Jesus, when challenged, told the skeptics not to worry about His disciples, He was with them so they need not fast. But when He departs, they would indeed fast (Read further). In the early church, this discipline was most likely passed on from generation to generation…Pastors and teachers and elders and those older in the faith teaching the younger in faith. It was not taught in the churches I grew up in. I am thankful for good teachers by way of books that give the why and how, making it possible for the church today to fast.
Matthew 6:1, 16-18 Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
Mark 2:18-20 John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and they came and said to Him “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “While the bridegroom is with them, the attendants of the bridegroom cannot fast, can they? So long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and they will fast in that day. [day referring to era, not a 24 hour period].
Acts 13:1-3 Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrach, and Saul. While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
Colossians 2:16-17 Let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. (and really, the rest of the chapter, and into chapter 3! So helpful)
I would highly recommend Don Whitney for the why, how, whatfor, when, etc. His chapter in his book on the disciplines is succinct and a great place to start learning. I would choose to listen to books by authors who cling to the Word of God alone as the rule of faith. https://biblicalspirituality.org/shop/
Today I want to talk about how a homeschooling mama can implement fasting. (I am not creating a rule on whether you will, or when you will). I have taught my children about fasting, talked about “why” and what it is. But I still feel the need to honor the LORD in not letting them know when. My Father sees in secret, and has asked us to not shout it from the street corners, or to brag or boast or draw attention to ourselves. I will not fast in such a way as to show my children “look, mama is such a disciplined person, doing such good works!” No. Rather I have created ways to break our normal routines so that I can fast and they get a treat.
I send them outside for a picnic–and stay inside. I tell them that instead of eating together at the table today, they can play, and keep coming to take bites at their leisure. Their response? “What?!! What a treat mama, thanks!” Other times, I have simply asked my husband for a day out, and I leave him in charge of feeding our brood. They all love it–and I’m far away from questions such as “why aren’t you eating mama? Or “Why aren’t you joining us honey?”
As my children grow older, I’ll teach them more, and help them learn how and when to fast; and give them the freedom to do so. I will not pass on fasting as a form of asceticism (remember, Colossians 2?) or of earning anything. We are seeking Him–and sometimes our prayers will be accompanied by fasting.
When Christians fast, it is not merely to skip a meal and feel hunger (nor is it Spiritual Discipline if it is part of your weight loss goals). It is to let that mealtime void be filled with seeking Him. So I sit in His Word, I pray, I journal. Let every desire for food draw you to read, pray, meditate on His Word, listen, and delight in Him. Let His Word direct your prayers in these times, that it would not be an emotional moodiness directing your prayers.
Sometimes we fast because we need to be more intentional about our seeking, about setting our minds on Christ (Colossians 3:1-17) and letting His Word dwell in us richly. If you know you have a tendency toward addictive behaviors, or towards a struggle with disordered eating, then my recommendation is that your more intentional times of seeking may involve retreating from everyday things other than food (perhaps enjoying an isolated mealtime–your only company being God; or skipping an hour of sleep by staying up late, or waking an hour early; or giving up a treat–such as your weekly tea and pastry; or perhaps amend your schedule to include prayer and Bible Study when you would normally be reading fiction).
New Testament Epistles give no instructions for fasting–but then the epistles are not your typical “how to” instruction manuals. We must not try to turn them into such! To do so is to mutilate the Word of God. We have great freedom in Christ, freedom to abide in Him, and freedom from the tyranny of earning righteousness. So enjoy your times and ways of seeking, of sitting at His feet, of humbling yourself and entering His Throne-room with boldness and confidence. Enjoy these times without creating a form of legalism, and without slipping into a form of antinomianism.