Sunday, May 17, 2009

So...About Fasting...

I am not a Theologian. I have never studied at a seminary and I only took one apologetics class in college. I do own a few Bibles. I do love Jesus. And I do have an intense desire to study and understand God's Word and serve Him accordingly. Thanks to the Internet, I can type Bible verses into my computer and read twenty different translations of those same verses (and that is just in English). My fingertips also have quick access to examine words in Hebrew and Greek.

Modern technology has made Bible study easier and more exciting for me, but even with the above-mentioned tools, I lack answers to many questions. After all, my brain is not only "mommied-out" most days, but it is also incredibly fallible...incredibly human. Still, I seek more knowledge so that I can experience God's love more fully and in doing so learn how to better love Him and others.

After a previous post on fasting, I began more research on the subject matter. It started when someone I respect sent me an e-mail stating that a fast is only a fast when it involves not eating and that it always includes prayer. She went on to express that under that definition, the term Daniel Fast is inaccurate. She made a good point; and since she and her husband are scholars of the Bible I knew that she had sufficient grounds on which to stake that claim.

Soon after I received her message, another friend cautioned me against writing about my fast on Becoming Me. She didn't tell me not to write about it, but mentioned that Scripture is clear that one should fast in secret and not like the Pharisees who fasted for recognition. (Matthew 6:16-19 is a good example ).

After receiving those bits of feedback I felt mildly discouraged. I had not intended to write about the fast to draw attention to myself, but rather to share my experiences to help others. The fact that I did such a terrible job on my own with the fast made me think that was justified...and sharing after the fact may be. But in hindsight, I probably should not have shared with a large group of people about my intent to fast. At this point, I do feel comfortable with relaying more of information about my fasting experience, but will continue to pray before I write each post to make sure that I am doing so for God's glory and not because I want props.

However, I am still left with the questions, "What is a fast?" And, can there really be such a thing as a Daniel Fast because he just changed his diet for three weeks during a time of mourning?"

Friends, I am not going to answer that question for you. I do not feel I can. However, I will write down some information that I gathered during my research time.

What does the word "Fast" mean?

In Hebrew, the word Tsoon is used for fasting and it means "To cover the mouth."

In New Testament Greek, Asitia means fasting (the state) abstinence; Asitos means without (taking) food; and Nestis means not eating, abstaining from food.

With respect to those definitions, it appears that in the Bible fasting meant not eating. As far as for how long? It does not specify. In my research, I read that examples cover everything from one meal to 40 days. So, I guess I could make the case that I completed 21 mini-fasts since I skipped a meal a day...but that is not my point for this post.

There are also some Biblical scholars who maintain that what Daniel did during a time of mourning (eating on mainly fruits and vegetables) was indeed a type of fast because in that culture fasting and mourning went together.

I do not know the answer.

I am going to complicate things even more: The unabridged Random House dictionary defines fasting as either abstaining from all food or some foods.

Now, I know that there is a chasm of difference between the the authority of the Word of God and the authority of a man made dictionary. But our culture today does have some impact on meaning is assigned to words and the process for such is a lengthy one.

All that to come to this conclusion: I still do not know the answer. And that is not a cop out.

What I do know is that God, whose vocabulary spans every language ever spoken, peers into the heart of every human being. He sees all motives...all intentions...all desires.

For the purpose of my future posts about fasting, I will refer to my 21 day fasting period as a "modified fast inspired by Daniel."

For more information about fasting you may consider reading the books A Hunger for God by John Piper and A Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.
You may also find this short synopsis written by Richard Foster to be of value. (In the attached link, Foster surmises that one can fast from more things than just food...I agree with him that this can be very healthy...whether or not one can really call it a fast I think is semantics. But again, please don't just take my word for it.)

As I often encourage my readers, please do not let me or any other person be your only source for Biblical knowledge.

I know this post was very different from my usual style, but I thought it remiss to not address the noted concerns.

Update: Originally I had pasted scripture below, but it did something funky to the coding and I had to remove it. I recommend reading Romans 14:1-8. While Paul is not speaking of just fasting, I think these verses fit nicely into this post.


elizabeth embracing life said...

I do not believe that when we sit alone with our Bible, no education on thealogy, that God halts all insights into His word. In my most humble opinion, I think you felt lead to share a journey that often confuses many. The Holy Spirit never confuses. Even wisdom can confuse with good intentions. Your heart is pure in your intentions and the blessing of being able to learn more about this is wonderful. Thanks for sharing openly on this subject. If theologians can write books on deep study, I believe you can write a blog from the leading of the Holy Spirit.

Tammy said...

Thank you for the information. I've never been to clear on "fasting". However I've always felt it meant to sustain from food through the Scriptures.

love and hugs~Tammy

angeljoy said...

I personally believe that a fast should be done such as God has directed you personally. I haven't personally studied the subject, but it seems to me that the additude of the heart is the ultimate issue. For the sake of one who would like to fast, but is not able to abstain completely from food, I think they would still get spiritual benefit from a "modified" fast.

Kimberly said...

In our desire to please God, I think sometimes we complicate things. Not meaning you specifically...I mean all of us. We get wrapped up in rules and afraid of doing things "wrong."

I am no theologian, either. I simply love the Lord. And I have to trust that He loves me....even if I don't get fasting exactly "right". I have to believe that if I am truly pursuing Him...praying, reading the Word, asking Him for direction...He will let me know how He is calling me to fast. If I am sincerely pursuing His will, He will let me know when I am out of it.

