Fasting as a Means of Grace

I have a couple people in my church with whom I’m working through the beginning exploration of the candidacy process, and with one of them, we are up to the section of the “purple book” that talks about means of grace. And we began an honest conversation about fasting.

I’m not a good person to talk about fasting.

Perhaps this is obvious just by looking at me (I hope it’s not *that* obvious!), but food itself is an enjoyable and nearly– sometimes actually– sacred thing for me. I’m not totally clear, though, how fasting cultivates spiritual discipline, how it is a means of grace.

I get the theory. I understand on an intellectual level how fasting from food might cultivate a deeper appreciation of our blessings, might give us time we would have spent eating to spend in prayer, or how maybe the food I would have eaten could be given to someone else. I don’t totally understand how it would make me more aware of God, but I get that it’s the hope.

The same I could say about fasting from anything– facebook or chocolate or the types of things that people “give up” for Lent. How does it make us holy and not holier-than-thou? I’m not talking about refraining from things like gossip or yelling, but milder things like sugar or protein (and no, I;m not going to even touch fasting’s cousin abstinence, but my questions are the  same). If something is not wrong or evil, but might even (as in the case of food) be good and life-giving and in some contexts holy itself (food in communion, connection–even virtual–to our sisters and brothers), how does the absence of that thing bring a greater awareness of holiness?

I’ve fasted for a day. I didn’t feel holy; I felt cranky, shaky, and frankly a little resentful. I’ve taken a technology fast. I didn’t feel closer to God; I felt further from some other folks and closer to nature in some moments. I’ve given up specific foods for Lent, or more dramatically for pregnancy, and felt it was mostly a nuisance.

I’m not trying to be flip or snarky here; I am honestly seeking advice and input from people who find fasting from something to be a spiritual discipline or a means of grace, and maybe some ideas I might share with my brothers on the journey of ministry inquiry as we discuss these things. Your thoughts are most appreciated!

7 thoughts on “Fasting as a Means of Grace”

  1. I’m not expert, but I think time is an element. Letting those feelings of annoyance and crankiness are part of the experience. I think fasting is a discipline that grows in its meaning and depth as it become a regular part of your life.

    Fasting does not declare food bad, but it says that we are truly dependent on God alone. These are my poorly formed thoughts. I hope others chime in.

  2. I’ve fasted for a day. I didn’t feel holy; I felt cranky, shaky, and frankly a little resentful. I’ve taken a technology fast. I didn’t feel closer to God; I felt further from some other folks and closer to nature in some moments.

    As John suggested, I think that this is part of the point: to look at ourselves honestly and to do that looking before God. To ask for the ability to improve and also to hear God say that we are loved and loveable when we are cranky, shaky and resentful.

  3. When I’ve fasted, it’s brought me to the point of actually craving God’s presence. I need to be fed in some way, and this is what feeds me. Jentezen Franklin’s book Fasting has helped me a lot on this part of my journey. I’ve now fasted multiple times for multiple days. I don’t always relish the start of a fast, but once I’m there I’m hooked. I pray God’s blessings on your journey!

  4. I am exited to see you desire to learn (and grow) in the area of fasting). I am not an expert by any means but want to encourage you to start small with a specific goal in mind be it seeking God’s help in a “problem” spot you sense in your life or strength for a task or maybe even fasting for someone’s Salvation. It is tough to “Be still and know….” but God looks at our heart even in the area of fasting, not a right or wrong way to do it. God Bless and may you grow in Him!

  5. We were astonished to discover that our pastor, K, or Reverend James Karpen, St Paul & St Andrew’s UMC, fasts every Tuesday. K is wry, or sneaky-funny, thoughtful, and I heard his voice shake only when he gave a mini-sermon in support of our friends making the Islamic center in lower Manhattan.

    As we discussed the foundations of Methodism, and Wesley himself, K quietly mentioned that he, too, fasts. He says that it clears his head. He cooks, the rest of his family eats, but on Tuesdays he doesn’t.

    Baffling to me, and I’ve tried fasting, but it just makes me cranky…and want a hamburger.

    Maybe a start is to make as little of fasting as possible. It is not a step toward God; it’s nothing special. Just a day when you drink all the coffee or tea you would, but “forget” to eat something solid.

    I’ve done that…unintentionally fasted…but it’s easier since our kids are grown. Yes, that sounds a little tao-ish: don’t aim for the target and you’ll hit the target etc.

  6. Fasting is isn’t so much about giving up somthing but being in tune with God, didn’t Jesus said fasting and prayer was the only way to cast out evil spirits.

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