The Spiritual Practice of Fasting
I love food! I mean my stomach growls thinking about all the delicious, exquisite foods there are in this world. Steak, hamburgers, tacos, hummus, ravioli, dark chocolate, blueberry pie, shrimp, brownies, caesar salad, ribs, and cheese are just a few of them coming to my mind. However for thousands of years denying our body's basic need for food has been a spiritual practice. Many religions have practiced this and still do today.
In ancient times many people believed physically fasting was a way for the body to heal and prepare it to prevent other illnesses. It also came to be known as a method to assist in spiritual renewal. For more information about the history of fasting please ready "The Spiritual Disciplines: Fasting" by Brett & Kate McKay.
Today we know that people can fast from various things in their life not just food. The practice of fasting is denying yourself or abstaining from something for a limited amount of time in hopes to bring awareness to your relationship with the divine. Fasting is often associated with Lent when people give up something until Easter as part of a spiritual journey to Christ.
Community of Christ had an informal practice of fasting the morning of taking the Lord's Supper (1st Sunday of the month). This is a practice some still hold but it is merely a personal choice.
Let's look further at the other aspects of fasting
Aspects of Spiritual Fasting
Traditional Fasting - Traditional fasting usually meant abstaining from all physical food and caloric intake. Most people allow water to be used while some also abstain from it. The practice is used mostly as a spiritual discipline in means of stopping the physical motion in our lives to focus on the spiritual. As the article cited above from the Spiritual Disciplines: Fasting states, "The hunger of the stomach is designed to put us in touch with the hunger of soul."
Lent - Lent is a season of reflection and preparation for Easter. Fasting or giving up something during this time is a practice of sacrifice as we think of Christ who drew away for 40 days. It helps us come closer to temptations and while we strengthen our will power to carry on toward the cross and goal of love. Catholics are known to not eat meat on Fridays during the Lenten season however many others give up an earthly possession during this time. This is sometime called a partial fast. Some people give up social media, entertainment, or from other life comforts. For further information about fasting during the lent season and fasting in general check out "How to Fast for Lent" by Gravity Leadership.
Health - Some people fast for health purposes. It stops caloric intake so that the body can be cleansed. There have been some proven benefits to fasting for your health. According to healthline, It improves blood sugar control, heart health, prevents aging, and may enhance brain functioning.
Awareness of Self, Others, and the World - Fasting allows people the opportunity to focus their thoughts. It raises their awareness of their own thought patterns, what is happening around them, and how the world is receiving them. Because through fasting you are intentionally taking time to control your worldly intake, the act in itself brings are attention to everything else that is going on.
Faith Renewal/ Spiritual Insight - Often this is the main purpose for many fasts. People want to receive spiritual insight in their lives and how best to move forward. Fasting focuses the person on their relationship with the divine as they discern that still small voice for their life. The act of praying each time hunger approaches disciplines the soul to hear the voice of God speak. It is through this discipline we find ourselves, our spiritual path, and what it is we need to know for the journey ahead.
There are many other aspects of spiritual fasting other than what I have listed. Please feel free to research it more and give it a try yourself to determine if its a spiritual practice fit for you. Many people fast for 24 hrs from food only drinking water. Others have a specific objective and purpose they are seeking when engaging in the practice. It really depends on your comfort level and what it is you are seeking. Sometimes people find fasting isn’t about denying yourself but reorienting your life to what is important. Before engaging in this spiritual practice please be aware of your own health and if this practice would cause health concerns for them. Check with your doctor if you are unaware. All in all spiritual fasting can be a tremendous spiritual discipline to partake in.
Thank you to all those still following the blog! I hope you are able to receive God’s blessings in your life.
This week give fasting a try and see what spiritual insights you may discern.
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The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.
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