What is your experience and/or view about fasting for spiritual (not health or medical test) reasons?

I fast regularly and find it helps me much spiritually
0% (0 votes)
I fast regularly and find it helps me somewhat or varies in its effect
6% (1 vote)
I have fasted (or do fast) on rare occasions, but find it helpful
59% (10 votes)
I have fasted (or do fast) on rare occasions, but find it over rated
12% (2 votes)
I have never fasted for spiritual purposes
18% (3 votes)
I know the Bible teaches it, but I am perplexed about its practical value
0% (0 votes)
I do not believe fasting is for the New Covenant (church or grace) era.
6% (1 vote)
Other
0% (0 votes)
Total votes: 17
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There are 24 Comments

Ed Vasicek's picture

What is your view and experience on fasting. By fasting, I mean refraining from eating for a day or more.

My experiences are limited, and I have never fasted for more than a day. I fasted more when I was a new believer, but eventually lost confidence in its spiritual impact in my life. Some argue that it takes a longer fast to experience the impact (whatever that impact is).

So what are your thoughts?

"The Midrash Detective"

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

I think believers are to fast, but I also think people have mystified it (as with so many elements of Christianity). I'm don't see any basis for some "experience" we should expect; I think it's more a time of focus and analysis.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

christian cerna's picture

The longest fast that I did was a 12 day fast. And I have done several 3 day and 5 day fasts. I find that the biggest benefit of doing them on a regular basis, is that, because you allow your body time to detoxify itself, the mind clears up and becomes more focused on whatever you are working on. I feel rejuvenated after the fast. And I find that it has liberated me from the being a slave to food.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I have fasted for a 3 day stretch. As far as the spiritual effects, the first day isn't all that helpful, because all I can think about is food, and since I cook three times a day, it's tough. The second day is much better, and by the third day, I don't care whether or not I ever eat again, and I feel like I could run a 5K. I am hyper-focused, and I do believe that fasting can help in many ways, not the least of which is learning to say "No" to the flesh. After 3 days, though, I start feeling lethargic and I get heart palpitations. I can fast longer if I drink V-8 as well as water, which one could say is not really a fast, but when I do water only, I feel very nauseous, and don't get anything done. I can't be 'spiritual' and neglect my family at the same time, it just doesn't compute for me.

I don't know how other people do it, but I find it difficult to keep a long fast a secret. I only seem to manage to fast under the radar for about a day, two tops.

Rev Karl's picture

I hope this is not horribly off-topic.

Four times in the last eight years our pastor has led our congregation in "40 Days of Fasting and Prayer."

During these times, we prayed for something specific having to do with the direction of our church.

While all were invited to participate in fasting, all were requested to pray.

A list was created so that at least one person was fasting every day.

The Pastor chose to fast every Sunday in the 40 days.

The first three times we did this corporately, there was an observable growth in the Spiritual lives of our people, as well as significant numerical growth. It was absolutely amazing! The Spirit worked in the hearts of His people. The church grew in grace, and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ.

The fourth time we implemented this, results were counterproductive. The activity had become just that: an activity. It had become a formula, kind of like reciting pre-written prayers without actually meaning what you are saying. Participation was spotty. The church *expected* great things, without putting in the work of fasting and prayer that brings about great things.

As long as the focus of fasting and prayer is on the Spirit of God, it is amazing.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Susan R wrote:
I can't be 'spiritual' and neglect my family at the same time, it just doesn't compute for me.

You know, Jesus went out into the wilderness to fast. Perhaps setting aside time to fast would not be the same as neglect.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

christian cerna's picture

Susan R wrote:
I have fasted for a 3 day stretch. As far as the spiritual effects, the first day isn't all that helpful, because all I can think about is food, and since I cook three times a day, it's tough. The second day is much better, and by the third day, I don't care whether or not I ever eat again, and I feel like I could run a 5K. I am hyper-focused, and I do believe that fasting can help in many ways, not the least of which is learning to say "No" to the flesh. After 3 days, though, I start feeling lethargic and I get heart palpitations. I can fast longer if I drink V-8 as well as water, which one could say is not really a fast, but when I do water only, I feel very nauseous, and don't get anything done. I can't be 'spiritual' and neglect my family at the same time, it just doesn't compute for me.

I don't know how other people do it, but I find it difficult to keep a long fast a secret. I only seem to manage to fast under the radar for about a day, two tops.

