Since Lent is so closely associated with fasting, it seems a good time for us to think together about fasting. First, hear this challenge from John Wesley,
“Some have exalted religious fasting beyond all Scripture and reason; and others have utterly disregarded it.”
One place to find what Scripture reports about fasting is Matthew 6:16-18,
“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Richard Foster in “Celebration of Discipline” includes fasting in his list of inward disciplines and not outward disciplines. He further distinguishes fasting from a hunger strike and health dieting.
So one question we need to ask is do we practice fasting (or any spiritual discipline) for the recognition, the glory, the good feelings, the ego boast it gives us or do we practice for some other reason?
Do we practice fasting (like other disciplines) not as an end, but as a means of opening us more fully to God?