and Purification: fasting is a discipline intended to turn us away from distractions and toward only that which is essential. After fasting in the wilderness, Jesus says to the adversary, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.” In the Old Testament, the prophets would challenge the kings of Israel to “call a fast” in order for the people to turn away from idols and back toward God and the law God had given them.
• Intensity: fasting promotes an increased intensity in our prayer lives. As we face the hunger, we are driven to a more intense prayer life, and a greater sense of reliance on God. As we fast, we say “As much as I hunger for food, all the more do I hunger for the Holy Spirit.” The practice is often undertaken before an important decision or challenge.
Learn more about fasting and how we can fast at StLukesMethodist.org/easter/#fasting