NOTE: This lesson was written as part of a spiritual retreat. For more information about the retreat, click here.
Spiritual Disciplines – Fasting
Fasting reveals to us the things that control us. Even a partial food fast (such as giving up all eating between meals) quickly makes us aware of the ways in which food controls us. When done in conjunction with prayer and listening to God, it can help us regain balance in our lives.
Fasting does not bring us a quicker answer from God or persuade God to follow our plan. Instead, it prepares us to see our situation through God’s eyes and to act on what we learn.
Preparation/ Find a comfortable, quiet place to sit, possibly with a view of nature to focus your attention on God.
Place your palms facing down, indicating a desire to release your concerns and anxieties to God. Name the things that are occupying your thoughts, and turn them over to God. Take a few deep breaths to relax your body.
When you are ready, turn your palms up as an indication that you are ready to receive from God.
Read Isaiah 58:1-7/ Reread. Then continue the study by paragraphs.
- Contrast verses 1-5 with verses 6-7.
- Notice the difference in purpose between the two kinds of fasting.
- List the items in verses 6 and 7 that represent the kind of fasting that the Lord wants.
- What could this look like?
Fasting requires giving something up—making a sacrifice, and in these verses it is a sacrifice for the sake of someone else. Consider how this kind of fasting could take shape in your life.
Read Luke 4:1-15/ Reread.
- What were the reasons for Jesus to fast?
- What were the results?
- How does this fasting compare to the instructions from the prophet Isaiah?
What might have been different if Jesus had not fasted?
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
Read Acts 13:1-4/ Reread
- What were the reasons for the church to fast?
- What were the results?
- How does this fasting compare to the above passages?
- What might have been different if the church had not fasted?
Taking into account all 3 passages, what most impacts you for your own spiritual practice?
Prayer and Action/
Ask God to show you why fasting may be useful for you. Humbly create a plan for how you might give up something for a specific period of time, to turn attention away from self toward the One who loves you.
Challenge yourself to go beyond a fast that is solely personal, to make a difference in the life of someone else.
Other passages to study as you develop this spiritual discipline/ Daniel 9, Matthew 6:5-18, Mark 2:18-22, Ezra 8:21-23, Nehemiah 1, Esther 4, Joel 2:12-14, Jonah 3.
Online resource for practical considerations of food fasts, www.cru.org Personal Guide to Fasting
The practice of fasting helps us get in touch with our truest desires. It is not mere self-denial, but rather an earnest preparation for the feast of beloved community. Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, Christianity Today, March 2013
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