Where does the idea of fasting come from? Is it a dead, archaic religious practice of the past or a historic spiritual discipline still relevant to those seeking to make space for God in our busy lives? How is fasting practiced by Christians today?
The Bible contains just under two dozen stories of individuals or groups who fasted. Moses, Elijah, David, Esther, and Jesus fasted. The people of Israel fasted together in times of great need. In the book of Acts, we can see groups of Christians fasting together.
The reasons to fast in the Bible are varied: to express mourning; to repent of sins; to worship and honor God; to hear God's voice; and to plead with God for guidance, protection, wisdom, or healing. Fasts in the Bible range across all of Biblical history, beginning with Moses, continuing through the life spans of the kings of Israel, during and after the exile, and in New Testament times.
The fasts of the Bible, for the most part, are recounted with no commentary. Nowhere does the Bible say what we should fast from or how often we should fast. In fact, nowhere does the Bible command that we fast. In the Bible, fasting appears to be a natural response when intense prayer is called for. Jesus talks about "when you fast" (Matt. 6:16-18), which seems to imply that he expected that fasting would be a part of normal Christian living.
Many Christians are reclaiming this spiritual discipline and finding that it helps them focus their prayer life and listen to God better. This session examines the history and purpose of fasting in the Christian tradition and suggests a variety of ways to incorporate it into our lives of faith.