I remember feeling so guilty for telling a few people I was fasting at the beginning of the year. As if that nullified what I was doing in the eyes of God. But I almost wonder if that isn't slipping a into a little bit of a religious spirit...because I wasn't boasting. I don't know. We definitely shouldn't go around fasting to make ourselves look all super holy.

I have asked friends to join with me in fasting before. That is not in secret and yet there was such power and it was such a sweet, sweet time when we talked on the phone together and prayed for one another and our husbands all through that day.

And I know I have "fasted" at times when I did not give up ALL food...and yet, I know God still met with me. He still spoke to me. It was still an amazing time of my will being surrendered to His.

I'm sorry. I didn't mean to leave such a long comment. I think you handled these questions well. I think that we each have to take these things to God. Ask Him to keep us humble and teachable. Good stuff to chew on, Angela. Good stuff to seek God about.

Love you!

Kimberly said...

I'm just gonna say one more thing. :) (I are just jumping for joy that I am going to say MORE!) ;)

I don't want you to feel discouraged. You have done the right thing....going to the Word and seeking God's truth. You are being teachable. When correction or criticism comes, we always need to take it to God and ask Him, "Okay...what is truth in this? What are You wanting me to learn and what do I need to just let go of?"

I love your teachable spirit. And I KNOW the Lord sees and loves your heart that beats so wildly for Him!

Okay. That's all. I'm done now. :)

giselle said...

I don't think God is that strict. I think He would be thrilled that you wanted to even attempt any kind of fast and sharing what you learned with us. Many of us have never even tried any type of fast and probably won't so I give you so much respect and credit for doing it.
Your dedication to God and His word is amazing and I hope you don't let others keep you from doing what you feel God is leading you to do.
Your blogs have taught me so much and opened my eyes to so much that I would not have sought out myself.
Keep doing what you do some of us need it. I can't wait to read more about your fast.

Lois Lane II said...

I do not feel that you're trying to get attention from your fast. You're just trying to explain and help others with fasting, and I'm very glad you are.

Latte With Me said...

I think if you continue to pray about why you are fasting and what does it mean to fast then you're on the right track. God knows your heart and your intent. I saw you sharing your fast as I believe you intended it to be - a sharing experience - not a "LOOK AT ME" experience. (I just looked at elizabeth embracing life's comment - I agree!)

Andrea said...

Thank you for spending the time to research this subject. Clearly there are many different views. Each of us must pray and seek GOD's guidence in our own lives.

Bitter Man said...

If Daniel's fast were so "private" how do we all know about it? and the King knew about it. Seems to me Jesus was setting up the dichotomy... there are these "religious folks" over here who stop traffic so everyone will know about their prayers. Don't be them. They are the ones anoint their heads with ashes so everyone will honor their fast. Don't be them. In the same passage, he says "when you pray, go into your closet..." Does this mean no public prayer? By no means! Prayer, fasting and self-sacrifice should bring glory to God and not to the faster/pray-er. The punch line is not that it is evil to fast and pray in public, but that the public recognition is the only reward for those who seek it.

Let your fast bring glory to God alone, and if that means asking for support from others to get through the fast, and sharing how God has changed your life, that seems well within the bounds of Scripture. But don't fast for fasting's sake, or so that others will say "look at how holy she is". I never took it that you were using the latter approach, fwiw.

Melissa @ Breath of Life said...


I agree that I never thought you were boasting about your fast. I think you pointed out the truth...that fasting is difficult.

We can choose to be openly prideful and say Look at me...I'm fasting for Jesus! Look what I'm giving up! On the other hand, we can be humble and say You know what? God asked me to do this, and it TOUGH...will you pray for me?Personally, unless He's told me to keep silent, I need to ask friends to pray for my obedience because I don't want to miss His blessing or instruction.

Finally, I think your journey encouraged others who might feel guilty that they have struggled with fasting.

christy rose said...

I love your honesty on this post! I really don't think that there is anything good that ever comes out of being secretive. It usually ends in bad things not good! Open and honest and realness is what brings freedom and bonds us all together because we realize we all have the same junk.

Thanks for sharing this!


Xandra@Heart-of-Service said...

Thanks for the link to the Piper book...I'll have to check it out.


Mrs. Sidney said...

Great info. I still haven't finished my writing on the Daniel Fast.. I am not sure where to start but I am feeling the urge to share what I learned about myself.

Thanks again for helping me get through it.

Proverbs 27:19 said...

Your sharing was not taken, by me, as you were seeking to get props. I just read that I needed to add your efforts to my prayers.

Humble of you to post this.

1 Corinthians 7:1-7.


Becca~TimeWellSpent said...

Just wanted you to know that I agree with the above comments. I truly felt when you shared about your fast that you were sharing something meaningful and spiritual for you. I believe that when something is shared with the tone and desire for others to know Christ, as I felt your sharing was, then it is a good thing.

Mary Moss said...

I know quite a few people who are adamant that it is inappropriate to say or do anything that might even remotely draw attention to ourselves - praying, fasting, etc.

I understand their point of view, but this is mine for what its worth: God made writers to write. Christians are tasked with being in relationship, leading others to a right relationship with Christ and sharing one another's burdens.

That can only be done by sharing our own burdens and how God either used our burden to teach us, uplift us, strengthen us and so offer the same to those who read about it.

I don't take any credit - not one tiny hair-breadth for any of my writing or speaking, blogging or anything else -- it all comes from God, through Him and for Him.

If other's don't know that, understand it or agree with it, I can say I see their point, but I am answering the call God put in my heart and I must obey His will for me.

I am blessed so much by your blog entries, by your sharing and opening yourself up to the world. You are an inspiration and I pray you continue to obey God's call on your life.

I have missed you, and pray for you daily.


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