Why Do We Fast?

Published on 14 March 2024 at 10:46

There are a hundred articles out there about fasting. Why is this going to be any different? The more people that talk about fasting, the reasons, the benefits, and what happens in and through us when we discipline ourselves to fast, perhaps it won't be the least used spiritual practice given to us in the Scriptures.

Indeed, one of the most challenging things we can do is to hold ourselves back from entering into something that our physical body requires. For many of us, the question likely is, "If I'm going to give up food, what am I getting out of it?" If it's not a commandment from God, if we're not guaranteed a blessing or a gift from the Lord, it's reasonable on some level to wonder why one should follow in this practice. After all, my body needs food. It seems logical that if I'm going to give up something I need, then God should be giving me something I need, right?


We fast because we need God. 


Perhaps your response is, "I already have God." Yet, Jesus stated that his disciples would fast when he left. (Matthew 9:15) The disciples had God and knew God intimately in the form of the Son of God, yet in order to walk in the power, authority, and intimacy they needed to live the life Jesus called them to, they entered into the practice of fasting. John Piper calls fasting an "intensifier." Yes, you already have God, but we fast for the intense fire of God.


Fasting increases the intensity of the relationship and connection we have with God. It's not that fasting causes God to come closer to us. It will feel like it, though. The reality is that the awareness that fasting brings to our physical body prompts an awareness and a dependency on God that has always been real but outside our realm of perspective. Fasting shifts our physical body so that our most vital parts grow in sensitivity to God. Fasting is circumcision of the heart through denial of the flesh. 


Fasting also showcases our intense belief in the Word of God. In his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Dr. Donald Whitney details 10 Spiritual Disciplines, one of which is fasting. He describes fasting as "a temporary physical demonstration that we believe the truth declared by the gospel, namely that, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4). The Apostle James wrote "But someone will say, 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds" (James 2:18). 

As our hunger and desire for God grows and intensifies, fasting is a discipline that will allow us to develop that intensity to increase our faith and connection with him.


The hunger pangs we experience during fasting feel like a burning sensation. There is an increased desire to soothe the burning. However, fasting is a prompt that God desires to burn within us! If we place ourselves in the intentional space for God to burn within us, we will experience the fire of God all over us. Again, it's not that God isn't already doing these things. Instead, we are living the reality that God cannot fill us up if we are full of ourselves. Usually, that is a statement that challenges our attitude or selfishness. But it's also true of what we depend on for fuel in our lives. Hebrews 12:29 states ...for our “God is a consuming fire.”


If you haven't experienced the intense, all-consuming fire of the Lord in a while, it might be time to consecrate yourself for a fast. We fast because we desire to acknowledge, commune with, and be consumed by the Lord. It is an "intensifier" of his love, power, and presence in our lives.

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