“Lose 30 pounds to look like this celebrity!”
“Go out for dinner and buy this mouth-watering salad!”
“Drink this green beverage—all vegetables, no carbs!”
“Try this new diet fad!”
From SlimFast to protein shakes, fat-free to no meat, dietary fasts are certainly not dying in popularity. But a trimmer waistline or smaller pants size weren’t the outcomes Jesus had in mind when he instructed his followers on how to act “when you fast” (Matthew 6:16–18). In fact, Christians are called to fast not to feel better but, oddly, to feel worse.
Ultimately, the discipline of fasting is about diminishing the focus on ourselves in order to intensify our focus on God.
“A fast is the self-denial of normal necessities in order to intentionally attend to God in prayer,” Adele Ahlberg Calhoun explains in her Spiritual Disciplines Handbook. “Bringing attachments and cravings to the surface opens a place for prayer. This physical awareness of emptiness is the reminder to turn to Jesus who alone can satisfy.”
Jennifer Dukes Lee, author of Love Idol, likens this physical reminder to a noontime prayer bell. Similarly, when Natasha Sistrunk Robinson, author of an upcoming book on mentoring, fasts from food, her grumbling stomach serves as a “simple reminder of spiritual poverty.” Alicia Britt Chole, whose forthcoming book, 40 Days of Decrease, deals with fasting, adds, “I fast because I thirst: I thirst to love Jesus more.”1