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Christian Fasting: A Spiritual Practice for Now?
This is my first article for Spirituality & Health on fasting and spiritual growth. I would love to hear your responses to my new piece.
Christian Fasting: A Spiritual Practice for Now?
Christians (and non-Christians) can embrace fasting as a way to overcome our deep-rooted idea that the spirit and the body are separate.
When we fast as Christians, we do so not to empty ourselves, to exalt ourselves, or to change our physical being. When we fast, we do so not to create our own suffering. When we fast, we do so to mobilize the pain that will come as we attempt to follow God in a troubled world. Fasting is not for the spiritually elect. It is for the hurting.
I grew up in a household that fasted during Easter. My mother was pretty strict on herself about fasting from Good Friday to Easter, and though she didn’t expect a three-day fast from her daughters, she did expect us to fast on Good Friday.
It was a ritual.
I remember how hard it was to fast for one day. The morning was the hardest. By noon, I would start getting a bit dizzy. By 10 pm, all I could think about was the food I would eat at midnight. By 11 pm, I was just watching the clock. When midnight finally came, my sister and I had a simple meal to ease the pain of fasting. While we were eating, we guiltily looked up at our mother, who cooked for us without being able to eat.
As we fasted on Good Friday, we were meant to be praying and reading the Bible, but, for me, it was torture to do anything without any food. So I felt that fasting defeated the purpose.
Now that I have children, I don’t make them fast during Easter. So the ritual of fasting during Good Friday ended with me.
But in the last year, I decided to practice another kind of fasting: intermittent fasting. I allow myself to eat within a six-hour window while I fast for the other 18 hours. I do so most days, unless I am traveling.
Intermittent fasting has been wonderful for me. It has made me more in-tune with my body, allowing me to become more aware of my true hunger and desire for nourishment. And intermittent fasting has made me appreciate even more how spirituality is a body and spirit practice.
When Christianity emerged during the Roman Empire, it was heavily influenced by Greek philosophy. Greek philosophy emphasized dualism. Dualism created a split, or a dichotomy, in how we view the world. There is a split between heaven and Earth, male and female, word and wisdom, etc. This dichotomy also impacted how we see ourselves. Rather than seeing the wholeness of our body and spirit, this view divided them. As a consequence, the body was viewed as evil and the spirit as good.
This has had negative affects on our practice of spirituality. We need to rid ourselves of such stringent dualism and embrace a wholistic understanding of ourselves and the actions we take. We need to embrace the idea that spirituality is not an either/or but a both/and. Spirituality deals with our body as well as our spirit. This is more of an Asian way of viewing the world. Asians (in general) do not embrace a dualistic view of the world, but more of a both/and approach. The spirit and body are not separate. They are one.
Practicing different forms of fasting, whether it be fasting on Easter, intermittent fasting, or fasting when our spirit calls for it, helps us become more attuned to our body and our spirit. It helps us focus on the spiritual growth of ourselves as we become more aware of our body’s needs, desires, and pains.
We humans are unique in the sense that we are psychosomatic beings comprised of material components (our bodies) and immaterial ones (our spirits). Our bodies aren’t merely a house for our spirits, but they are connected, becoming wholly integrated as one. When something happens to our spirits, it happens to our bodies. Conversely, when something happens to our bodies, it happens to our spirits. In our suffering and in moments of personal tragedy, we are all put into a space where we are more sensitive in our desperation for God. In those times, our spirits long to communicate to our bodies. Fasting is birthed spiritually, prompted from our spirits to seek direction and guidance from God.
Unless there’s a medical reason not to, I highly recommend fasting as a spiritual practice. Your body and spirit will thank you for it.
Please read my other articles for “Spirituality and Health” Magazine.
FROM SICKNESS TO SABBATH: EMBRACING REST
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EMBRACING THE HOLY SPIRIT FOR NON-CHRISTIANS
“By adding the word holy in front of keywords, such as in the terms Holy God, Ho…
CHRISTIAN FASTING: A SPIRITUAL PRACTICE FOR NOW?
Christians (and non-Christians) can embrace fasting as a way to overcome our dee…
How interesting, I seem to recall lent as being a time to fast too or not to have meat. I am enjoying reconnecting to fasting. I used to when younger but a busy life with children stopped that. I try different fast times and can do 24 or 36 hours. I do feel mentally and spiritually better but have also lost some weight!
Thank you for sharing your fasting practices. I love it!
Dear Grace, Thanks for your article. I believe in fasting also, as a normal part of being in a relationship with the great King of Kings. Currently, I am fasting for wisdom for personal questions, and the peace of the election cycle ending November 3, 2020 in my home state of Minnesota and in the United States. If you are led, please consider lifting us up in your prayers. I don’t yet fully understand why, but for some reason this is a place in the throes of a massive spiritual battle. The wrongful death of George Floyd and destructive aftermath is just the tip of the iceberg. We need to address the spiritual root judgments and separations with our Father that are spilling over and manifesting as acts of cultural revolution, and political and spiritual judgments and separations. Please consider that the Lord will embolden the faith of the Church here, and cause us to stand for His Kingdom in humility. As believers, we get to be the “glue” of society because we have tasted the Lord’s favor and forgiveness to all people, at all times; everywhere. In mourning and repentance, JD Orvis Pray ThroughHistory
I am glad to hear that you are fasting and praying. The events in Minnesota has been very troubling. I will keep that city as well as other cities which are under so much problems in my prayers. Thank you for your comment.
Fasting, great topic and article, ty🙏🏾. In relation to fasting, Second Corinthians chapter 5 verse 16 and 17, talks about a changing reference point, from the material sense to the spiritual body of Christ, and the newness that follows. One reference point feeds while the other takes on a more prominent role in our life. What are your thoughts, thank you🙏🏾
we need to take care of both our body, mind and soul.