The Place of Fasting in the Christian Life – page 1


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From the Summer 2018 issue of Knowing & Doing:

The Place of Fasting
in the Christian Life

by Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D.Min.
Vice President for Ministry & Director,
Washington Area Fellows Program,
C.S. Lewis Institute


udging from recent research and anecdotal evidence, it appears that very few professing Christians in America think fasting has a place in the Christian life. Available evidence shows that we much prefer feasting! Yet from the earliest days of the church, fasting has been recognized as an important way to draw near to God, deepen one’s relationship with Him, and seek His help in times of special need. Nearly all of the great spiritual leaders of the church, as well as ordinary believers who have been noted for their devotion to God, have practiced fasting.
  If you desire a deeper, more intimate and fruitful relationship with God, or if you need His help in a time of real need, fasting is an important means of grace to practice. This article will provide helpful understanding and practical guidance for anyone who wants to experience this blessing.
  The best place to start is with a definition of fasting. In the Old Testament, the main Hebrew word used is tsom, which means “to abstain from food.” In the New Testament, the Greek word we translate as “fast” is nesteuo, which means “to abstain from eating.” In both testaments, fasting is simply going without food in order to seek God for some special reason. Although the purposes for which we seek God may vary, going without food does not. This is an important distinction, because today there is a tendency to expand the word fasting to include things other than food, such as television, movies, internet, social media, or cell phones. Although it is certainly right to abstain from any number of things that are hindering our relationship with God, that is not what the Bible means by fasting. Such abstaining is better described as “saying no” to some form of worldliness or harmful fleshly indulgence. To reiterate, in the Bible, the word fasting means going without food, the purpose of which is to earnestly seek God in prayer.
  People unacquainted with fasting may not see any compelling reason to do it. Various ideas come to mind to justify ignoring the practice: it would be too hard; it would make me miserable; it has been abused in the past; it might harm my body, and so on.
  This raises a natural question, why would anyone want to go without food?


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