Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Christian Stuff I Don't Understand

Wednesdays are busy days here at my church. Especially this week. We are the main packing site in our area for Operation Christmas Child (sending shoeboxes of stuff to kids around the world for Christmas) and on Wednesdays we also are the hosts for an inner-denominational Bible study group for women. Which means when I go to the bathroom on Wednesdays, I need to time myself correctly or else I'll run into a busy girls bathroom.

Today, I didn't time myself well.

When I walked in there were some women chatting and all I heard was "Yes, pray. It's a fast and pray kind of situation."

Which made me think. I really don't understand the whole concept of fasting.

It's mentioned in the Bible a few times and on occasion I'll hear people mention it.

I'm a Lutheran - and we really don't talk about fasting much. The closest we get is giving up something for Lent and even that's optional.

I think I had a friend in high school who fasted once.

I tried in college one year for Ash Wednesday. I think it was because I wanted to be "super holy" or something. Instead of eating, I prayed and read my Bible during meal times that day. I don't really remember what came of it other than being really hungry and it made me even more emotional than usual. Which, being an ENFP... that's not really a good thing. I don't think I even had coffee that day.

Crazy. I know.

Let's just say I was really excited for communion that evening at chapel. Bread and wine - GIVE IT TO ME NOW.

Then, during my internship year, my senior pastor fasted during Advent. By February he was in the hospital.

That same year I hosted a 30 Day Famine with the youth at my church. This I understood. They didn't eat for 30 hours, raised money to help hungry kids around the world, and by being hungry they could gain a better understanding of what other people went through. That made sense. But it's still not necessarily the fasting I'm talking about.

I'm sure there are Lutherans who do fast. They just don't talk about it. (Which is good, because even Jesus tells people that when you do, you should pretend you aren't so you don't draw attention to yourself.) However - this doesn't help in my dilemma.

I understand the whole giving up something for Lent thing - which is a form of fasting you could say. You "fast" from a certain food or bad habit or something. It's supposed to help you grow. You learn to sacrifice as Jesus sacrificed. I get it. It's like the 40 days in the wilderness when Jesus fasted and the Devil tempted him.

So... is that it? We starve ourselves because Jesus did that one time?

Do our prayers magically become louder? Maybe the groans of our stomachs are actually just really loud prayers.

I don't mean to be sacrilegious or anything. I just.... I just don't understand.

Can someone PLEASE explain this to me!


  1. We (Mormons) fast once per month, on the first Sunday of the month usually. We also will fast often as part of a congregation or for personal reasons. In a year, I probably do ... twenty? fasts. Something like that. So, we're not monks or anything, but fasting is a very, very common practice for us.

    During the first Sunday of every month, we begin our fast with a prayer, dedicating our fast to the Lord, or asking for special help and guidance. Then we skip two meals (usually breakfast and lunch, though some people have circumstances that dictate otherwise). We then donate the money we would have spent on food to the church. Those Fast Offerings are used to fund church welfare programs. The money stays within our congregation's geographical bounds, so I know that the money I've donated will go to feed a family in my area, someone who needs it. (When a congregation has a surplus for many months running - like in affluent areas - they move that money around to other areas as needed).

    When we fast as part of a congregational or personal effort, we go through the same steps, but most people don't necessarily donate the money during those times. Our fast-starting prayers are dedicated to the effort we are praying for. There are millions of anecdotes and testimonies of people who have felt the power of fasting on behalf of their problems. Their problems might not be solved in the way they want, but they might feel a certain peace, or come to terms with something they'd struggled with.

    And that's what fasting does. It makes us humble and brings us closer to the Lord. It's a tangible reminder that we rely on Him for everything. And when we are in that state, it is easier to communicate with Him. My will falls in line with His more easily, His word through the scriptures is more clear, and I find it easier to understand His communications with me. The still, small voice that answers prayers and guides me feels a little more clear during the times that I'm fasting.

    I absolutely have a testimony of fasting. It's an integral part of my worship. When my husband and I have had big decisions to make (moving across the country, adopting, facing a miscarriage) we fasted together and then attended the temple during our fast. It's always been a beautiful experience and I'm so grateful that we have the opportunity to fast and pray.

  2. Thankyou for asking this question it's something that has puzzled me since I became a christian they do it at the church I was part of quite frequently and I never really understood why and when I asked I can't say the answers really helped. I'll be checking back to see what answers appear.

  3. Bryan has fasted multiple times (usually 3 days). He's found that it's a great exercise in self discipline, and that other temptations were easier to conquer when he had practiced by defying the urge to eat. I've never fasted because I tend to stay super busy, and having less energy while having a ton of responsibilities is not a good idea.

    1. I guess it's different for everyone. Which is usually the case with these things. I guess I just wish that while the Bible talks about fasting and that you should do it (or you can do it if you choose to), but doesn't really tell you why. But then again... God doesn't like to come out with those things either. lol

  4. Just so you're aware, many people in the Bible fasted and it does say it helps our prayers.

    Matthew 6:16-18
    Isaiah 58:3-7
    Luke 18:12
    Luke 4:2
    Joel 2:12
    Acts 14:23
    Acts 13:3
    Nehemiah 9:1
    Esther 4:3
    Ezra 8:21
    Zechariah 9:15
    Judges 20:26
    Acts 9:9
    Acts 13:2
    1 Corinthians 7:5 <----(I think this is a main reason behind fasting)
    1 Corinthians 9:27
    Matthew 9:14
    1 Timothy 2:1-15
    2 Samuel 3:35
    2 Samuel 12:16
    Joel 2:15

    It's not necessary and of course many people can't because of health issues, but it's nice if you can. It was much more common in the ancient church and the modern Catholic church, but it's fallen out of favor with Protestant churches (Protestant churches other than Lutheranism don't even celebrate Lent). Don't know why. I think it's because they want to seem "anti-catholic", even though fasting is biblical. There were times in the Bible where God even demanded fasting.
    I grew up Lutheran (not lutheran anymore though) and we talked some about fasting but I think it differs between synods, and just between individual churches.

    1. Oh don't worry - I'm 100% aware it's in the Bible and it tells us to do so and how different denominations may or may not practice different things like fasting and Lent, etc. (I kinda have a theology minor...) Although I might check out your references, especially the 1 Corinthians 7:5.


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