Spiritual Disciplines Course.
Introduction to the Discipline of Fasting.
- The primary purpose of fasting is worship, it must forever centre on God. It should be God-initiated
and God-ordained. Fasting puts us in a place where God can change us and reveal to us the things that are
controlling us. (Foster, p. 69)
- The central ideal in fasting is the voluntary denial of an otherwise normal function for the sake of intense
spiritual activity. (Foster, p. 75)
- Secondly (Foster p. 69ff):
- Fasting reveals the things that control us.
- Fasting reminds us that we are sustained "by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matt. 4: 4)
- Fasting helps us keep our balance in life
- We usually cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but when we abstain from these things,
they are brought to the surface, and we are forced to examine them. (Foster, p. 69).
- The hunger striker fasts because they want to gain political power, or attract attention to their cause. Health
dieting stresses abstinence from food for physical, not spiritual purposes. Spiritual fasting refers to abstaining
from food for spiritual purposes, to bring us closer to God. (Foster, p. 62 - 63).
- Don't rush into an absolute fast. Start small and build your way up. Constantly monitor your reactions (both
physical and spiritual). Don't set your goal too high at first.
- A 'normal fast' is abstaining from all food , solid or liquid, but not from water.
- A 'partial fast' is the restriction of diet, but not total abstention.
- An 'absolute fast' is total abstention from food and water. (Foster, p. 63 - 64)
- You may want to spend the time you would have been eating in contemplative prayer, meditation, study,
spiritual reading, reflection, confession, etc.
A fifth and more weighty reason for fasting is that it is a help to prayer; particularly when we set apart
larger portions of time for private prayer. Then especially it is that God is often pleased to lift up the souls
of his servants above all the things of earth, and sometimes to rapt them up, as it were, into the third
heaven. And it is chiefly as it is a help to prayer that it has so frequently been found a means in the hand of
God of confirming and increasing . . . seriousness of spirit, earnestness, sensibility, and tenderness of
conscience; deadness to the world and consequently the love of God and every holy and heavenly
- John Wesley
- We usually cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but when we abstain from these
things, they are brought to the surface, and we are forced to examine them. (Foster, p. 69).
- Foster suggests some other forms of fasting (besides from food), fast from:
- billboards (allow it to be a signal of another reality)
- consumer culture (spend time with the broken, bruised, dispossessed).
(taken from Celebrating the Disciplines, a study guide that accompanies the book).
- How is the practice of fasting leading you into a deeper experience of intimacy with God?
- What have you found to be the greatest benefits of fasting?
- What have you found to be the greatest difficulties in fasting?
- What has your practice of fasting been teaching you about yourself and your relationships?
- What has your practice of fasting been teaching you about God?
- Put some form of fasting as discussed above into practice during the week, bearing in mind the points
mentioned and use the reflection points as a guideline for evaluation.
Bible passages for meditation:
- Nehemiah 1: 4-11
- Esther 4: 12-17
- Isaiah 58
- Daniel 10: 1-14
- Zechariah 7: 5-6
- Matthew 4: 1-4 (Luke 4: 1-13)
- Matthew 6: 16-18
- John 4: 31-34
- Acts 13: 1-3
- Acts 14: 19-23
- Galatians 5: 13
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