Jonathan Goebel continues our walk through the book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, with thoughts on chapter 9, Fasting. Jonathan is in the process of administering Karis' newest endeavor, the Global Initiative. He is married to Liz and they have two boys, Hayden and Rowan.
Fasting is one of those subjects that I grew up thinking was only for the deacons and pastors of the church. I was never encouraged or invited to fast for any reason. I always wrestled with questions like, Is fasting for me? What change will it create? So what, if I give up one meal? Isn't prayer good enough?
Fasting is the act of intentionally withholding of food for a God-centered purpose. Fasting from food elevates our prayer to God, showing our commitment to our purpose in prayer and discernment from the Lord. In the book, Whitney quotes Arthur Wallis, "Fasting is calculated to bring a note of urgency and importunity into our praying and to give force to our pleading in the court of heaven.” When we fast from food, the very thing that brings our body satisfaction, our focus is sharpened on our prayer and direction from the Lord. Our hunger becomes our reminder to pray often. While food brings energy and strength, now our dependence on the Lord is increased.
The most surprising part of fasting for me is that, it is EXPECTED from us as believers!! It’s not just for the leaders or the “ultra” spiritual, but for all God fearing believers.
Fasting for a Purpose
Fasting must be done for a purpose. A God-centered purpose! Whitney explores ten reasons why we should participate in fasting, including strengthening our prayer, seeking God’s guidance, and dedicating yourself to God. I am most convicted about not participating in fasting for purposes of strengthening my prayer and seeking God’s guidance, especially in times of urgency. There are so many times I want to pray for something or someone, but it eventually fades because of a busy schedule or distractions. Days later, I am not satisfied because I didn't receive an answer or don’t understand anything more than I did before. Did I try that hard? I was not committed to hear God’s discernment.
I am proud of the times that our elders have encouraged the church to participate in fasting. Each time, it has been for an urgent God-centered need or discernment on what needs to happen for our body to continue to grow or what direction to take. This commitment to prayer and devotion to our need is many times met with a decision or answer to our prayer. Huge blessings to our body have been met through fasting.
Questions for further thought
Will you confess and repent of any fear of fasting? Will you fast as the Holy Spirit directs? Will you plan a fast of dedication now as an expression of your willingness to fast from now on?
This article is just one in our Abide series, as we seek to get back to the basics and focus on abiding in Christ.