In certain subsets of American culture right now, intermittent fasting—only consuming calories for 8 hours each day—is all the rage. I have friends who don’t eat any calories until 1pm. They drink black coffee all morning, and then eat whatever they want for eight hours and do it all over again the next day. They swear by the benefits—less inflammation, fewer achy and pains, a more regulated body weight.
I’m sure intermittent fasting is wonderful. But I am not breaking my dependence upon black tea with honey and almond milk as soon as I stumble into the kitchen in the morning any time soon.
A Weekly Fast
And yet I have taken up the practice of a weekly fast, and I feel a little bit like my intermittent fasting friends in that I want to sing its benefits and invite everyone I know to try it too. So please forgive me if I gush a little bit about this strange, ancient practice of intentionally denying myself food for a set period of time in order to connect with God.
Nowhere in the Bible is fasting mandatory. It’s not one of the ten commandments. Jesus is even criticized for not fasting, which implies that it wasn’t a regular practice of his (even though there’s also that story of his 40-day fast at the beginning of his ministry…). But almost any Christian spiritual teacher (and many spiritual teachers from other religions too) will recommend it.
The idea is that we intentionally abstain from something (traditionally food) for a set period of time. When we desire that thing, instead of satisfying the desire, we turn to God. Fasting heightens our awareness of our own neediness. It prompts us to pray. It reminds us that God offers us spiritual nourishment. It attunes us to God’s presence.
Over the course of the next six weeks of Lent, I’m going to be writing about fasting each week on Mondays. I’ll share some thoughts on why and how and with whom we fast. For today, I wanted to offer a little introduction to the practice of fasting for spiritual purposes. I know many of you have more knowledge in this area than I do, so please comment and share your thoughts and experiences too!
To read more with Amy Julia:
2021 Fasting Series:
- What’s Up With Fasting
- Fasting 101
- Fasting From Food (Hungering for God)
- The Unexpected Gift of Fasting in Community
- Fasting From Podcasts (Listening to God)
- Fasting From Busyness (Waiting for God)
- Fasting and Justice
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