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"Fasting" is a forgotten spiritual discipline that Christians have practiced for centuries.

What Is Fasting?

Fasting is a spiritual discipline where we deny ourselves something (often food or sex, but some people cut out luxuries like coffee, internet, etc.) so we can better devote our time, thoughts, and energies to God through prayer, devotion, Bible study, and similar things. In the Old Testament (OT), fasting was often associated with sadness or mourning as well as hope.

[Related: What Is Lent?]

Do Believers Today Fast?

Hopefully believers today fast! Jesus assumed his followers would:

Matthew 6:16 And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get.

But it can be confusing because John the Baptist’s disciples asked Jesus why his disciples didn’t fast:

Matthew 9:14-15 One day the disciples of John the Baptist came to Jesus and asked him, “Why don’t your disciples fast like we do and the Pharisees do?” Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests mourn while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

On the one hand, Jesus’s disciples didn’t seem to practice fasting during his earthly ministry, but after his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, he said his disciples would fast. Since Christians today are living after Jesus’s ascension, that means us.

How Do We Fast?

It’s important for Christians to understand what fasting is for: devoting time, energy, and focus to God to draw closer to him. And it’s important for Christians to know what not to do. Christians should not fast pointlessly, just because it’s “what we do.” It’s not about obligation, but about a heart desiring God’s presence.

Hosea 6:6 I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices.I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.

[Related Series: Learn How to Pray]

Why Do We Fast?

Faithfulness to God isn’t about “obligating” God to do things for us because of how faithful we’ve been. Faith is about devotion and submission to God. It’s about increasing our spiritual sensitivity by opening ourselves up more and more to his grace, mercy, and life-changing power. Fasting is one of many ways to let God be God in our lives.

Written content for this topic by Daniel Martin.

Talk About It
  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. Do you now or have you ever fasted? What is/was your motivation for doing so? Is fasting helpful, or not so much?
  4. Keeping in mind that Jesus doesn’t want Christians proclaiming how holy they are because of fasting: if you had to guess, would you say Christians you know fast regularly? Why do you answer this way?
  5. Why should Christians practice spiritual disciplines like fasting?
  6. Read 1 Corinthians 9:27. How can fasting help us control our bodies for the glory of God?
  7. Do you think “faith obligates God?” Explain why or why not.
  8. Explain how “fasting is one of many ways to let God be God in our lives.”
  9. Do you want to fast (or fast more)? What steps must you take to make fasting a part of your spiritual life?
  10. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.