How should we fast

This completes my short series looking at fasting.

Should Christians fast?

Using a hunger for food to cultivate a hunger for God

And today …

How should we fast?

There are two dangers associated with fasting. The first danger is to deny that food is good. The Bible says food is a good gift from God and is to be received with enjoyment and thanksgiving (1 Timothy 4:1-5).

The second danger is to think we can earn merit with God through abstinence. Fasting does not earn God’s approval or blessing. It is not the Pharisee who fasts who goes home justified in the parable Jesus tells in Luke 18:12-14, but the sinner who cries out for mercy. ‘It’s true that we can’t win God’s approval by what we eat. We don’t miss out on anything if we don’t eat, and we don’t gain anything if we do.’ (1 Corinthians 8:8). Fasting, like other ascetic practices, cannot of itself restrain indulgence (Colossians 2:20-23). And fasting done for selfish gain which disregards other people is an abomination in God’s sight (Jeremiah 14:12; Zechariah 2:5; Isaiah 58:3).

John Piper says: ‘The question is not of earning or meriting or coercing anything from God. The question is: Having tasted the goodness of God in the gospel, how can I maximize my enjoyment of him, when every moment of my life I am tempted to make a god out of his good gifts?’ [1]

Since fasting is not in itself meritorious there is no ‘right way’ to fast. But it is good to stick to whatever you intend. The body suffers from a lack of water long before it suffers from a lack of food so you should normally continue to drink water during your fast. Do not eat a lot at the end of a longer fast. You could consider one of the following:

— a regular 24 hours fast – eat an evening meal one night and then break your fast with a light supper the following evening

— a regular day fast – eat an evening meal and break your fast with breakfast the day after next

— a fast for guidance – fast for a period leading up to a significant meeting or throughout a significant time together

Finally let me repeat my recommendation of John Piper’s book, A Hunger for God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer (Amazon UK and Amazon US).

[1] John Piper, A Hunger for God, IVP, 62.


3 thoughts on “How should we fast

  1. Hi Tim,

    It appears your links to the first two installments of this series don’t work. Just so you know!

    Thanks for taking the time and effort to explore this important Christian practice.


  2. Pingback: Intersected » Blog Archive » How should we fast

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