Fasting—giving up something in order to focus on God—is a practice that Jesus engaged in. It can draw us closer to Him.
“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” Matthew 6:16–18 (NLT)
Fasting is not a popular spiritual discipline in our culture. When I was in my twenties, I tried fasting once a week—drinking only water and a bit of fruit juice on Wednesdays, in preparation for midweek prayer and worship service. This went all right until I fainted in church one Wednesday evening! I gave up on fasting for quite a while after that.
But it is possible—and sometimes harder—to fast from things other than food. For some, it might be an even greater sacrifice to fast from, say, Facebook or Fox News. Notice Jesus’ word choice: He does not say, “if you fast,” but “when you fast…”
Fasting—giving up something in order to focus on God—is a practice that Jesus engaged in. It can draw us closer to Him, but only if we can do it without bragging about it. Jesus warns us not to brag about this practice— or any spiritual practice, really.
What holds you in its grip? How would you finish the sentence, “Wow, I really need…”? A cup of coffee? A glass of wine? To veg out in front of the TV? In fasting, we discover the hidden need—for comfort, love, companionship, stimulation—that such surface “needs” attempt to meet. Could you, for a time, fast from that which masks your true needs, so that Jesus can step in and meet them?
Faith Step: Today, try fasting. Rather than giving up all food, try giving up something that you consume mindlessly: soda, television, gossip. Don’t tell anyone what you’re doing.
Keri Wyatt Kent is the author of many devotionals, including Simple Compassion and Oxygen. She writes and speaks to help people slow down, simplify, and rest so that they can listen to God. Keri is a member of Willow Creek Community Church, where she has taught, led groups and volunteered in a variety of ministries for more than two decades. She and her husband, Scot, live with their teenage son and daughter in Illinois.