Fasting Discipline Essay Example
In the book, Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster, he provides insight into the spiritual discipline of fasting: “Fasting helps us keep a balance in life” (68). Foster is implying that fasting allows one to have a sense of moderation through paying attention to both physical and spiritual aspects of humanity. In today's society, many Christians lack this healthy balance that fasting allows one to obtain. Although fasting may bring about prideful thoughts and actions, it is a physical form of communication that ultimately allows one to grow a deeper connection with God, if executed in a proper manner.
Fasting is an act in which one will abstain from a certain worldly distraction for a given amount of time and replace said time with honorable moments with the Lord. Fasting is meant to be a way to communicate to Christ by directing their focus on him and allowing him to retake control over their lives. Donald Whitney, an eloquent Christian author, speaks on fasting in a more broader spectrum in his book, Spiritual Discipline For The Christian Life.
When speaking about a loving parent fasting for their child, he states, "just as a parent might fast and pray out of concern for the work of God in the life of a child, some Christians may fast and pray because they feel the burden for the work of God in a broader scope" (173). Whitney expresses that fasting is an act that can be used in many areas of the Christian life when it comes to communication with God. Although it is generally specified to be used as a form of worship, it can also be carried out as a way to pray to the Lord. Richard Foster, a Christian theologian and author of Celebration of Discipline, comments on the purpose of fasting for today's generation: "fasting must forever center on God.
It must be God-initiated and God-ordained" (54). In deeper thought, Foster explains how all acts of fasting meant to be centered around Christ and must be an action done for the purpose of connecting and growing closer to God. It is not simply a person-centered act done in order to get God to do something you want in your own life. Above all, fasting needs to initially be focused on God and be a selfless act.
Whereas fasting today is generally used to fade away from earthly distractions and reconnect to Christ by acknowledging him more often, in Biblical times it was often used as another form of prayer and communication with the Lord. The Bible says that fasting was meant to be acted out in a gracious manner, not with a gloomy and dull attitude. In 2 Chronicles 20:3, King Jehoshaphat was fearful for Judah because he became aware that they would soon be attacked. As a result of his fear, he prayed to the Lord for protection over Judah "and he proclaimed a fast for all of Judah.” Here, King Jehoshaphat shows how in Biblical times, people would fast in an attempt to receive protection from the Lord. Fasting provided the people with a sense of hope that the Lord will provide for them. In the book of Matthew, it speaks about how God commanded the people to fast.
It suggests, "and when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward" (Matt. 6.16). Matthew 6 displays how fasting is not meant to induce gloomy attitudes or moods. God commands up to keep our fastings personal and connected with him. The way fasting was induced in Biblical times was simply another form of communication with the lord and similar to today, a way to grow a stronger bond with Christ.
The Importance of Fasting
Fasting was not only essential for those who lived during Biblical times but also was used during the Roman and Middle Ages. Fasting in historical times typically involved the abstinence from food rather than entertainment distractions in one’s life since food was a daily necessity for everyone, it would easily promote one to keep in mind the reason they are fasting. Daniel Esparza, an eloquent and conscientious writer for Aletia, comments on how fasting in the Middle Ages differs from fasting today.
He says, "In sum, most Europeans in the Middle Ages would go through Lent subsisting on bread, vegetables, salt, beer wine and some would refrain from having any meal until the hour of none.” Here, Daniel communicates how those who fasted during the Middle Ages would fast from simple commodities and it would alter their whole lives from the time they were without them. Daniel also exhibits how today people mainly fast from commodities that are wanted and in the Middle Ages they fasted from what they needed.
In Richard Foster and Emilie Griffin's book Spiritual Classics they speak on Augustine of Hippo's view on fasting. "Augustine emphasizes in the following instruction on fasting is a counsel against worldliness" (67). Augustine shows how he thought of fasting the same way Jesus did through rejoicing. He encourages us to not be like the rest of the world and advises Christians to be more rejoyceful and connected. Fasting during ancient history was typically practiced with the absence of a survival necessity and replaced with honorable moments given to the Lord.
