Slow Down and Fast

“Moreover when you fast, don’t be like the hypocrites, with sad faces. For they disfigure their faces that they may be seen by men to be fasting. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you are not seen by men to be fasting, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.”
––Matthew 6:16-18

Technical definitions aside, religious fasting is, at its heart, the act of denying something your body enjoys in order to concentrate on something your spirit needs, like a deeper relationship with God.

What could you do during a fast? You might read your Bible. You could pray. You might even spend time with your family. Of course, you might be doing all these already, and that's great. But if you are having difficulty finding the time, or if you want to do more than you are now, you might consider a fast.

What would you fast? Well, that depends on what you enjoy and do a lot of. Think for a bit. What takes up a good chunk of your free time each day? Is it talking on the phone? What about texting or social media? Maybe surfing the Web? How about online gaming or individual gaming on your electronic device of choice? How about broadcast television, on-demand television, home videos, or online video services? Maybe you listen to music a lot. Or maybe you spend lots of time hanging out with your friends. Do you enjoy sleeping late? Maybe you could fast that snooze button and get up a little earlier each morning. Everyone is different. Ask God to show you what you might fast.

How long would you fast? Try a week. It may be hard at first. You might find yourself bored and craving that thing you are fasting. But give yourself a chance. As you continue, you may find yourself enjoying your special time more and more. And at the end of your week, you just might find you want to spend more time with God and your family, and less time with that thing you were craving so much. Whatever you do, here are a few things to remember.

  1. Religious fasting can be very beneficial, but it is not a command in Scripture.
  2. If you want to practice a literal fast of abstaining from food, please do some reading and consult your doctor first—I cannot over-stress this point.
  3. Remember that religious fasting is not a spectacle that calls attention to you, but a private matter between you and God.

Want to learn more about traditional fasting? Open your Bible! The Scriptures record that types of fasting were used as part of mourning, repentance, devotion, and physical fitness. Fasting was done by:

  • The Israelites on the annual Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:26-32) as well on four other days of the year (Zechariah 8:19)
  • Moses, absolute and supernatural fasts (Deuteronomy 9:7-21)
  • King David (2 Samuel 12:15-25; Psalm 35:12-14)
  • Elijah (1 Kings 19:3-8)
  • King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah (2 Chronicles 20:2-4)
  • Ezra and the Jews formerly in exile (Ezra 8:1-23)
  • Esther, Mordechai and the Jews of Persia (Esther 4)
  • Daniel, partial fast (Daniel 1:8-16)
  • Joel (Joel 1:14; 2:12-17)
  • The people of Nineveh (Jonah 3:5-10)
  • Anna (Luke 2:37)
  • Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:2; Luke 4:2)
  • The Pharisees and the disciples of John the Baptist (Matthew 9:14-15; Mark 2:18-20; Luke 5:33-39)
  • A Pharisee who boasted of his fasting (Luke 8:12)
  • Saul/Paul (Acts 9:9)
  • Cornelius (Acts 10:30)
  • The church in Antioch (Acts 13:2)
  • Paul and Barnabus (Acts 14:23)
  • Paul (2 Corinthians 11:27)

And there are some biblical instructions regarding fasting:

  • Isaiah 58:3-13
  • Matthew 6:16–18
  • 1 Corinthians 7:5


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