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One person's introduction to fasting

Another excerpt from a Christianity today article:

1. Practice the disciplines. I never knew spiritual disciplines formally existed until I read Richard Foster's book The Celebration of Discipline.1 He details the activities that have brought spiritual growth and cultivation of the inner spirit to the faithful for two thousand years. I discovered I already practiced several disciplines, such as prayer, service, worship, submission, confession, study, and celebration. Several others, however, were not part of my everyday Christian experience: meditation, fasting, simplicity, solitude, and guidance. I vowed to implement these into my life.

For example, I decided to practice fasting. I learned that fasting is abstaining from food for spiritual purposes. A normal fast involves abstaining from all foods, but not from water (liquids). An absolute fast, no food or water, is reserved for extreme circumstances and never lasts more than three days except by supernatural empowerment. Of course, people with medical problems need to check with their doctors before beginning to fast.

I discovered the Bible reveals various reasons for fasting: I fast when I want to know God's will—such as whether to hire a new staff member or to relocate the church (Acts 13:2). I fast before long, dangerous journeys—mission trips to the Ukraine or Turkey (Ezra 8:21-23). I fast to humble myself before God—when I am overcome with pride, selfish ambition, or a spirit of competition (Deuteronomy 8:2-14). I fast when I want to get God's attention—such as when my daughter was dying (Joel 2:12; 1 Kings 21:20-29; and 2 Samuel 12:22-23). I fast when I need to overcome a stronghold in my life—such as overeating (Isaiah 58:6). I fast for protection and physical safety—such as before I had my colon removed (Esther 4:15-16). I fast to enhance my worship of God—on Saturdays before Sunday services (Luke 2:37).

I began with a one-meal fast and gradually increased to fasts of three days or longer. Normally I fast for either twenty-four hours or for three days, depending on what I sense to be the prompting of the Holy Spirit. I learned not to begin with a long fast. The body grows accustomed to fasting by degrees. Arthur Wallis's book God's Chosen Fast was a helpful resource in learning about this spiritual discipline.2

David Wanstall, 29/01/2008