For me, it is not possible to keep a long fast a secret, since I live with my family. After a few days they begin to notice that I am losing weight. So in that situation, it is best to be honest with them, so that they are aware of it, and can be careful not to mention food around you. Also that way, you don't have to lie to them, when they ask you why you are not eating. Once they get used to the idea of you fasting on a regular basis, they can sense when you are fasting, and they stop asking about it as much.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
Susan R wrote:
I can't be 'spiritual' and neglect my family at the same time, it just doesn't compute for me.

You know, Jesus went out into the wilderness to fast. Perhaps setting aside time to fast would not be the same as neglect.


Jesus didn't have a spouse and kids, He didn't homeschool, nor did He care for His elderly mother. During some seasons of life, a person can't set aside their duties to 'be spiritual', because it isn't truly spiritual to neglect one's duties. When I was in college, or newly married with only one small child, I could push myself physically without putting someone else in a bind. Not possible now.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Susan,

I basically agree with you. However, I think everyone can find time to temporarily shift responsibilities. We homeschool with three younger children (11, 7, 4), yet our family babysat our kids for two days last Christmas so my wife and I could temporarily get away from our responsibilities to celebrate our anniversary. That's all I'm talking about.

I think we have downplayed fasting too much in fundamentalism. Twice in Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus says "when you fast." Not if, but when. He evidently expects us to be people who fast.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Chip Van Emmerik wrote:
Susan,

I basically agree with you. However, I think everyone can find time to temporarily shift responsibilities. We homeschool with three younger children (11, 7, 4), yet our family babysat our kids for two days last Christmas so my wife and I could temporarily get away from our responsibilities to celebrate our anniversary. That's all I'm talking about.

I think we have downplayed fasting too much in fundamentalism. Twice in Matthew 6:16-18 Jesus says "when you fast." Not if, but when. He evidently expects us to be people who fast.


I agree that we should find time to fast, but I'm talking about long fasts. We don't have family that can take the kids, and we are very hesitant about overnights at other people's houses anyway. I'm just saying that we don't need to guilt trip over it. Fast 'within your means' so to speak. If one day is what you can do, then do one day. Don't try to do a week and fall asleep at your desk or drive a tractor-trailer into a tree and get fired because you are fasting.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Totally agree.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

JD Miller's picture

It seems like many view fasting as an all and nothing approach. As I have read about fasting in scripture it seems that there were times when the fasts involved absolutely no food or water but there are other times when the fast involved simply giving up something. That something could be food or a particular kind of food. It could also be intimate relations with a spouse (I Cor 7). I find the example of drinking a V8 during the fast as perfectly acceptable if you began the fast with that intent and are committed to keeping your focus on God and dependance on Him as you allow Him to use the V8 in your life as you abstained from other foods.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

JD,

How did you tie 1 Cor 7 to fasting?

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

JD Miller's picture

Chip, 1 Corinthians 7:5 says, "Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency."
You could argue that they are not coming together while they are not eating or you could look at it as a time to fast by not coming together and instead focusing on God. Regardless they are permitted to "not come together" for that special period of time. They both must agree to it and it must just be for a period of time and then they must come together again.
Regardless, abstaining from the marital relationship is permitted as part of a fast.

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

That's what I get for posting on the run from memory. Must be getting old.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

wkessel1's picture

Just curious if anyone has an explaination as to why if fasting is to be an important part of the new testament believer's life, why it is not encouraged or even mentioned very often in New Testment Epistles outside the Gospels and Acts?

christian cerna's picture

wkessel1 wrote:
Just curious if anyone has an explaination as to why if fasting is to be an important part of the new testament believer's life, why it is not encouraged or even mentioned very often in New Testment Epistles outside the Gospels and Acts?

It was just assumed by the people of that time, that fasting was a regular part of the spiritual disciplines. Up until the past couple of centuries, fasting was very common, not only for spiritual reasons, but for health reasons. It wasn't until the drug companies bought most of the doctors and medical experts, that fasting(and much of the natural medicines) began to be looked at suspiciously. Anyone who practices fasting regularly, will tell you that fasting provides wonderful health benefits. Yet, the media and the so-called health experts say that fasting is dangerous, and should not be attempted unless under the supervision of a medical professional. I guess they(doctors) would rather see people drug themselves to death, and live in poor health, than to lose some customers.

wkessel1's picture

Health doesn't really seem the point of fasting in any of the Biblical passages where it is given. Actually I can't think of Biblical example of something that is given our spiritual growth, yet is defended with the physical health benefits.

christian cerna's picture

wkessel1 wrote:
Health doesn't really seem the point of fasting in any of the Biblical passages where it is given. Actually I can't think of Biblical example of something that is given our spiritual growth, yet is defended with the physical health benefits.

