What’s the deal with fasting?

11 10 2010

This week I shall attend two days of Prayer and Fasting with over 700 leaders from Newfrontiers churches. I have been to many such gatherings, and I do very much enjoy them, but I have to say in all honesty, I don’t really get fasting…

I mean, I know it’s a good thing to do. Jesus seems to assume we will do it, hence his instruction “when you fast…” rather than “if you fast…” (Matt 6:16) But truth be told, I’ve never really got to the bottom of why we do it and what it achieves. I can understand doing it for a couple of days at an event such as this, where all your time is committed to prayer. But how does it help when you’re sitting in your office, still continuing your daily work, but simply forgoing an 11am snack? What does it achieve in regular daily life, when you can’t spend all your time praying instead of eating? Should you fast for particular things? In order to see breakthrough in a particular area? If so, what is the Biblical basis for that? Or should fasting just be a regular discipline, not directed at any one specific topic/prayer/desired outcome? (Or more likely, should it be both?) Should you fast for a set time, or just until you see results? The list goes on…

I don’t think I’ve ever heard a single sermon on fasting. I’ve had a few conversations where people have tried to explain it, and to be honest, it’s sounded a little like twisting God’s arm through a hunger strike!! That can’t be the whole story. Surely?!

Every time Prayer and Fasting comes round I wish I’d thought about it more, read some books, listened to some talks. And every time I kick myself that I’ve forgotten yet again. So this week I shall approach it with faith, and next time (Feb 2011) I shall aim to combine with my faith, understanding!

Help me! Any recommendations for resources that will ‘feed’ my knowledge would be gratefully received. I have Piper’s A Hunger for God, sitting neglected on my bookshelf. It could do with some companions… and then I could do with reading them.




10 responses

11 10 2010
David Matthias

Hi Liam, I might bump into you at Prayer & fasting!

Have a look at http://www.barnabascommunitychurch.com/721965968608.htm and the talk from 24th May 2009.

After about 30 minutes he addresses the issue of fasting in quite a helpful way I think.

11 10 2010

Fantastic! Thanks David

11 10 2010

Hi Liam. Chris smith did a sermon on fasting at TCCC back in the day which looked at different types of fasts and why we fast but that would have been when using tapes so doubt the original exists. Maybe see if he has any material on file as I remember it being good to hear.

11 10 2010

I’ve just listened to that Martin Charlesworth sermon from BCC and agree it’s very much something that simply intensifies and refocuses our prayers. As for the practicalities of fasting – Isaiah 58 just blows me away…

11 10 2010
11 10 2010


Arthur Wallis wrote this – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Gods-Chosen-Fast-Spiritual-Practical/dp/0875085555/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1286824045&sr=8-1

and Spiritual disciplines by Richard Foster.

Both really good. However, I have read both a couple of times and still don’t get fasting.

12 10 2010
12 10 2010

Hey Liam,
I’m with you – always felt it was something I was supposed to do, butnever really ‘got’ it. One of my colleagues recently asked me to look up the OT regulations around fasting, and I was amazed to discover… there aren’t any! I always thought/assumed it was part of the levitical laws etc, but it’s not. Like you say, Jesus seemed to assume everyone was fasting, and they seem to have given it a go throughout Biblical history at times of great repentance etc, but there’s no hint of God suggesting it – let alone commanding it – apart from on the Day of Atonement.
Weird how it’s become one of the key disciplines associated with authentic Christian life…

Be interested to hear your further thoughts when you’ve digested all these articles, books etc!

13 10 2010

Thanks all for the recommendations! I look forward to reading/listening and learning!

3 01 2011
2010 in review « Liam's Blog

[…] What’s the deal with fasting? October 2010 9 comments […]

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