In comparison to the ancient Romans and those who lived during the Middle Ages, fasting is also a practice that is continued to be used today. Today, one typically fasts from something they enjoy doing rather than something that is an absolute necessity to their life and well-being. Christianity Today posts their status on the most common substance fasted from as of 2019. Following the many surveys they conducted, they figured that "topping the list was social networking"("What to Give").
The majority of people fast from what is typically wanted, not needed, in one's everyday life. By doing so, there is a stronger sense of people's selfish desires and it develops a deeper connection with one's faith. Whitney conveys how the typical person fasts today. In his book, Spiritual Discipline For The Christian Life, he states, "the most common fast among Christians today would fall under the category of normal, private, and occasional fasts" (162). Whitney expresses how the majority of people today generally fast with the absence of food and they mostly keep it in private with God. This allows the act of fasting to be more of a personal reflection period and a time to grow closer with Christ. Overall, fasting today is typically practiced with the absence of something enjoyable in one's life rather than a survival need.
Fasting Throughout the History
As fasting has been continuously used throughout the duration of history, fasting has noticeable effects. With fasting being a practice that involves the absence of something useful in one’s life, it becomes difficult to hold the promise to avoid that certain distraction at all costs, yet the end results could ultimately change one’s perspective. Whitney reveals the effects that fasting has on someone by providing a story about his personal experience. He says, "I couldn't go to the breakfast table with my family because I didn't think I would have enough willpower to abstain from eating, so I went to work" (165).
Here, Whitney shows how the one partaking in fasting will experience feelings of strong cravings and a sense of little will power when near those particular cravings. With all the temptations surrounding one throughout their day, Whitney beat his cravings simply by avoiding all of them. In the article The Benefits of Spiritual Fasting it speaks about one’s spiritual placement after fasting. "After a healthy spiritual fast, you will have a greater sense of where you stand with your faith and spirituality.” Here, The Benefits of Spiritual Fasting shows how fasting provides one with a sense of where they stand in their Christian faith. It provides a deeper view of one’s faith. The effects that fasting has provides a spiritual sensation that connects one to the lord in a deeper way than the other spiritual disciplines can.
With fasting involving a great deal of will power, it can be difficult to keep away from the temptations of the distraction one is fasting from. I recently interviewed Cindy Grasse, my mom, to receive her view on fasting and how she avoids the continuous temptation while fasting. When I asked her these questions, her response was very sensational, she said, “When I fast, I’m making a promise to God and I don't want to break that promise” Cindy portrays a deeper meaning on fasting. Rather than putting the focus on her own life, she flips the meaning to be more of a covenant she has made with Christ. As a follow-up question for Cindy, I asked her about the spiritual effects she has while she fasts. When asked this question, she said, “I feel closer to the lord when I fast.” Here, Cindy shows the consequential bond that fasting induces with her and the Lord. Although fasting can be difficult to have full commitment to at times, the spiritual effects that it has on one are astonishing.
After my interview with my mom, I too participated in a fast. I fasted from television and underwent feelings of cravings, annoyance, and discomfort. Originally I had planned to fast for five days, unfortunately, there were small periods during the week where I had forgotten about my fast. It became difficult to avoid my typical night where I watched TV before I go to bed, yet when I did, it provided me with feelings of accomplishment and fulfillment. Although I didn't fully complete my fast, by physically participating in this spiritual discipline it brought to my attention how much time I spend watching endless hours of TV throughout a single day in my life. Ultimately, this fast taught me to have a sense of moderation and to be more active with my time.
Fasting can be very beneficial towards those who wish to grow a stronger connection with Christ, yet if it is executed in an improper manner it can lead to prideful thoughts and actions. As humans, we are bound to go astray and be very forgetful at times, yet the opportunity to fast is in our hands. Fasting acts as a guide to redirect us back to the Lord when we wander astray. Fasting is a transformative spiritual discipline that should be used in each Christians journey with Christ.