I had fasted before, but I'd always been a little confused. Was fasting a way of manipulating God to get Him to answer your prayer? Scot Mcknight explains that Biblical fasting was always in response to an event. Grief over sin, death, dire need, an encounter with the divine. It wasn't about getting a result. In fact, many times there was no result, or at least not the one they wanted. It was all about expressing an emotion (sorrow, repentance, plea) with one's whole body, not just mentally or verbally, but physically. Sometimes the fasters had great results, but the results were never their motivation.
Before reading this book, I didn't realize how common fasting was in the early church, and really, until modern times. It was the Jewish custom to fast on Monday and Thursday of every week, so the early Christians adapted that to fasting every Wednesday and Friday, not eating until noon, three o'clock, or dusk. This practice continued through John Wesley's days, although even then he deplored that believers were beginning to neglect fasting. As time went on, Christians began to neglect the connection between body and spirit, and reject anything associated with the Catholic Church. I was like many believers today, and completely ignorant of the history behind fasting and the church calender, having wrongfully associated it with only Catholicism, and not the early church.
Scot notes that Christians today often come together to celebrate occasions such as baptisms, Easter, Christmas, etc., but we don't come together to de-celebrate, or grieve, over sin, world disasters, or social issues. If we did, would it lead to a greater focus on Christ, more real repentance, deeper prayers, and a more unified church? It seemed to for the early church. I think it would, and that's part of why I decided to observe Lent this year.
I was challenged and inspired through this informative and practical book, and I highly recommend it to every believer seeking to grow spiritually.
Fasting: The Ancient Practices (Ancient Practices Series) on Amazon.com.
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