There is a tendency to see fasting as a sort of sacrifice; a time dedicated to God that is offered to Him as a work we complete to His benefit. In a way, it is; the same way that we live our every day lives in dedication to God. So, in reality, whether we fast or not, Christian lives are a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).

I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.

Daniel 10:3

A fast is a Spiritual practice for the one undertaking it. Like meditation (another topic sorely underrepresented in modern Christian life), it is a discipline one uses to gain mastery over the body for spiritual discipline. Whether that is as an oath taken before God to show devotion as an individual or as a part of a tradition, such as in mourning, it is a practice that in Christian life has become deeply personal, by Jesus’ command.

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Matthew 6:16-18

The effect of such a secret practice of restraint is that our priorities shift heavenward. Those who fast in secret are able to delay our need for congratulatory words or admiration that might be obtained from sharing. Instead, we must rest on the knowledge that God knows what good we can do and has valued it.

The Christian, and indeed the Church as a body, has a goal and a purpose of putting aside the Earthly perspective and focusing on the Heavenly (Colossians 3:2, 1 Peter 1:13-15). Fasting gives us a chance to practice that with full intention, with parameters we can understand and private accountability between the believer and the Creator. It builds up a habit of seeking God’s approval when no one is looking, so that the habit is solid when there are witnesses. It is a prayer that we can carry out with more than words, and a meditation we can carry with us through the day.

More on meditation and other Spiritual practices soon.

Ethan Kirl