Celebration of Discipline #3 : Fasting

This is a series of posts about my reactions to each of the disciplines in Richard Foster’s book.

I dread the idea of fasting. I don’t like denying myself. And I know, each time I read this chapter, I am going to be re-convinced of how important fasting is.

I am too dependent on my appetites, too used to sating them. Too unused to denying myself.

The section of the chapter which spoke strongest to me was ‘The purpose of fasting’:

  • This passage is key to me and why I need to fast:

More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. This is a wonderful benefit to the true disciple who longs to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ. We cover up what is inside us with food and other good things, but in fasting these things surface. If pride controls us, it will be revealed almost immediately. David writes: ‘I humbled my soul with fasting’ (Psalm 69:10). Anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife, fear – if they are within us, they will surface during fasting. At first we will rationalise that our anger is due to our hunger; then we will realise that we are angry because the spirit of anger is within us. We can rejoice in this knowledge because we know that healing is available through the power of Christ. (69)

           (I’m not looking forward to all my badness coming to the surface. I’m aware enough of it already.)

  • ‘Our human cravings and desires are like rivers that tend to overflow their banks; fasting help keeps them in their proper channels.’ (70)
  • ‘We are told not to act miserable when fasting because, in point of fact, we are not miserable. We are feeding on God and, just like the Israelites who were sustained in the wilderness by the miraculous manna from heaven, so we are sustained by the word of God.’ (70)

9 thoughts on “Celebration of Discipline #3 : Fasting

  1. Hey Nathan, I too went through Foster’s Celebration of Discpline last year. Food fasting was a somewhat difficult one for me, having had doctors tell me “don’t eat any less than you already do”. I guess I tried to focus on all the other things that control us. TV, shopping, petrol, blogging etc… It’s a good book that helped me create a kind of timetable of what I wanted to do in a week – not in a ordered this at 6am kind of way but more of a do this at some stage this week kind of way.

    Love reading your blog.

  2. Hey, I read a similar book (Dallas Willard’s SPIRIT OF THE DISCIPLINES) in which he recommends Foster’s book quite enthusiastically.

    The disciplines in general have been front-and-center for me. Thus far, fixed-hour prayer, silence (which I do as a discipline as I wash dishes in the early morning and meditate on a psalm) and – of course – fasting.

    For me, I have chosen to fast the night before I am about to lead worship. I find it helps me to focus on Christ and His lordship of my life.

    I don’t know if (when) the Lord Jesus will challenge me to deeper times of fasting (I find it is helpful for me when a whole body of believers do it together, so maybe He’ll lead me into an opportunity through my church, I don’t know). Right now, I am being challenged to become more faithful in fixed-hour prayer (praying every three hours as the early Christians did). We’ll see where He leads me from there.

    Thanks for your blog.

  3. Oh, and one more thought: Dallas Willard suggests that Christ will challenge you to focus on the disciplines you are most weak at. I guess that just might mean that a lot of fasting awaits me in the near future!

    Lent is upon us, so I anticipate the Holy Spirit doing some mega work in me, my wife and our household.

  4. Thanks for reading blendedworship. I want to read the Dallas Willard book. Alas, someone else got it out on my first day working at a theological library last week. I think Holy Spirit will be working on fasting with me too.

  5. Just wanted to leave a note of thanks! Our mens group is studying the spritual disciplines and using Richard Foster’s book. Tomorrow, I have to guide the study on fasting and your blog and the comments were very interesting.

    I too dislike denying myself and my experience with fasting has not necessarily brought forth spiritual fruit. My limited experience with fasting always starts with good intentions, however, my efforts to focus on the Word or prayer is a discipline in itself and I struggle to keep an A.D.D. mind on task…:)

    Thanks again for your blog!

  6. Thansk Frank – glad this was useful. I should keep going with Celebration of Discipline. I was going to wait until I’d mastered one before moving onto the next and writing about it, but I might be here forever.

  7. fantastic- thank you for your example! fasting is one of the lost disciplines, for sure. I think most Christians haven’t even heard anything about it, at least, here in the US it seems that way. it’s good to see a brother who is seeking to help others better understand it. 🙂

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