The Heart of Fasting

Fasting. For those who have a fasted as a spiritual discipline, whether solely on one occasion or regularly, I pose the question: What is our motivation to fast? Or for those who take days of isolation or silence: What lies at the heart of our action? Is worship truly at the heart when we practice these spiritual disciplines?

This past March, I traveled with a group of TIU students to Taize, France, to experience communal living that centers around the simplicity of heart and prayer. I entered this new experience excited for the chance to be able to participate in an alternative approach to worship. I mention this because halfway through my week there, I set aside a full day of isolation, silence, and fasting, and spent my day in the silent church just down the hill from the rest of the ecumenical community. Once again the question remains, what is the motivation? Was my motivation to meet with God, or was this a case of doing something in order to gain something in return? (I fully acknowledge that anytime we meet with God that there is much to be gained, I’m speaking of more specific, desired gains.) Is it okay for fasting and isolation to be an act in which we expect reward for our actions? Initially, I felt a sense of guilt as I contemplated this thought. Is it okay to have expectations for our time with God?

In Luke 11:9-13, Jesus tells us:

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

In addition to just this portion of Luke 11, Luke 11:1-13, Jesus gives instructions as to how we are to pray to our Father.  The answer here is simple. God invites us to ask of him. If our hearts are seeking wisdom and truth, the God will be faithful in His provision, in His time.

So there is encouragement. God invites us to present our needs to Him. I would also encourage however, that we take time to meet with our Father and our Creator consistently, not only when we have a specific want, but just for the purpose of being in the Word, and simply allowing our undivided attention to be in the presence of God.

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