Spiritual Disciplines #2 – Fasting

Matthew 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Fasting – A fast is the self-denial of normal necessities in order to intentionally attend to God in prayer. Bringing attachments and cravings to the surface opens a place for prayer. This physical awareness of emptiness is the reminder to turn to Jesus, who alone can satisfy.  

Dallas Willard says in his book The Spirit of Disciplines,

 Actually, fasting is one of the more important ways of practicing that self-denial required of everyone who would follow Christ. In fasting, we learn how to suffer happily as we feast on God. Persons well used to fasting as a systematic practice will have a clear and constant sense of their resources in God. And that will help them endure deprivations of all kinds, even to the point of coping with them easily and cheerfully.   

Through self-denial, we begin to recognize what is controlling us. Brian Taylor said, “Self-denial is profoundly contemplative for it works by the process of human subtractions and divine addition.” Denying yourself a meal, and eventually, you will hear the growls of our stomach and the thoughts of your hunger. When those pains come, take a moment to reject the cravings and turn to the Lord and seek spiritual food for nourishment. This difficult act of self-denial can put us into a listening posture to hear God’s voice in our life. Fasting is an opportunity to be satisfied in the soul through spiritual nourishment.  

I’ve been working through a book called The Spiritual Discipline Handbook – Practices That Transform Us, written by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. Each chapter contains insight, pointers, and exercises within the spiritual disciplines. In the section on fasting, there is an excellent help when entering into the discipline of fasting. The following are a list of exercises in fasting:



  • To deepen your understanding of how Jesus denied himself and embraced suffering and death for you, practice some fasting during Lent. When the fasting is difficult, share your thoughts and feelings with Jesus. What does Jesus say to you? Tell Jesus what it means to you to share and fellowship with him in his sufferings.



  • Fast one meal a week. Spend your mealtime in prayer. When you feel hungry, sit with Jesus in the wilderness, and feed on the bread of heaven. Talk to Jesus about what his self-denial means to you. 



  • For one week, fast from media, sports, shopping, reading, or use of the computer. Dedicate the time you now have to God. What feelings arise in you? What thoughts interrupt your prayer?



  • Make two lists: one of needs, the other of wants. Ask God to show you where to fast from some of your desires. Offer to God the time you spend hankering after your wants.



  • Abstain from purchasing morning coffee or daily sodas or evening videos. Offer the money or time to God.  



  • When facing a trial, decide on a fast that gives you time to seek God’s strength in your journey.