Just because the Bible does not mention someone fasting for the health benefits, does not mean that it is wrong to fast, in order to be in better health. Fasting is one of those disciplines that involves the whole being, not just the spirit. If a person fasts for 7 days, while seeking direction from God, that person will also lose weight- which is good for the health. And if an overweight person decided to only eat once a day, in the evening, to reach a healthy weight, is that somehow wrong- because they decided to fast half a day?

christian cerna's picture

wkessel1 wrote:
Just curious if anyone has an explaination as to why if fasting is to be an important part of the new testament believer's life, why it is not encouraged or even mentioned very often in New Testment Epistles outside the Gospels and Acts?

Why does it matter, that fasting is hardly mentioned outside those two books? Are those books not part of the New Testament canon, and equally important as the rest of scripture? Does not the fact that our Lord Jesus himself said that his disciples would fast after he was taken from them, not give us reason enough to practice it?

I think that most Christians wish that fasting did not exist, because they love food too much, and have not the self control to practice fasting. But it is no less important than any of the other spiritual disciplines.

wkessel1's picture

I just thought it was interesting that the practices is not taught or even mentioned by Paul, Peter, James, John or the author of Hebrews. With all the praying Paul tells us about, I just figured he would at least mention fasting along with it. I guess I was wondering if it is something for the church age or something or not. In Heibert's commentary on the Mark passage he indicates it is not an institution of the church and explains better than I ever could about what Jesus says the comment about the disciples practicing it. I like his thinking:

""Then shall they fast in those days" -when His removal has become a sad reality. Their resultant sorrow will provide a proper occasion for fasting as the appropriate expression of their true feelings. The added in those days (literally, "in that day") emphatically points to that coming day. The primary reference is to the time of the cruci¬fixion. Matthew 6:16-18 shows that Jesus did not oppose fasting. He condemned fasting as a matter of outward form and show, not when it was a genuine expression of inner sorrow. His words do not establish fasting as a prescribed institution in the church. Christ's account here does not strictly apply to this age. Nowhere does Scripture picture the church as a widow who bewails her bereavement with recurrent periods of fasting and tears. The picture of Jesus indicates that' 'it is not fasting to which objection is taken but fasting according to rule, instead of its inherent principle. As a piece of legalism, or asceticism, in which fasting per se becomes of moral obligation, it is incongruous with the free spirit of Christianity.”"(Hiebert, commnentary on Mark page 78)

Please let me say that I do not believe fasting is wrong, espeically if someone finds it helpful and beneficial (whether spiritual or physical), but as Jesus did say it is something between you and the Lord. We as Christians should be willing to seek the Lord diligently, wether we skip a meal or not.

For what it is worth, Jesus practiced many things that we don't do in the church, such as oberserving the passover, feasts and other Mosiac law items.

christian cerna's picture

well, i think that you have the wrong idea about fasting. you are seeing it as something that will be painful and sorrowful. but for those of us who practice extended fasting regularly, it is not like that. it actually is a very satisfying experience, refreshing to the body(assuming that you get enough rest, clearing the mind, and allowing you to spend a few days focusing on the spiritual things of above. read the article i posted for inspiration.

i am not saying that one needs to fast for x number of days, or x number of times a month. it is the same with all spiritual disciplines. the bible does not tell us how many times a day we should pray, or read the bible, or go to church, or give money to the poor. it always should be as the spirit leads us.

asceticism is probably when people, who have an erroneous view, that the physical world is evil and any pleasures are bad, overdo it. there were always people who are like the monastics, who flee to some remote cave, avoiding the world and people, like hermits. but that is just an extreme.

i am sure that most people who fast, continue to lead normal lives. it just makes them appreciate food all the more, when they have abstained from it for a few days. i recommend everyone fast for a week, just to see how it can transform your mind and spirit.

wkessel1's picture

I don't think fasting is something that is painful or sorrowful (although the Pharisees seemed to think so). The quote is explaining why Jesus said they shall fast again, not what fasting is like. There was only one fast that was commanded in the OT and that was the day of Atonement. Many of the OT examples are when they were facing problems and serious situations and were humbling themselves before God. So it is often associated with painful and sorrowful things, but fast in and of itself is not painful or sorrowful.

The one problem I have with your "inspirational" article, is that it is all about the physical and medical reasons. It has nothing to do with the original question of the view/experience of fasting for spiritual reasons, not physical or medical. While I am sure that those are great benefits, they are not reasons that i would ever consider fasting. i would only do it for spiritual reasons and benefits. But that is just my opinion.