Fasting… Biblically in the Post-Modern Era

Everyone hates the word, “fast.” Not the adjective meaning quick, but the noun meaning to avoid food, particularly for religious reasons.

The Bible, whether you believe every word is God-breathed or simply see it as a collection of stories teaching morals, is filled with examples of fasting.

In 1 and 2 Samuel, people fast in honor of and mourning for the dead. The King of Nineveh in Jonah proclaims a fast to show sorrow for sin. Esther fasts to symbolize a deep desire to intercede with God on behalf of her people and a great need for wisdom in how to overcome an unjust situation.

Jesus advised his disciples to make their fasts less obvious so that they would not receive public attention and could increase spiritual treasures obtained through fasting. Jesus also stated that in dealing with the unseen some entities could only be removed through prayer and fasting. In Acts, the followers of Jesus often fasted before making major decisions.

However, in today’s modern world, not everyone can fast for medical reasons. Children under 18 and pregnant women are discouraged from fasting. In addition, some people with various organ dysfunctions or addictions cannot fast medically. Fasting is also not to be considered in people with certain psychiatric conditions like manic depression, schizophrenia, and eating disorders.

So how can you fast if you can’t physically fast?

The purpose of a fast was never to deny yourself food; it was always to refocus your inner connection with the still, small Voice. It was for a set time and didn’t endure forever. Also, it wasn’t about spiritual superiority, but about humbly refocusing on the things that the still, small Voice had on His agenda. It was not about changing the still, small Voice, but it was about changing our hearts.

With that express purpose in mind, you can modify the concept of a fast to reflect your situation.

  • Instead of giving up whole meals, give up dessert, soda, or coffee for a period of time. The money could then be donated to a charity.
  • Eliminate gaming sites or social media sites. Spend the extra time reading devotionals or having conversation with family and friends.
  • Eliminate a certain genre of music that you know doesn’t always help your connection with the still, small Voice. Replace the music with positive, encouraging alternatives.

While these examples don’t meet the pure dictionary definition, the importance is intent to re-focus your spiritual eyes through personal sacrifice that is not obvious to everyone else.


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