Why we fast
In Matthew 6, Jesus reminds us that fasting is a way of putting God back at the centre of our lives, which in turn means loving God, our neighbour and ourselves better. Why we fast is rooted in this deeper desire to grow in God’s love.
When we turn our attention to God in fasting, our hearts are filled with a desire to reflect God’s loving mercy, justice and compassion in our own lives. Therefore, our fasting becomes a means of supplication for, and solidarity with, those who hunger, thirst and suffer, and in this way we both share in, and become, the Body of Christ in God’s world.
Fasting also becomes a means of humbly expressing who we are, loved children of God, and through fasting we may ask for God’s guidance, express sorrow for our sins or seek to prepare ourselves for a major life event.
How we fast
When we read Jesus’ words in Matthew 6, we could imagine that fasting should be an individual matter, and yet the Bible is full of corporate acts of fasting, as whole nations cried out to God to save them. Small groups of early Christians gathered to fast and pray before making significant decisions.
Consequently, like prayer and giving, fasting may be practised corporately or individually depending on the context. What remains vital is that those who fast, whether together or alone, do so with their hearts turned towards God. Taking the time to prepare to enter God’s presence in this way is helpful.
What we fast from
Fasting is often associated with abstaining from food and drink, and yet as we begin to take more seriously Jesus’ invitation to fast, we may discover that as we start our preparation he is inviting us to think more broadly about incorporating regular fasts from things such as using social media, driving when we could walk, working on our day off or avoiding a difficult relationship.
The fruit of fasting
When we fast, we may choose to redistribute the money we save on food and fuel to those less fortunate. We can also choose to give time, that would have been spent overworking or on social media, to self-care and other relationships.
Ultimately the sweetest fruit of regular fasting is the growing freedom to love God, our neighbour and ourselves. ¶
Words: Revd Joanna Gallant Photo: Jo Duckles