In Matthew 6, Jesus speaks about believers engaging in three activities: giving to the needy, praying, and fasting. Note the grammatical structure of the following passages:

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others.” – Matthew 6:2 ESV

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites.” – Matthew 6:5 ESV

“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others.” – Matthew 6:16 ESV

Indeed, a common thread in the three verses is Jesus’ use of the word “when”. His assumption, it would seem, is that His followers would make it a practice to give to the needy, to pray, and… to fast.

While there are certainly instances where a Christ follower may conduct a fast in private, there also is Biblical precedent for declared, group fasts. The church I attend has embarked on a 21 day fast, the duration being modeled from the prophet Daniel’s fast (ref. Daniel 1), beginning today, 3 January 2010. The fast is a declared fast, yet the manner in which each church member partakes of the fast is dependent on physical limitation and / or desired commitment. Our pastor has chosen to engage in a liquid-only fast. As for myself and my wife, we will be partaking in a “Daniel Fast”, in which we abstain from meat and luxury foods.

The point of this period of fasting is, quite simply, to draw nearer to God – to enjoy the blessing of His presence – to remind yourself that it is He who is worthy of worship. By abstaining from certain foods, one then has the opportunity to delve deeper into prayer and the reading of God’s Word.

Over the course of the 21 days I hope to post progress reports of what transpires, including the downs – and ups.

As for today, lunch was a light salad, with nuts, and sliced fruit. Dinner will be vegetable soup… wonderful in its own right, yet a bit lacking when not paired with the usual fare.

Image – © A. R. Lopez

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