A few months back, we had a conversation at one of our life group gatherings about the idea and benefits of fasting. The context of the discussion was a study of Acts 13 (specifically verses 1-3), in which prayer and fasting are mentioned briefly as something the church at Antioch was doing in preparation to the sending off of Barnabas and Saul. It was a strange, but good, discussion. We discovered that people were all over the map in terms of experience with and disposition towards the discipline of fasting. The main question we were asking at the time was “should we fast in preparation for launching the church plant?”, and our answer was “maybe.”
I would like to revisit that discussion with the goal of coordinating a (voluntary) corporate time of fasting and prayer before we begin our public worship services in August. Just as the church at Antioch was fasting and praying to discern God’s will for their mission, so too can we fast and pray to discern God’s will for the East Charlotte mission.
On that note, it may be helpful to recall what exactly our mission is. Officially, “Our mission is to invite, equip, and exhort people to See, Savor, and Serve our Lord Jesus.” Simply put, our mission is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Our desire is to see others come to faith in the Lord Jesus so that they might glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Fasting is a tool in our belt of spiritual disciplines, a means of God’s grace that helps us to glorify and enjoy Him. By depriving ourselves of physical food, thus reminding ourselves of our human weakness, it allows us to focus more intently on the “spiritual food” that truly nourishes our soul. It allows us to savor Jesus more deeply.
David Mathis of Desiring God put it this way in a recent article:
But if we are awakened to see fasting for the joy it can bring, as a special means of God’s grace to strengthen and sharpen Godward affections, then we might find ourselves holding a powerful new tool for enriching our enjoyment of Jesus.
Mathis’ article is very helpful in terms of helping us to understand what fasting is and why we might want to consider engaging in it as a regular practice. He points out that Jesus didn’t command his disciples to fact, but he assumed that they would.
Then the disciples of John came to him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. (Matt 9:14-15)
The rest of Mathis’ article can be found here. I commend it to you! Don’t get me wrong, I love to delight in God’s provision of food (maybe a bit too much), and I find it particularly helpful to our souls to feast together (click here to see our value of feasting together as the body of Christ). And yet, maybe there is also a time for us to set aside the food, remember our utter dependency on the Lord, and invite him to nourish us spiritually through fasting and prayer.