For many Christians, fasting may seem like an old-fashioned idea that doesn’t have much of a place in modern life. It may seem unnecessary or even holier-than-thou to actually practice in everyday life. Fasting in and of itself isn’t specific to Christianity, of course. But what does Christian fasting look like, and why is it encouraged throughout Scripture?
Fasting typically means abstaining from food, but it can be something else. Food, however, is perhaps the easiest to apply to everyone, and it also is a requirement for living, so the meaning becomes even more significant. The point, though, is to give up something that is, in itself, good to show that we love something even greater: Jesus. It speaks to our soul that though food is good and God created it to sustain us, we worship The Creator above all — not the created. We love God more than we love food. We need Him more than we need food.
It also represents the hunger we have for Jesus and a longing for His second coming — an echo of the longing all humanity experienced before His first coming. It acknowledges both an “already” and a “not yet.” We trust in who Jesus is and was as he appeared on earth and we look to the future when he comes again, longing for all things to be made new.
In Matthew 6, Jesus also speaks to the way we ought to fast, noting that we do not fast for the approval of men, putting on a show for others to commend. Jesus encourages us to look as we normally would — not unkempt, put together — and fast only for God.
Fasting is a vessel for connection with God — another way to put aside self and focus on Jesus. Whenever we are prompted by a hunger pang, we can remind ourselves to pray or read scripture instead and acknowledge the ache in our bodies as an ache for the Lord.
Consider fasting for one day, or even fasting just one meal. The discipline may surprise you in how deeply it can connect you to God and strengthen your faith.